By: Jarett Leonard
Looking to build off a three-point weekend, the Boston University men’s hockey team will kick off a home-and-home series with Merrimack College on Friday in North Andover, Mass.
The Terriers earned a come from behind 3-2 victory over the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. last Friday before skating to a 2-2 draw with Providence College the following night at Agganis Arena.
“For the first time, we were able to have some success both nights on the weekend and I think it carried over to the week of practice,” BU Head Coach David Quinn said. “There was a lot of energy, the effort was outstanding. It’s just a good feel. There’s a level of confidence that we haven’t felt in a while.”
Jordan Greenway tallied the game-winner at the Whittemore Center minutes after Ty Amonte tied the game on setup from Hank Crone. Despite two BU penalties in the final frame, Jake Oettinger sealed the win, stopping all 10 shots that came his way in the third.
After Josh Wilkins gave Providence a 1-0 lead on Saturday, Bobo Carpenter struck twice within a two-minute span in the second period, deflecting home a John MacLeod shot before forcing a turnover at center and burying a wrister. The Friars would answer before the end of the second and the game ended in a draw, but Quinn said his team’s defensive effort has been much improved since the beginning of the season.
“I think we’re really coming out of our end cleanly,” Quinn said. “I think our D are getting back for pucks quicker. From a defensive perspective, we’re defending better. There aren’t those ‘oh my god’ moments we had earlier where you had to close your eyes and wonder if this team has ever been coached before.”
Oettinger was sharp once again on Saturday, stopping 19 shots and making timely saves as BU and Providence split the season series with three conference points each.
“Jake has played outstanding the last three games,” Quinn said. “I think now that the World Juniors is over with and he’s just focusing on the task at hand here, this is the best he’s looked by far all year.”
Last season, Merrimack upset BU twice in four days after the Terriers became the number-one ranked team in the nation. Chad Krys got things started in a Tuesday game at Lawler Rink, scoring just 3:20 into the game on a wrist shot from the high slot. But Merrimack answered before the end of the period, and added another in each of the final two frames for a 3-1 win.
In the finale, after Brett Seney and Clayton Keller traded power play goals in the first period, Merrimack collected the next three goals in a 4-1 win. Seney’s second of the game proved to be the game winner while Michael Babcock, son of Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach Mike Babcock, netted two insurance markers in the third period.
Collin Delia started both games for the Warriors, turning aside 67 of 69 shots in a pair of one-goal-against performances. Delia left Merrimack after his junior season, splitting time this year between the Chicago Blackhawks’s AHL team and the ECHL.
“This is a four-point Hockey East weekend,” Quinn said. “Last year has nothing to do with this year. We’re tight in the standings and we can’t think about anything other than playing well on Friday night.”
Scouting the Warriors
Merrimack started the season slowly, going 0-4-2 in its first six games and grabbing just two wins in the first 14 contests. But the Warriors have turned it on as of late with a 5-2-1 record in their last eight games, including a win over then-No. 2 Denver on the road in late December.
Merrimack shutout Connecticut 3-0 in their last outing a week ago with three third period goals from Ludvig Larsson, Tyler Drevitch and Cole McBride. Junior Craig Pantano needed just 16 saves to earn his first career shutout in net.
Seniors Jace Hennig and Brett Seney lead the Warriors in scoring with 20 points each. Hennig’s 8 goals are a team-high while Seney’s 14 helpers lead the team. Jared Kolquist (16 points) and Larsson (15 points) have also contributed offensively.
In goal, Pantano has started eight consecutive games and is 5-2-1 over that stretch. He made 36 saves – 16 in the third period – to backstop Merrimack to win in Denver on December 29. Pantano has posted a 2.26 goals against average and a .918 save percentage with a 7-6-2 record and the one shutout in his last outing.
Merrimack does boast a strong home-ice advantage, as the Warriors are 4-3-2 this season at Lawler Rink, compared to 3-8-2 on the road. The tight rink has posed problems for BU, which is winless (0-3-1) in its last four contests at Merrimack, and Quinn knows Friday will pose another test for his team.
“They’re an older team, a bigger team, a stronger team,” Quinn said. “They built their team around playing in that rink half their games. That being said, I like the way we’ve been physical, I like our tenacity. It’s a small rink so you have to beat people off walls to be successful, you have to be quick, and I think we can do that and if we do that I think we’ll have success.”