By: Joe Pohoryles
Coming off last weekend’s split against UMass, the Boston University Terriers (3-4-4, 2-3-3 HE) face a prime opportunity to pick up some much needed victories when they host the University of Vermont Catamounts (1-7-0, 0-5-0 HE) at 7:30 p.m. tonight followed by a matinee tomorrow at 4:00 p.m.
“Vermont is really well-coached,” BU head coach Albie O’Connell said of this weekend’s set. “We’re going to have to bring our A-game to win.”
The last time the Terriers played at Agganis Arena, they managed to shock the then-fifth ranked UMass Minutemen by scoring four goals on their first 12 shots, then fending off a third period comeback attempt to hang on to a 4-3 victory on Nov. 15. They dropped the next game in Amherst 4-1 the next day, but snagging the victory from a top five opponent could be a major confidence booster for a squad that has struggled to earn consistent results.
And if it is consistency the Terriers are looking for, it can be found in this weekend’s opponent, although not in the best way. The Catamounts have lost their past six games, and are still searching for their first victory in Hockey East play.
You’ll find more lamps lit in your local Burlington Coat Factory than in Burlington’s Gutterson Fieldhouse, as the Catamounts enter this weekend with the worst-scoring offense in the nation with 1.25 goals per game. They have scored 10 total goals this season off the sticks of six players. For comparison, the Terriers have seen 11 players combine for 37 goals on the season, and junior defenseman David Farrance alone has nine. The Catamounts have not gotten much help in man-up situations either, as they’ve cashed in just once in 29 power play attempts this season.
Despite the struggles, the Catamounts do boast a few bright spots who will be worth watching this weekend. Freshman defenseman Andrew Lucas leads the team with five points, and sophomore forward Joey Cipollone falls right behind with four, leading the team with three goals. While seemingly not eye-popping numbers, in context Lucas has been involved in half the team’s goals, as a freshman, albeit with a small sample size.
Graduate transfer netminder Sam Tucker is coming off a high-volume weekend for BU, stopping a whopping 85 shots in two games against the Minutemen. Senior goaltender Stefanos Lekkas holds a 2.78 goals against average, and a respectable .911 save percentage as he will have his hands full trying to stop an increasingly healthy Terriers team.
“We’re getting a couple bodies back,” O’Connell noted. “We’re excited to see what guys can do. The guys coming back have worked hard.”
Sam Stevens and Jack DeBoer were full participants at practice, and O’Connell seems encouraged by their progress.
“We’ve got the ability to play them, but we haven’t finalized that yet,” O’Connell said. “They’ve looked a little better everyday.”
Freshman sensation Trevor Zegras did not practice on Thursday, but the BU bench boss does not seem too concerned with the 9th-overall pick’s status.
“He’s just got a little cold, just a little sick – nothing crazy,” said O’Connell. “He wasn’t feeling well so we gave him the day off, and he practiced the other days this week. We expect him to play.”
One of those returners from injury, junior defenseman and assistant captain Cam Crotty, came back to the blue line in the UMass series, where he registered two points across two games, and will look to bring even more production and leadership this weekend.
BU will also be without O’Connell on Friday night as he serves a one-game suspension from Hockey East stemming from “behavior following Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Massachusetts.”
“I accept the league’s decision. I’ve got to be smarter,” O’Connell continued. “One game is well-deserved.”
Associate coach Paul Pearl will command the bench for the one game: “Coach Pearl will lead the bench . . . The guys won’t have to listen to me barking,” O’Connell laughed.
Be sure to tune in to WTBU Sports’ broadcasts of both matchups; click here to listen via Mixlr.