Terriers to start 2012 with battle against Merrimack Warriors

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

The No. 10/11 Boston University men’s hockey team will look to start off 2012 in winning fashion Friday when the Terriers suit up against the No. 6/7 Merrimack College Warriors. The game is a must-win for the Terriers (10-6-1, 8-4-1 Hockey East) if they want a chance at the season series since Merrimack already beat BU once this season in a 3-2 overtime thriller.

When the Warriors (11-3-3, 7-2-1 Hockey East) won that game back in November, they were the only unbeaten team in the country, but the landscape has changed since then. The Warriors have battled through a 3-3-2 stretch since facing BU, while the Terriers went 7-2.

“We know the game is real important in the standings,” said coach Jack Parker. “They’ve already beaten us once in one of our better games that I’ve thought we played this year. I don’t think there’s anybody that puts the fear of God in you like they had last year, but they do have an awful lot of guys that work very, very hard trying to get points and trying to get goals.”

The Terriers are a changed team since last playing Merrimack. BU lost its top two centers and two of its leading scorers in senior Corey Trivino and sophomore Charlie Coyle during the break. The two centers’ absences were obvious in the Terriers’ last game, a 5-2 loss to Notre Dame. BU was an abysmal 19-and-40 in faceoffs in that game. Sophomore forward Sahir Gill, who replaced Trivino as the first line center, was 3-and-10 in the faceoff circle while junior forward Wade Megan, who replaced Coyle on the second line, went 5-and-8.

After watching game film from the loss, Parker said his team looked more out of sync than he originally thought, and due to both faceoff struggles and a lack of offensive chemistry, Parker will shuffle his lines slightly for the game against Merrimack. Parker said senior captain Chris Connolly, who has played left wing on the top line all season, will replace Megan at center while Megan moves to Connolly’s spot on the wing.

“[Megan] doesn’t like playing center,” Parker said. “I told him I thought he could help us out, and he tried. He wasn’t bad, but if your heart’s really not in it and you’re hoping you don’t have to play it, then there’s no sense of trying to force him.”

Statistics show why, despite Megan’s reluctance, Parker attempted to play Megan at center before putting in Connolly. Over the course of his BU career, Megan is 259-and-281 on faceoffs, earning a .479 win percentage on his draws. Connolly is 151-and-228, a much lower .398 win percentage.

Junior assistant captain Justin Courtnall said that in addition to the line tweaks, the Terriers will have to learn how to win through the play of the players they have left.

“I think it’s up to us to be able to come together and just be able to play well with whoever we’re playing with,” Courtnall said. “I don’t think it matters what the lines are. We have a lot of talent on our team.”

But faceoffs and offensive chemistry were not BU’s only problem against Notre Dame; the Terrier defense also looked awful in the loss. The defense will change slightly Friday night, as Parker said the team will benefit from the return of sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening, who missed the Notre Dame game while playing for Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championships.

Clendening returned to Boston on Thursday night, will play in the game against Merrimack Friday night, and will then go home Saturday morning to celebrate a belated Christmas with his family. Parker said Clendening is expected to return from his break next Wednesday.

“It gives him a few days at home,” Parker said. “But the most important thing is to get him off the ice. If he was staying here, we wouldn’t let him practice because that’s been a long haul for him.”

Since Clendening will play against Merrimack, junior defenseman Ryan Ruikka will sit. Parker said Ruikka should return to the lineup on Sunday, when the Terriers play an exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 team. Senior goaltender Kieran Millan will start in net Friday while senior goaltender Grant Rollheiser will get the start on Sunday.

Notes:
– When Coyle left BU during the break, it seems that he left his teammates in the dark about his second semester plans. When Coyle and Clendening arrived at the Edmonton airport for the World Junior tournament, Clendening said in an interview with The Pipeline Show that Coyle told him Coyle was not going anywhere.

Just minutes later, Coyle told the media he was leaving BU. Courtnall somewhat addressed the way Coyle handled informing his teammates of his departure. When asked whether Coyle told his teammates ahead of time that he was leaving BU, Courtnall paused for a few seconds before saying:

“He was a really good teammate while he was here and a really good guy. I think he left on that note.”

– Following the Notre Dame game, Parker said he was upset with junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson, who was assessed a double minor in the waning minutes of the game on a slashing call. Parker said after watching game tape, the penalty looked more like a phantom call, but said he still is not happy with the way Chiasson has handled any frustration this season.

“I think it’s bad,” Parker said of Chiasson’s history of frustration penalties while serving as a captain. “If he hasn’t gotten a goal or two, or if his team is getting beat – and it’s not just himself personally – if his team is getting beat, he has to take that frustration out a different way. He has to play harder instead of just getting teed off. Because he certainly, he takes himself out of the game sometimes. We were talking about that [Wednesday].

“We need him on the power play, we need him killing penalties. We don’t need him in the penalty box. But most importantly, we don’t need him to get frustrated and he was frustrated the other night.”