We’re officially through the first slate of games to kick off the college hockey season! Here are my reactions to this opening weekend of action. All opinions are my own.
An all-around perfect start
I can’t think of a better way to start the season. Exciting game? Check. Union hung in there in the first, and had that barn rocking. Classic college arena? Check. Messa Rink at Achilles Center is a beauty. Lively gameday atmosphere? Check. The capacity crowd of 2,000 was clearly ready for the return of hockey. Perfect away game drive? Check. That Western MA fall foliage is the real deal. I think that’s everything? Oh yeah, and BU won the game. Thanks to Union for a great opening day – that was a lot of fun.
How about that offense?!
The forwards were the story for BU on Saturday against Union. Eight different Terrier attackers earned at least a point, including five who tallied more than one point in the contest. The first and third lines did most of the heavy lifting, but every trio created chances and kept the Dutchmen on their heels. The Terrier offense did everything, with effective forechecking leading to crisp puck movement and dangerous scoring opportunities. They were aggressive but composed, and their collective speed definitely made a difference. This offense was completely unlike the one that often struggled for goals in 2018-19, and that was great to see.
Physicality across the lineup
Speaking of BU looking different than they did last season, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by the level of physicality the Terriers brought on Saturday. For a team that featured eight freshmen appearing in their first collegiate game, the newcomers took no time to get adjusted to the hard-nosed style of play that wins hockey games in this league. The fourth line impressed me the most in this regard, with first-years Jamie Armstrong and Sam Stevens relentlessly scrapping with veteran Union defensemen. Coach O’Connell noted that you have to be physical to win games, and BU certainly proved they can do that.
Defense’s balance is key
While the offense drew the headlines, the defense’s performance in game one shouldn’t be overlooked. What stood out to me most was the balance this d-core has in terms of size and play style. David Farrance and Dom Fensore are smaller guys who can make things happen in the offensive end with their skating and puck skills. Alex Vlasic and Hugo Blixt are bigger guys who can play shut-down defense. Cam Crotty and Kasper Kotkansalo fall in the middle with plenty of size and puck-moving ability. It feels like this defensive unit has the proper personnel for any situation, and that gives me a lot of confidence in them going forward.
Can the goaltending straighten itself out for game two?
Allowing three goals on 13 shots isn’t exactly the dream start in net for grad transfer Sam Tucker, but we shouldn’t judge him on just one game. Every goalie has an off-day, and perhaps debut jitters were to blame for the underwhelming save percentage. I still believe Tucker can be a consistent keeper for this team, but he will need a strong showing next weekend to keep me on his side.
Will the offense be able to keep their pace?
The BU attack set a high bar in their season opener, and because of it, the expectations of them have increased as well. Although recent history will tell you that Northern Michigan is a different animal than Union, Terrier Nation will be looking for another strong offensive outing when BU hits home ice. Whether or not the Terriers can do it will say a lot about what’s in store this year.
What kind of turnout will we see at Agganis?
Let’s be honest: game attendance got embarrassing at times last season. That said, with the rocky start and stretches of inconsistency, it’s understandable why some people weren’t so interested in that team. With a new beginning, the Terriers have done everything they can to draw their fans back in. Let’s see if those fans respond to the hot start and come out next weekend.