After dispatching the Wildcats last week, the Terriers will do battle with the Huskies this weekend.
Boston University (12-9-8, 9-5-5 HEA) will visit the University of Connecticut (12-13-2, 9-8-2 HEA) on Feb. 21 to kick off a home-and-home weekend series in the third-to-last weekend of the regular season. BU is five spots ahead of UConn in the Hockey East standings, but the eighth-place Huskies are still just six points out of first place with five games to play.
“Things can change quickly,” BU head coach Albie O’Connell said. “We’re happy to be where we are. We’ve got not too many games left, so every point counts. We’ll hopefully go down on the road and have a good outing.”
Those same Huskies are coming off a series split at No. 17 Maine last weekend. Game 1 saw the Black Bears lose on their home ice for the first time all season as UConn captain and Falmouth, ME-native Benjamin Freeman netted the game-winner with 9:21 remaining in the third.
Freeman (1g, 2a) assisted on all of UConn’s scores that weekend. Their 3-2 win on Friday was followed by a 0-1 overtime loss on Saturday in which the Huskies outshot the Black Bears 41-26. UConn outshot Maine 77-52 in both games combined.
The Terriers held onto third in a crowded Hockey East field after notching their eighth straight win over New Hampshire. BU won at UNH 4-1 on Friday and 3-1 at home on Saturday for their fifth win in their last eight games.
Freshman midseason addition Wilmer Skoog scored in both games, while Jake Wise’s two assists in the second game counted as his second multi-point effort in BU’s last three games. The sophomore now has three career multi-point games, all of which have come this season after Wise missed most of his freshman campaign with an upper body injury.
The Huskies are led by their three underclassman 20-point scorers. Freshman Vladislav Firstov (11g, 11a) was the Hockey East Rookie of the Month for January with nine points in eight games, including two game-winners and a +11 rating. Firstov ranks fifth in goals and tied for 12th in scoring among all rookies nationwide. Sophomores Jackym Kondelik (8g, 12a) and Ruslan Iskhakov (9g, 11a) join Firstov in the 20 point club.
“Watching [UConn] on video, they’re pretty scary up front,” O’Connell said. “They’ve got some dangerous forwards. They’ve got some size, and their team skates well.”
For the Terriers, senior captain Patrick Curry has the hot hand. He’s been skating hard and playing well for the past month. In his last 10 games, Curry has put up 10 points (6g, 4a), and BU is 6-3-1 in that stretch. On the season, the Terriers’ win percentage jumps 400 points when Curry gets his name on the score sheet. They’re 11-4-6 in games where their captain records a point and just 1-5-2 when Curry’s held scoreless.
BU and UConn are second and fifth in Hockey East in scoring, respectively, and the Huskies put the third-most shots on goal per game. Goaltending will be crucial in this matchup, and that matchup should favor the Terriers.
Since relieving Ashton Abel midway through the Beanpot Championship, graduate transfer Sam Tucker has stopped 69 of 71 shots (.972 sv%) taken at him. He held No. 10 Northeastern scoreless for 32 minutes and led BU to a sweep of UNH. Tucker lost the starting job to Abel during the winter break, but he’s played lights out as of late. If Tucker is in net and Curry is in good form, the Terriers will have a great chance to keep their winning ways going.
“We’re going to have to bring our A-game to win,” O’Connell said. “We’re going to have to play disciplined; we’ll have to play smart. We’re going into a rink that’s hard to play in. Hopefully we’ll be ready to go as soon as the puck drops. Because we’re going to need to.”
Listen to the live broadcast of Saturday’s game at mixlr.com/wtbusports. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. Follow @WTBUsports on Twitter for updates throughout the weekend on BU hockey and all other varsity sports. Follow Jacob on Twitter @TheJacobLintner.