Looking to end a season-high five game losing streak, Boston University faces Connecticut in a home and home series starting Friday night in Hartford at the XL Center, before the series shifts back to Comm Ave Saturday night.
The XL Center was a house of horrors last February for BU, who blew a 4-2 lead with less than 10 minutes to play. To top it off, former BU recruit Maxim Letunov netted the game-winner in overtime.
“It’s hard,” said head coach Albie O’Connell in reference to the XL Center, the former home of the Hartford Whalers. “It’s small and has narrow corners, they get good fans and the benches are really tight. It has that American League feel to it. Things happen really quick and they play up in your face.”
Only two of the five games inside BU’s skid have counted towards the Hockey East standings, where BU currently sits in seventh place with 18 points. It is BU’s longest losing streak since 2014, David Quinn’s first year as head coach. It should not be full on not full on hit the panic button yet. The hand can be hovering, but don’t press it yet.
BU is just three points behind third-place Boston College. But, remember, only the top eight make the cut for the quarterfinals. In the current system, BU has never failed to make the quarterfinal round.
Why are we just hovering and not pressing? BU has one of the easiest schedules left in Hockey East. After two games against 10th place UConn this weekend, the Terriers trip to Vermont for a pair against the 9th place Catamounts and then finish with single games vs 12th place Merrimack and 8th place Maine. The only game against a top four team is at Providence on February 28th.
BU and UConn have already played once this year, a 3-2 BU win in Belfast as part of the Friendship Four. BU battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits and Ty Amonte’s third-period tally early in the frame proved to be the difference.
“I thought they would be a little higher up just based on our game over there in Belfast,” said O’’Connell. “They were good. It took a lot to beat them that night.”
Scouting the Huskies
UConn picked up just one win in the month of January and was winless in six straight. It was a streak that ended on February 7th with a 3-2 win over Northeastern. UConn followed that up with a 5-0 shellacking of Merrimack on Saturday.
“I’m surprised at their record,” mentioned Albie O’Connell. “They have a lot of talented players. They have a pretty young team and I think their goaltender has been pretty good through stretches. They have been on the wrong side of some games.”
Karl El-Mir has paced the Husky scoring attack by way of a balanced 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points. In a less balanced style, Jachym Kondelik has posted four goals and 20 assists. Alexander Payusov has netted a team-high 14 goals and four assists. Other players to watch include Benjamin Freeman, Ruslan Iskhakov and Jonny Evans.
Between the pipes both Adam Huska and Tomas Vomacka have split time. Huska, who was supposed to be the Huskies workhorse entering the year has a 5-12-2 record in 20 appearances. In that time, Huska has a 3.25 and a pedestrian .899 save percentage. Vomacka, on the other hand, is 4-5-0 in 10 appearances and holds a 2.50 goals against and a .913 save percentage.
The Curious Case of Bobo Carpenter
Captain Bobo Carpenter will again be out for what sounds like the duration of the weekend. He has been limited in practice and is still working on a return to the lineup for the first time since January 25th vs Arizona State.
“We are hoping to get him back quicker than advertised, but we will see,” stated O’Connell. “It’s going to be day to day, week to week with him. Hopefully, we can get him back, he’s a big part of the team.”
When asked if the injury was worse than the original diagnosis, O’Connell simply said, “No. We just didn’t want to say anything.”