In a final tune-up before the Beanpot, the Boston University men’s hockey team will host the University of Massachusetts on Friday night in one of the Terriers’ greatest tests of the season thus far.
While history may favor BU (10-10-3, 8-5-2 Hockey East), who have not lost to the Minutemen (19-5, 11-3 Hockey East) since 2013, a victory over this UMass team is by no means a guarantee. The Minutemen have been consistently ranked among the top teams in college hockey all season, including multiple stints holding the number one spot in the Division 1 rankings.
This season, UMass has the 2nd highest scoring offense in D1 hockey, averaging 3.79 goals per game. Individually, senior forward Jacob Pritchard holds a team-best 31 points on 12 goals and 19 assists, while sophomore forward Mitchell Chaffee leads the team with 15 goals. Chaffee has also been recognized on a national level, currently tied for third among all Division 1 players with an average of .65 goals per game.
On the defensive end, the Minutemen have been nearly as dominant as they have been in attack. UMass has allowed the fifth fewest goals per game in the NCAA’s top division with only 1.96 goals conceded on average. Anchoring the defensive effort has been sophomore goaltender Matt Murray, who is fifth in college hockey in terms of save percentage, turning away 93 percent of all shots faced.
While the Minutemen boast the joint-best winning percentage in Division 1 at .792, the Hockey East leaders have stumbled as of late. UMass fell 1-2 in a visit to Northeastern on January 19, before splitting a series at the University of Maine between the 25th and 26th. The team’s current road swing could be responsible for the Minutemen’s drop in form, as all but one of their losses have come away from home ice.
Like UMass, BU will also be entering Friday’s contest coming off a loss, as the Terriers fell 3-0 to #17/15 Arizona State University on January 26. After benefitting from some fortunate bounces to put up four goals in a 4-2 victory over the Sun Devils the night prior, the Terrier offense came up dry in the second game of the weekend series. It was the first time in nine games that the Terriers had been held goalless, a streak dating back to December 1st.
“The team that wants it more usually wins,” said BU Head Coach Albie O’Connell in the minutes after the loss to the Sun Devils. “Arizona State wanted the game more.”
The Terriers were without a few significant names last Saturday night, as junior netminder Jake Oettinger and senior forward Bobo Carpenter each got the night off during the loss. After appearing in every one of BU’s 22 contests prior, Oettinger was replaced by freshman Vinnie Purpura, who made 36 saves in his debut with the Terriers.
“Our goalie was our best player,” remarked Coach O’Connell after the game regarding Purpura, who joined the Terriers during the winter break.
As for the captain and leading goal scorer, Coach Albie O’Connell reported that Carpenter had been banged up going into Friday’s contest, in which he was still able to tally his 100th point as a Terrier – joining a list of only 82 BU hockey alum who have hit the century mark.
“I love Bobo,” commended Coach O’Connell following Carpenter’s milestone game. “Everything he gets, he deserves.”
While a rest was certainly deserved by these two star Terriers, all hands will be on deck for this week’s meeting with UMass. BU’s two-game home-and-home set against the Minutemen will be split between the first two Friday nights of February, separated by the first round of the Beanpot on Monday the 4th.
It will be a challenging stretch for the Terriers, but one that will be crucial to their season, simultaneously fighting to claim a Beanpot title and climb up the Hockey East standings.
The Terriers will take the ice against the Minutemen at 7:30pm on Friday, February 1. We will have minute-by-minute coverage of the game through our live blog, accessible through this website or our twitter account.