BU gears up for home-opening weekend series against Northern Michigan

After an impressive season-opening win against Union College two Saturdays ago, the Boston University men’s hockey team will suit up against Northern Michigan University in a two-game weekend series to mark their return to Agganis Arena.

Head Coach Albie O’Connell’s boys are ready for their first home game of the season. 

“The guys are … pretty hungry to play,” O’Connell said. “If you can’t get up for [the home opener], it’s not a good thing.”

Despite preseason concerns about filling the holes left by departed Terriers (1-0-0), BU’s offense looked just fine in their season debut with five different goal scorers emerging in the Union game. 

The Terrier defense also impressed in the opener, calming the defensive zone after surrendering a pair of first period goals and holding the Dutchmen to just a handful of shots through the final 40 minutes.

Metropolitan College graduate student Sam Tucker earned the start in net for his first game wearing scarlet and white. Despite allowing three goals on 13 shots on the night, the former Yale University Bulldog did come up with some timely stops when called upon.

The win certainly did plenty to sway neutrals in favor of this unproven Terrier roster. After the victory, BU jumped to 20th on the USCHO.com national Division I poll, and have held that spot through the most recent release of the rankings.

As expected, O’Connell and his Terriers are ignoring the outside noise they have created.

“The guys were excited about winning, but they know it’s just one game,” the second-year head coach said.

While BU come in with confidence, the Northern Michigan Wildcats (1-1-0) have reason to feel strong as well. Hailing from the WCHA, NMU split their season-opening series with Michigan State, falling 5-3 in game one and coming out victorious 2-0 the next night.

The Wildcats bring plenty of offensive spark to Boston. Senior forward Darien Craighead tallied 10 goals and 10 assists last season, while now-sophomore Griffin Loughran notched seven goals and 11 assists to lead all Wildcat freshmen in goals, assists and points. 

NMU’s attack is dangerous, but not all of their offense comes from their forward group. Among other offensively-skilled blueliners, senior defenseman Philip Beaulieu ranked first on the team with 29 assists in 2018-19.

There has not been any confirmation as to who will take the starting spot between the pipes for BU against the talented Wildcat attack, but all signs would point towards Tucker getting the nod for his second start, at least in game one of the doubleheader.

The same situation applies for the goaltender position on the other side of the ice. Through two competitive games, the Northern Michigan crease has been split between sophomore Nolan Kent and freshman John Hawthorne.

It has been a long time since the Terriers and Wildcats have shared the ice. Their last meeting came in 2002, resulting in a 4-4 tie. In 2002, the 43-year old O’Connell was only three years removed from his senior season with the Terriers when he served as captain.

Long-time fans may also remember when BU and NMU squared off in the 1991 Frozen Four finals. The game would be an instant classic, finishing 8-7 in triple overtime, with Northern Michigan ultimately finding the winner and taking home their first national title in program history.

It is somewhat uncommon to have two weeks scheduled in between a team’s season opener and their second fixture. While the delay may be frustrating for a team on good form, O’Connell and his Terriers are focusing on the benefits.

“It’s kind of brutal [that we] don’t get to play another game, but at the same time, it’s not bad to get some rest,” O’Connell said.

Ready for action, BU will make their Comm Ave debut on Friday at 7:30 p.m. before settling the series on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Follow all the action both nights through the Boston Hockey Blog’s live blog, which can be found on Twitter @BOSHockeyBlog and our website, hockey.dailyfreepress.com.