On Friday, Feb. 8, Boston University (10-12-3, 8-6-2 HEA) will travel to Amherst to take on No. 2 University of Massachusetts (20-5, 12-3 HEA) in a reprise of last weekend’s matchup.
In that last game, BU overcame deficits of 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3, but fell just short by a final tally of 7-5, secured by a John Leonard empty net goal with 15 seconds remaining.
“They played really hard,” head coach Albie O’Connell said, “so we’re going to have to protect our net. I like the fact that we scored five on them, but we’re going to have to manage the puck better. They’ve got a good transition game, so we’re going to have to play smarter.”
That contest was followed by a heartbreaking 1-2 loss to No. 8 Northeastern in the Beanpot Semifinals on Monday, which extended the Terriers losing streak to three games. UMass hasn’t played since meeting BU a week ago, and Friday’s tilt marks the Minutemen’s first home game since Jan. 18, a 6-1 drubbing of Northeastern.
Entering the weekend, the four top scorers in Hockey East are all Minutemen, and it’s no surprise as to how UMass has created the top-ranked offense in the conference: they’re outstanding in special teams. They have the best special teams net (+18) in the country, due in large part to the nation’s second-best power play offense and 11th best penalty kill unit.
While BU held UMass to 0-2 on the power play in their meeting last week, the Terriers are still the second-most penalized team in Hockey East. If they can’t stay out of the sin bin, it’s going to be an uphill battle all night.
“They’ve got some dangerous guys,” O’Connell said, “so we’ve got to stay out of the penalty box, play five-on-five and hopefully play a smart road game.”
On the other side of the ice, BU is going to be without captain Bobo Carpenter four the fourth game in a row. O’Connell said that Carpenter will be out for one or two more weeks with the injury suffered against Arizona State on Jan. 25.
“It hurts,” O’Connell said, “Obviously, it hasn’t been helpful from the faceoff dot, and he was our leading goal-scorer, but we’ve got enough guys in the room. We can’t make excuses. He’s a loss, but someone’s going to have to step up.”
It’s been a team effort on offense for the Terriers since Carpenter’s been out. They got goals from each of their top three lines in the first game against UMass, but leading the pack, Joel Farabee has been playing possessed lately. The freshman right winger has four goals and three assists in BU’s last five games, including the lone goal in the Beanpot Semifinal loss.
Having a well-rounded attack is crucial when you’re skating against the eighth-best defense in the country, but the key for BU is in their own goal. Jake Oettinger can’t have another outing allowing six goals, but he looks to have rebounded with a season-high 47 saves on Monday. Oettinger will have to control the rebounds against the vicious and opportunistic Minutemen offense, and it’s going to fall to the Terrier netminder to set the tone for his team.