By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff
With the Boston University campus still buzzing about the situation surrounding former defenseman Max Nicastro, the No. 5/6 men’s hockey team still has games to play to finish up the regular season. The Terriers will leave their still-shocked campus behind as they travel to the University of Vermont for back-to-back games against the last-place Catamounts this weekend.
This is BU’s first game since the news about Nicastro broke on Sunday, and BU coach Jack Parker sees this as an opportunity for the team to get away from the hoopla.
“I think with all this going on it’s good for this team to get focused. I would say with all that’s going on – they need a hockey game probably so it can get them thinking about something else,” Parker said. “This team has proven they can stay focused in difficult situations and they are being challenged here.”
BU (18-11-1, 14-8-1 Hockey East) will face off against a UVM (6-23-1, 3-19-1 Hockey East) team that has only won one of its last nine games. But while the Catamounts have not won many games this season, they have beaten some of the top teams in college hockey.
Of the six teams the Catamounts have beaten, three of them are currently among the top-10 squads in the nation. Vermont beat No.6/8 University of Minnesota, 5-4, early in the season before beating No. 1/4 Ferris State University and No. 2/7 University of Massachusetts-Lowell within a two-week span.
“I think [the Catamounts] will be geared up and ready to play and they have a lot of good players,” Parker said. “I would imagine that we will have our hands full with a team that’s disappointed with their season and wants to finish it off with [some wins].”
Vermont has forward Connor Brickley back in the lineup for the weekend series, as he recently returned from an injury that forced him to miss the month of January. The Florida Panthers’ draft pick played with the 2012 U.S. National Junior team at the World Junior Championships two months ago, where he played alongside BU sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening and former Terrier Charlie Coyle. Brickley has 11 points in the 18 games he has played this season.
Returning to the lineup for the Terriers over the weekend is freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera, who has missed the last seven games with a broken wrist.
“He looks like he’s healthy,” Parker said. “It’s how much pain he can handle. He is not going to re-injure it anymore.”
Privitera had performed well before his injury, especially on the power play where he had recorded four power-play points over six games. The freshman’s return became more important this weekend thanks to the loss of Nicastro. Because Nicastro is no longer on the team, the Terriers’ defensive corps would have been reduced to a five-man squad had Privitera not been able to play.
Starting in net in Friday night’s game will be senior goaltender Grant Rollheiser, who has only started two games this season. The Chilliwack, British Columbia native has a 3.16 goals-against average this season as well as a .901 save percentage.
One player who will be looking to build on his success last weekend will be junior forward Alex Chiasson. The assistant captain was named Hockey East Player of the Week after his performance over last weekend, in which he scored a goal and had five assists in the home-and-home split against Lowell.
Because BU lost the second game of last weekend’s series to Lowell, the team remains in third place in Hockey East. The Terriers are one point behind Lowell, and two points behind No. 1/2 Boston College in the Hockey East standings. With only four games remaining in the regular season for BU, each game’s result is crucial to determining whether BU will have home ice and favorable seeding for the Hockey East playoffs.
BU will be on the road to face Vermont, which may help the team avoid the off-ice distractions of the Nicastro case.
“I’m sure that there are some guys that might be relieved that they don’t have to see some people around campus because maybe they feel uncomfortable,” Parker said. “Maybe they will feel uncomfortable when they walk on the ice in Vermont. Who knows?
“One of the things we want to make sure is [we let the team know], ‘Hey guys, go about your business like you’re supposed to. Go to class. I know this is difficult. I know people are probably staring at you in the dorms and in the cafeterias but you’ve got to be a student-athlete around here and take the next right step.’ And the next right step for us is to get on the bus and go to Vermont.”