Men’s Hockey: Cautious optimism characterizes weekend road series

Coming off their first win in 22 days, the Terriers (11-15-3, 9-8-2 HEA) head to Burlington to face Vermont (12-16-2, 5-13-2 HEA) in a two-game road trip that could have playoff implications.

Because of the change in format for the 2019 Hockey East Tournament, only the top eight teams will make the playoffs, leaving UVM currently on the outside looking in. The Catamounts sit seven points behind New Hampshire for the eighth and final playoff spot.

For all intents and purposes, BU’s 2-0 victory over UConn last Saturday clinched themselves a playoff berth (though UVM can still push the Terriers out of the postseason by winning out and outscoring them by 19). So, the Terriers now have their sights set on securing seeding for the Hockey East Tournament. Even with their recent skid, they’re just one point back of Boston College for fifth and three points out of fourth place and a home-ice advantage, currently held by Northeastern.

Jake Oettinger in net for BU. Photo by Gabi Turi.

The Terriers have gone 6-3-1 in their last 10 meetings with the Catamounts, including a three-point weekend series to close out the 2017-18 season. Those games didn’t mean much for either team, but with just five games remaining and an outside shot at a home playoff series, one would imagine head coach Albie O’Connell will be passing that urgency on to his team.

They Terriers have been up and down as of late. Recently, they kept pace with the No. 2 team in the nation, then completely gave up against the No. 17 team; they lost in overtime, then earned their first shutout victory of the season. And hanging over each of their past six games has been the absence of captain Bobo Carpenter, whose status remains questionable for this weekend the rest of the season.

On paper, this looks like the kind of team the Terriers should beat when they’re playing well. UVM has the ninth ranked scoring offense and power play unit (15.4%) in Hockey East, neither of which should bother a veteran goaltender like Jake Oettinger, who will (likely) be playing in his 101st and 102nd games this weekend.

But the Catamounts may be better suited to playing BU’s style of play than the Terriers. UVM has the second best penalty kill unit (86.1%) in the conference, which they pair with the second fewest penalty minutes per game (9.2) and junior netminder Stefanos Lekkas’ league-leading .930 save percentage.

This is a game that the Terriers should win, but following a cathartic shutout win by going on the road against a team that can play stall ball with the best of them gives this series the stench of trap games.

Author: Jacob Lintner

Jacob was the 2017 Missouri Student Journalist of the Year and a runner up to the National Student Journalist of the Year. He currently attends Boston University and spends his time playing jazz and studying avant-garde poetry when he's not rooting on the St. Louis Cardinals and New England Patriots.

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