With just three games to go in the regular season, the Boston University Terriers (12-11-8, 9-7-5 HEA) sit sixth in the Hockey East standings. With eight teams moving on to the Hockey East playoffs, and the ninth-place University of New Hampshire Wildcats lurking just three points behind the Terriers in the table, the next three games will have incredibly high stakes.
And if the stakes were not high enough, the final three games will take place against crosstown rivals Boston College tonight followed by No. 13 Northeastern twice next weekend. The fourth-ranked Eagles (22-8-1, 15-6-0 HEA) visit Agganis Arena for the first time this season, and are riding a six-game winning streak in which they’ve outscored their opponents 35-10. That’s 5.83 goals per game in that span, and this is an Eagles team out for revenge after the double overtime 5-4 loss to the Terriers in this year’s Beanpot semifinals.
“They got arguably the best goalie in the league [in Spencer Knight]. They got a good [defensive] core, and they can score,” BU head coach Albie O’Connell said.
The freshman phenom, Knight, boasts a 2.01 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, which ranks third-best among Hockey East goaltenders in both categories. The 2019 first-round pick to the Florida Panthers will cause trouble for the Terrier forward lines all night.
As for the offense, the Eagles have three players of the top 10 point scorers in Hockey East, and four of the top 15, and with their recent form, it will be a tall task for the Terriers to slow them down.
“Their transition game is pretty lightning quick, so we gotta make sure we’re on the right side of people,” O’Connell said.
This problem has riddled the Terriers as of late, as the team has often been caught deep in the offensive zone, with turnovers leading to plenty of odd-man rushes for the opponent. In the 6-1 loss to the University of Connecticut Huskies last week, this issue led to multiple chances for the Huskies, and led to their first and fourth goals of the game.
As talented as the Eagles are, the Terriers have plenty of scoring ability to match them. Junior defenseman David Farrance and senior forward and assistant captain Patrick Harper are top 10 point scorers in Hockey East.
Freshman forward Trevor Zegras and senior forward and captain Patrick Curry are in the top 15, so the deciding factor for this Battle of Comm. Ave will likely come down to discipline and composure in penalty situations.
“Special teams are gonna be important; goaltending on both sides is gonna be important, and just who plays smarter,” O’Connell said.
BC and BU are second and third among Hockey East teams in power play conversion, respectively. If tensions get too high, and a player on either side cannot keep his emotions in check, it could swing the game in either direction.
“In the Beanpot, I thought we handled our emotions okay,” O’Connell said, “Especially in the finals, I thought we got a little rambunctious at times, got a little too excited, and took a couple dumb [penalties], so we don’t wanna put this team on the power play if we don’t have to.”
BU’s playoff hopes hang in the balance, but the Terriers still control their own destiny. The puck drops at 7 pm in one of the most important games of the season, where the Hockey East playoff picture will get one step closer to coming together.