Following their first defeat of 2019, the BU Men’s Hockey team will look to return to winning ways against Merrimack in a late afternoon clash on Martin Luther King Day.
The Warriors (7-16-1, 4-10 in HE) topped the Terriers (8-9-3, 7-5-2 in HE) by a score of 4-0 in the teams’ first meeting back on October 20, defending home ice with a dominant effort on both ends. Senior Mike Babcock and junior Logan Coomes scored early for Merrimack, and junior Johnathan Kovacevic and sophomore Laine McKay added insurance late. Senior Craig Pantano had 34 saves in the victorious shut-out, while a BU combination of juniors Jake Oettinger and Max Prawdzik came up with 24 saves collectively.
It was the first time the Terriers were held goalless by the Warriors in the history of the fixture, and the third defeat in BU’s 0-4 start to competitive play. However, the team found life following a fourth loss to post a tie and three wins in their next four games. Trending in the opposite direction, Merrimack fell in two contests following their victory against BU, though both losses came against the University of Massachusetts, who have established themselves as one of the top squads in collegiate hockey all season long.
In their most recent fixture, the Terriers fell 4-3 to Quinnipiac in heartbreaking fashion through a last-second goal by former Terrier Brandon Fortunado. BU fought back from being down multiple times in the contest, overcoming a two-goal deficit in the first period, and then leveling the game again in the third after the Bobcats had regained a one-goal advantage. BU’s loss was their first of the new year, having tied and won two games in 2019 ahead of the Quinnipiac matchup.
While he did recognize his team’s resiliency, BU head coach Albie O’Connell knows his team can do better.
We really got out-competed in those first two periods,” remarked the first-year manager. “[There is] a lack of competitive spirit at times.”
After winning three consecutive games over Northeastern, Michigan and Connecticut, Merrimack also dropped their last contest with a 5-0 thumping against the University of New Hampshire on January 18. The Warriors’ struggles did not result from a lack of opportunities, as Merrimack tallied 25 shots in comparison to UNH’s 20, and gained the benefit of five Wildcat penalties. Defensively, five goals against is by no means a desirable total to concede, so Merrimack will be looking to recover on both sides in their visit to BU.
Providing an offensive spark for the Warriors will be junior Tyler Irving, who holds a team-best 16 points and 11 assists. BU’s points leader, Dante Fabbro, has 18 this season, and leads the team in assists as well, with 14. Freshman Chase Gresock leads Merrimack in goals with six, while BU senior Bobo Carpenter has 10, holding the title as the only Terrier with a double-digit goal total thus far. Netminders Pantano and Oettinger carry save percentages of .896 and .923 respectively.
Merrimack have entered a stretch of Hockey East clashes that will close out their season, currently holding a record of 1-1 since this run of divisional games began on January 12. As for BU, the Terriers will take a brief break from conference play to host a weekend series with Arizona State following the Merrimack game, before finishing the season with Hockey East matchups the rest of the way, and the ever-anticipated Beanpot in early February. All attention for both teams is on Monday’s game though, with momentum on the line and crucial Hockey East points up for grabs.
How does Coach O’Connell think his team will respond from the devastating loss to Quinnipiac?
“Don’t know yet,” responded the smirking head coach.
BU vs. Merrimack can be watched on NESN and TSN, or listened to through GoTerriers.com. Puck drop is at 4pm, and the Boston Hockey Blog will have constant coverage of the game through the live blog.