BU set for regular season opener with Friars

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

The nine Boston University men’s hockey freshmen all got a small sample of what college hockey is like in Sunday’s 5–0 exhibition win over the University of Toronto. The newcomers will get the full experience of Hockey East at 7 p.m. Saturday as No. 12/14 BU will take on Providence College at Agganis Arena in the season opener.

The Terriers did not fare well in their first matchup of the season with Providence last year, falling 5–3 on the road. However, the Terriers got their revenge on the Friars later in the season, beating Providence 6–1 and 8–0 in January.

Even with both lineups filled with young players — Providence’s 14 freshmen tops BU’s nine — BU coach Jack Parker said that he could use the three games his team played against Providence last year to help prepare for Saturday.

“They’ve got some good returning guys coming back,” Parker said. “I remember they blitzed us right after we got off the bus down there, but then we kind of blitzed them here.

“I would say that those games last year give us a pretty good indication of the style of the new coaches — what Providence plays under [Providence coach] Nate [Leaman] now as opposed to what they played under [former Providence coach Tim] Army.”

The Friars will ride the bus up to Boston only a day after their game with Sacred Heart, which may leave the Terriers with fresher players than Providence. However, Parker said he does not see the night of rest as an advantage for BU.

“This would be a lot different if this was December or this was January,” Parker said. “In some ways this might be an advantage to them because they are playing a real game that counts … That is an advantage. It is a disadvantage that they have to play the night before and we don’t. So I would say that it is probably a wash.”

Providence’s two-game weekend will be a chance for it to get its freshmen, including 2012 Calgary Flames draft picks forward Mark Jankowski (21st overall) and goaltender Jon Gillies (75th overall),  some playing time.

Saturday’s game features a matchup of two teams who lost their starting goaltenders from a year ago.

Parker said he has not made up his mind about who will be his team’s starting goalie for Saturday’s game, but that he will tell whoever he chooses Friday before practice. The choice is between the two freshmen goaltenders, Matt O’Connor and Sean Maguire, as junior goaltender Anthony Moccia is still sidelined with an injury.

While neither goalie had a chance to stand out in Saturday’s exhibition win due to Toronto’s lack of scoring chances, the two freshmen defensemen, Matt Grzelcyk and Ahti Oksanen, had two assists apiece.

“The two of them played extremely well that night and the two of them will play together even though they are freshmen,” Parker said. “Sometimes you want to split them up but they seem to complement each other pretty well and they both play really well on the power play”

The Terriers will be missing one of those defensemen on Saturday, as Oksanen will sit out the first two games of the regular season for violating an NCAA rule.

Oksanen’s violation occurred while he was playing for the Espoo Blues U20 team in his native country of Finland when a professional player played two games with his junior team. Oksanen will be suspended one game for each game that player participated in with his team.

“It is just a violation that had nothing to do with him, but had to do with who was out on the ice with him,” Parker said. “He didn’t know. He couldn’t say to the team, ‘I can’t play because he is on our team.’”

Until his return, either redshirt senior assistant captain Ryan Ruikka or senior defenseman Sean Escobedo will take Oksanen’s spot at the blue line on the power play. Junior defenseman Patrick MacGregor will take the sixth defenseman spot in the lineup.

With first game of the season approaching, senior captain Wade Megan said the team is excited to get on the ice against Providence.

“It’s the first game of the season, and we’re both going to really excited and up for it,” Megan said. “We’re just going to make sure our guys are focused and ready for it because we know they’re going to be ready for us and they’re going to be playing hard.”