By Sam Dykstra/DFP Staff
This weekend, looks could very well be deceiving.
On one side, you’ve got the 15th-ranked team in the nation that is sporting a 16-9-7 record, including a 13-5-5 mark in conference play, and will be continuing its fight for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament in a pair of games in its own barn.
At the other end, there will be a lowly 7-17-6 (5-13-5 HE) team just hoping to cling to the seventh or eight seed in the eight-team conference tournament.
But Boston University, the first team described in the above scenario, knows all too well that it won’t be able to disregard the University of Vermont, the second team, as it takes on the Catamounts Friday and Saturday for 7:30 and 6:30 starts, respectively, at Agganis Arena.
The Terriers have had as many struggles against their northern foes in recent years as perhaps any other team in Hockey East. Since 2007-08, BU is just 4-6-2 against Vermont, including an 0-2-1 record in games played at The Greek.
BU coach Jack Parker explained that Vermont’s approach to the game has thrown his team off at times in the past few seasons.
“Recently, Vermont’s given us trouble because I think in their style, they’re so defensive,” he said. “They can get us out of our game pretty easily. They’re not playing that style as much lately. They’re coming at you harder. Hopefully, they’ll play that style against us because we like that style, too.”
The Catamounts, who have struggled in 2010-11 after two successive NCAA berths, gave the Terriers another run for their money in the only matchup between the two sides this season back on Jan. 9. After two periods, Vermont held BU to just eight shots on net and a goal by center Josh Burrows tied the game at two apiece early in the third.
The Terriers needed a power-play goal by sophomore forward Alex Chiasson and an empty-netter by junior center Corey Trivino in that frame as well as 29 saves on the night from junior netminder Kieran Millan, who Parker expects to play both nights this weekend, to leave Burlington with two points.
The BU bench boss said that he can only hope that his team has left that performance in the past at this late juncture in the season.
“I think we’re both different teams than we were then,” Parker said. “They outplayed us most of the game up there. We got a great goaltender and some opportunistic goals. As the game progressed, we looked like we were getting more into it, but we still didn’t play with anywhere near the focus and intensity that we need against a team like that.”
As the Terriers prepare to take on the Catamounts for the second and third times this season, they will do so without junior defenseman David Warsofsky for at least this weekend’s pair of games, according to Parker. The BU assistant captain suffered a concussion in the waning moments of last Saturday’s 1-0 win at Providence College and will be re-evaluated Monday and every three days after that if necessary to see when it is safe for him to return.
Sophomore Max Nicastro will replace Warsofsky as sophomore Ryan Ruikka’s partner on the first defensive pairing. This will only be the second time Nicastro and Ruikka have been paired together on the blue line this season. Freshman Patrick MacGregor will play with sophomore Sean Escobedo as the third pair and will play in consecutive games for the first time in a month.
Parker expressed more concern about his defenseman’s health than what the pairings will be.
“It’s a big deal not to have David,” he said. “But it’s not a big deal for matchups.”
In other lineup news, Chiasson will return to the second line with Trivino and freshman Matt Nieto after being held out of last Saturday’s game for disciplinary reasons that came as a result of two penalties he took against Providence the night before.
However, as one forward re-enters the line sheet, another may find his way off it. Parker noted that sophomore forward Wade Megan could miss time this weekend with an ankle injury. If that were to occur, sophomore Ryan Santana and junior Kevin Gilroy would both see time, with one playing on the third line and the other on the fourth. If Megan does play, the pair may split the weekend starts.
Yet uncertainty in the lineup isn’t the only area of concern for Parker.
“I thought Tuesday’s practice was slow, I thought yesterday’s practice was just OK and I thought today’s practice was lousy until the very end when I got in their faces a little bit. The last couple drills were OK, so we’ll see if we’re preparing to win or preparing to lose here.”