By: Joe Pohoryles
The No. 5 University of Massachusetts Minutemen (6-2-0, 2-2-0 HE) come to town today in the latest Hockey East matchup for the Boston University Terriers (2-3-4, 1-2-3 HE), who will look to upset the fifth-ranked Minutemen in the first game of the weekend home-and-home at 7:30 p.m. before squaring off in Amherst tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m.
It’s a tale of two seasons for these squads, as injury woes continue to hamper the inexperienced Terriers, while the Minutemen have followed up their first ever Frozen Four appearance with dominant wins over strong opponents, averaging four goals per game while only allowing two, ranking in the top-ten nationally for each category.
That said, UMass is coming off a 3-1 loss to the University of New Hampshire Wildcats on Nov. 10, who the Terriers beat 3-0 earlier this season, so the situation is not as cut and dry as it may seem.
Another good sign for the Terriers is the possible return of several big-time contributors, such as junior defenseman and assistant captain Cam Crotty and sophomore forward Jack DeBoer, who are all game-time decisions. Nothing is guaranteed, but a return from any one of these two would give the Terriers stronger depth against this tough Minutemen team.
A major deciding factor in this game will likely be the special teams, as both sides average over 4.5 penalties per game. The Minutemen power play unit has not found much luck with a 16.7 percent success rate, bested by the Terriers’ 22.0 percent, however, their penalty kill has impenetrability rivaled only by the Great Wall of China, wiping out 92.1 percent of opposing power plays. If the Terriers can be the metaphorical Mongol, finding a way to break through and take advantage of the man-up situations, it could have an even bigger effect than usual.
If there is anyone in NCAA hockey who can rip apart the Minutemen penalty kill, it is junior defenseman David Farrance, who netted four goals on the power play (five in total on the weekend, including a hat trick) across two games against the Providence College Friars last weekend, upping his overall goal tally to eight, which is tied for third in the nation and the highest among defensemen. It will be easier said than done, but Farrance gives the Terriers as good a chance as any.
Alongside Farrance, senior forward and captain Patrick Curry recently had his 11-game point streak dating back to last season snapped against Providence on Nov. 8, but that has not stopped him from being a top offensive contributor, as he is second on the team behind Farrance with seven goals, tied for seventh in the nation. Junior Minutemen forwards John Leonard and Mitchell Chafee join Curry at seventh in the nation with seven goals apiece, so expect to see a handful of goals this weekend.