By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff
With one weekend left in Hockey East’s regular season, you probably have a better chance tracking down Tiger Woods on a Friday night than trying to predict who will finish where as the conference tournament approaches.
Heading into a weekend set with Northeastern University, the Boston University men’s hockey team is no exception. The Terriers (14-15-3, 11-12-2 HE) could finish as high as third –– and earn home ice in the playoffs –– or fall one peg short of the playoffs by finishing in ninth.
Of course, if the ultimate goal is just to get in, the list of “things that have to happen” shortens considerably –– if the Terriers win one of their two games with the Huskies (16-14-2, 11-12-2), they’re at least going to be playing through next weekend.
With scenarios that could give BCS computers headaches, BU coach Jack Parker isn’t necessarily telling his players to shy away from the potentially distracting “what if?” conversations.
“To tell you the truth, I hope they would look at that and see how important it is,” Parker said. “If you don’t look at that, how can you not know what happens if things don’t go well or do go well this weekend. I think it’s an incentive. ‘Look at where we are. What do you want? If you want it, go take it.’ That’s what they got to know is at stake.”
Junior captain Kevin Shattenkirk said the Terriers have looked a bit at the scenarios, but the team is mostly shying away from thinking about how things could unfold.
“There’s so many different scenarios that can happen this weekend and so many different results, but we know how close it is,” Shattenkirk said. “We have our little board in the locker room with the standings and the points, but we really know we need to get at least one, and then two will really help us hopefully get some home-ice advantage for the playoffs.”
The Terriers and Huskies have already squared off twice this season. On Nov. 6, Northeastern netminder Chris Rawlings almost single-handedly stalled the Terriers, blanking BU despite facing 43 shots.
Parker has consistently raved about the way his team played in that first meeting, and was also pleased with his team’s effort as the Terriers got revenge against Northeastern in the first round of this year’s Beanpot Tournament. BU topped the Huskies, 2-1, aided by goals from junior Colby Cohen and a game-winner from freshman Alex Chiasson.
Despite the Terriers’ win, Rawlings was again a star, turning away 33 of 35 BU shots, including 27 saves in the first two periods alone. The Northeastern freshman has been up and down some for the season, but his overall numbers are solid with a .916 save percentage and a 2.71 goals-against average. The games against the Terriers have been among the best he’s played all season.
“I’d say there’s two things,” Parker said of Rawlings’ success against BU. “One, we have not been a team where the puck has jumped in the net for us this year. Two, we play real hard against Northeastern, so we’re getting a lot of shots and it’s still not jumping in the net for us. That has something to do with it.
“He may have played just as well against BC or just as well against other teams –– I don’t know. I know he’s played very, very well against us and we have played very well trying to put pucks on him and get in his face. We’ve had some real good opportunities and he’s made some real big saves.”
Parker doesn’t plan on changing his team’s strategy or mindset to adjust for Rawlings –– rather, he hopes to get the same solid performance from his squad that he got in the first two showdowns, and hope for the best.
“I don’t think our guys are thinking, ‘Oh jeez, you know, we’re playing Rawlings. We got to get it by him,’” Parker said. “The team is more important –– the way Northeastern plays, they play so hard. You have to outwork them and that’s a hard thing to do.”
Parker said Wednesday that he has yet to decide who will start in net for BU. The lack of a decision marked the first time in more than a month that Parker did not head into the weekend with sophomore Kieran Millan announced as his starter for the weekend’s first game. Millan was touched up for eight goals on 54 shots last weekend when BU lost twice to the No. 16 University of Vermont . . . Parker reiterated Wednesday that he feels Merrimack College is “one of the most dangerous teams in the league right now,’” adding that he thinks Mark Dennehy is the favorite for HE Coach of the Year.