Rebounding BU hosts Dartmouth in rare Wednesday game

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff 

The Boston University men’s hockey team is in the midst of an odd scheduling stretch, with the team’s only mid-week matchup of the season bookended by one-game weekends as it continues to wean onto the second-half schedule. The second of the three games comes 7 p.m. Wednesday, when BU plays Dartmouth College at Agganis Arena.

Coach David Quinn wouldn’t have it any other way.

“A Wednesday night game could not have come at a better time for us,” Quinn said. “I’m actually excited we get to play [Wednesday] night. We don’t have to live with that loss. And that’s what we talked about. Hey, we have an opportunity here in the next two games to feel very good about ourselves by next Sunday.”

“That loss” was Saturday’s 7-4 decision at Harvard, and it left the Terriers (7-9-2, 2-4-1) feeling anything but good about themselves.

Junior wing Evan Rodrigues and senior wing Jake Moscatel felt particularly bad — physically. Both will miss Wednesday’s game with “lower-body injuries,” according to Quinn.

Rodrigues missed the third period Saturday after bruising his knee at the end of the second, and Moscatel gingerly skated off the ice in the final five minutes after getting crushed into the boards.

Filling those two slots are two of a handful of lineup decisions Quinn will make between now and puck drop, decisions he had not fully figured out by the time practice ended Tuesday. He wants to sit those who took egregious penalties against Harvard — the team took nine minors, tied for its season high — and he started to tinker with lines Tuesday.

“Today was our first day [all together],” he said, noting Danny O’Regan and Matt Grzelcyk had Monday off following a whirlwind schedule involving the World Junior Championships. “I tried some things with lines and I’m still not sure.”

As bad as BU seems to have had it of late, Dartmouth has been hard-pressed to find bright spots all season. It is 2-11-2 with one of the worst penalty kills (75.4 percent) and team defenses (4.07 goals-against per game) in the country.

However, the Big Green’s power play ranks ninth in the country at 22.81 percent, right behind BU (seventh, 23.29 pecent). Junior forward Eric Neiley (13 points) has four power-play goals and nine total, more than double any of his teammates.

Sophomore goaltender Charles Grant (.895 save percentage, 3.59 goals-against average) has allowed more than three goals once since early November.

“They’re a team that has rebounded from a tough start. Even though they haven’t won a lot of games, they’ve played better,” Quinn said. “Watching them, I feel the way I do about everybody else. We have to do A, B and C if we’re going to have chance to have success. They’re a team that you can’t get fooled by their record, just like anybody else. Records don’t matter.”

Yes, it sounds like coachspeak. But there is some legitimacy to it. While 2-11-2 is ugly, the wins came against Yale, one of the top teams in the country, and Harvard, which, obviously, just dismissed BU. Dartmouth also tied Hockey East foes Vermont and Northeastern.

The Terriers will counter with sophomore goaltender Sean Maguire, who is getting his first start since mid-November. A combination of his back issues and sophomore Matt O’Connor playing well kept Maguire out of action until he relieved O’Connor mid-way through the Harvard game.

Maguire allowed two goals in 30 minutes.

“He was aggressive,” Quinn said. “He was a good goalie, he’s always been a good goalie. I saw out of him what I’ve seen a lot this year — confident, athletic, square to the puck.”

The difference against this Ivy League opponent, Quinn hopes, is that his team shows up with “passion and enthusiasm,” something it has lacked since the start of December.

Those two unquantifiable characteristics are especially important on defense, which Quinn was disappointed in Saturday. Instead of stressing it even more in the two practices since, however, he backed off a bit, saying the team had worked on defensive drills so much of late it may have had a detrimental effect.

“It comes back to passion and enthusiasm,” Quinn said. “When you play with passion and enthusiasm, you’ll defend better. You’ll play with more oomph and more pace and more desire — and that’s what defense is. It’s a want. It’s a passion and enthusiasm. That’s why I’m anxious to see how we do tomorrow night.”