By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff
The No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team’s game against the No. 5 University of Notre Dame on New Years Eve will be a game of many firsts. The matchup marks the first time coach Jack Parker has ever coached at Notre Dame, the first time the Terriers (10-5-1, 8-4-1 HE) will play at the Fighting Irish’s (11-6-3, 8-3-3 CCHA) new rink, the first time a college hockey game will be televised on the national TV network Versus, and most notably, the first time the Terriers will play this season without star centers Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle.
Trivino, a senior forward who led all of Hockey East in goals (13) through the first half of the season, was arrested a little over 24 hours after BU wrapped up its first semester schedule with a 5-1 win over the University of Maine. The 21-year-old was promptly dismissed from the team upon his arrest.
Coyle, a sophomore forward who was one of the team’s most highly touted stars, announced he would be leaving the team in order to join the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League following his participation in the World Junior Championships for the United States national team.
BU will also play without sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening and Notre Dame will be without forward T.J. Tynan and defenseman Stephen Johns. The three players are also competing with Team USA in Edmonton, but Clendening, Johns and Tynan are expected to return to their college teams after the tournament.
Despite having to play without some of their star players, however, Parker said the Terriers are well-equipped to enjoy a successful second half of the season.
“[Losing so many players] is a hard thing to have happen to a team, but it is not a bad year to have it happen,” Parker said. “We have a lot of depth up front and we have guys who have not seen a lot of ice time who maybe deserved to see a lot more ice time now about to see a lot more ice time.”
The Terriers will especially count on forwards Wade Megan, Sahir Gill and Yasin Cisse to fill the holes up front left behind by Trivino and Coyle. Megan, a junior forward who has spent much of the season playing on the third line, flew slightly under the radar during the first half of the season. He leads the team in game-winning goals (2 goals) and power-play goals (4 goals), and according to Parker, Megan will move up to center a second line in place of Coyle with sophomore forward Matt Nieto and junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson on his wings.
Parker said he expects to have Gill, who had been playing right wing on the top line, shift over to center on that line with Connolly and Cisse.
The Terriers have room in the standings for the forwards to adjust to their new roles on the team considering the strong position BU put itself in by finishing first semester just one point behind first-place Boston College in the league standings.
“I think we can be a very good team for the rest of the season,” Parker said. “We put ourselves in a good place and are fifth in the pairwise rankings, which is the only ranking that really matters, and we’re one point out of first place in our league. We don’t have to dig ourselves out of a hole here.
“Every team takes a step back. We just can’t afford to take any more steps back.”
– Saturday night’s game will mark the first time college hockey will be televised on Versus, which will change its name to NBC Sports Network in 2012 and broadcast 12 college hockey games, including the Hockey East semifinals and championship game. Parker said it is an honor to be a part of the first game on the network, which also broadcasts many NHL games.
“It is a great opportunity,” Parker said. “When you play at BU, you get the chance to play in those type of games. I’m looking forward to it.”
Connolly said the game will be a memorable one not only for the Terriers, but for all of college hockey as well.
“It’s going to be an honor to play in this game,” Connolly said. “This also shows that hockey is really coming to the forefront in sports. For Versus to take the time to cover college hockey, it’s a great thing.”
– Junior forward Ryan Santana is slated to take the ice for the first time this season at Notre Dame. Santana missed the entire first half of the season while he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. By the beginning of December, Parker said Santana was healthy but was not mentally in good enough game shape to play. Santana was expected to battle for playing time before the departures of Coyle and Trivino, but now he will be looked upon to step up to replace some of the scoring BU will miss.
– Both Connolly (shoulder) and Nieto (shoulder) missed time toward the end of first semester with injuries, but Parker said both forwards are now healthy and will play at Notre Dame. Parker was uncertain as to what the lines may look like for the New Years Eve affair, but said they should look similar to the following:
Connolly – Gill – Cisse
Nieto – Megan – Chiasson
Courtnall – Hohmann – Rodrigues
Gaudet – Rosen – Santana
Parker was undecided on defensive pairings but mentioned he liked sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan and freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera together. If Parker follows recent patterns on defense, pairings should look similar to:
Escobedo – MacGregor/Ruikka
Noonan – Privitera
Nicastro – MacGregor/Ruikka
Senior goaltender Kieran Millan is expected to start in net.
– Long-time BU strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle took a new job over the break as a conditioning coach for the Red Sox, but Parker said Boyle’s new duties over on Yawkey Way will not steal him away from the BU hockey program.
“He’s done this in the past with us,” Parker said. “He once did something down in Pheonix and LA, I can’t exactly remember, and was there for nine months, and he used to work for the Bruins, which is tough because they’re the exact same season as us. It’s not as if he’s here constantly, but it works out fine for us and it will be even better for the Red Sox.”
Parker, a Red Sox season ticket holder, said he did have one request for Boyle.
“Hopefully he can get me some better seats,” Parker quipped.