BOSTON – For the fourth time in five years, Boston University (16-17-4) will play in the Hockey East Semifinals, this time facing No. 6/8 Northeastern University (25-10-1). Friday’s game is the rubber match between the squads, as the teams split the season series, 1-1-1.
BU is coming off a 2-1 series win over No. 18 UMass Lowell in which the Terriers outscored the River Hawks 11-7. Joel Farabee, the HEA Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Year, took over the series, lighting the lamp four times and adding an assist to extend his team lead in goals (17) and points (36). Farabee’s selection extends BU’s streak of at least one All-Rookie Team selection in each of the past 12 seasons.
“The series versus Lowell was really tight,” head coach Albie O’Connell said in a Hockey East teleconference this week. “I thought we played our best in the last game. We had a really good first period, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the game. We played well, but we’re really looking forward to this upcoming weekend.”
Northeastern swept Maine in the quarterfinals, but the series wasn’t a cakewalk. Game 1 went into overtime, where the Black Bears outshot the Huskies 6-3, but Austin Goldstein netted the game-winner 4:15 into the extra period. Northeastern jumped out to a 2-0 just 10 seconds into the second period, but their anemic power play (1-11 in the two games) and seven penalties in the game kept them from pulling away.
Luckily, they’ve got HEA Three Stars Award-winner and First-Team All-Star Cayden Primeau in front of the net. The sophomore stopped 74 of 76 shots (.974 save %) in the series, and he hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than one goal since a 4-2 win over BC on March 2.
Primeau is the centerpiece for this top-10 Huskies team, but they’ve got talent all over the ice. Junior blue liner Jeremy Davies joined Primeau on the HEA first-team, and forward Tyler Madden was the only unanimous selection to the All-Rookie Team.
“We were going to be excited to play, no matter who we were going to play,” O’Connell said. “Northeastern’s got a good hockey club. They’re really good on the back end – they can really skate. They’ve got a lot of veteran guys. … And they’ve got one of the best goaltenders in the country. So, we’re going to have our hands full.”
But the Terriers will have an answer to the nation’s 15th most potent offense and sixth best defense. Junior Dante Fabbro was named to the HEA Second-Team for the second consecutive season. The BU co-captain was the only player in Division 1 to score 30 points (7-26-33) and block 70 shots (79 blocks).
The Terrier netminder is no slouch either. He missed out on the postseason honors, but Jake Oettinger turned in another good season for BU this year. His .925 save % is good for third in Hockey East and 13th best in the nation. He’s been streaky at times (in his last five starts, his goals allowed read: 1-4-0-6-1), but Oettinger has a knack for playing his best when the games matter the most.
The key in this game is going to be consistency for the Terriers’ offense. They’ve scored 3+ goals in all three games of the Lowell series, but they were blown out 6-0 in Orono in the last game of the regular season. A win in that game against Maine would’ve let BU host that series against Lowell.
“We’ve got to get out to a quick start [against Northeastern],” O’Connell said. “We’ve been worried about finding our game and trying to establish ourselves right away.”
That uninspired performance doesn’t give fans of the Terriers a great amount of confidence against a much better Northeastern team, but if Farabee can extend his three-game goal streak – or if the second line, which recorded two goals and three assists in Game 3, can keep producing – the Terriers will have a great chance to advance to their third Hockey East title game in five years.