After earning two points in four games over the last two weekends, the BU men’s hockey team will look to right the ship against the no. 5 University of Massachusetts this Friday and Saturday.
Before setting their sights on UMass (6-2, 2-2 Hockey East), the Terriers (2-3-4, 1-2-3 Hockey East) took No. 10 Providence College to the wire twice last weekend, coming back to force a 3-3 tie on Friday night before ending on the wrong side of Saturday’s 6-5 thriller.
“It was a great overall effort by everyone,” said junior defenseman David Farrance, who scored five goals for BU on the series, which included his first collegiate hat trick in game two. “We showed a lot of resiliency.”
Farrance’s eight goals and 14 points have set him apart as the leader in both categories for the Terriers and all other defenseman in D1 hockey. While the results have not come for the Terriers, BU’s offensive production has not been the issue.
Sharing his takeaways from Saturday’s defeat, BU head coach Albie O’Connell said, “we scored 5 goals in a game, so you like the way you look, at least on the offensive side … I thought we scored some really nice goals and made good hockey plays.”
As encouraging as the eight-goal weekend was, the Terriers know that they left opportunities, and more importantly conference points, on the table. After the series, O’Connell was quick to point out that his young squad still has a lot to learn.
“We’ve got some guys that gotta learn how to make harder plays. We’ve got some young guys in the lineup, but their ears gotta open, and they’ve got to start to listen,” said the head coach. “Our intelligence as a hockey team has to grow. That’s the biggest thing.”
Among BU’s growing pains, the performance of freshman forward Trevor Zegras has not gone unnoticed. The first-year center dazzled against Providence, scoring two goals and tallying four assists en route to earning Hockey East Rookie of the Week honors.
“[Zegras] keeps getting better and better. He had a really good weekend,” O’Connell said. “He and that line [with seniors Patrick Curry and Patrick Harper] are pretty dangerous, so we know we have a first line.”
BU will need contributions up and down the lineup when they face off against last season’s Frozen Four finalists. Among all Hockey East competitors, UMass is currently tied for first in overall goals against (16) and tied for second (32) in overall goals for, sharing that spot with BU.
Offensively, UMass is led by the junior forward duo of Mitchell Chaffee and John Leonard, who have scored seven goals each this season. Chaffee leads the Minutemen in points with 12, while freshman defenseman Zac Jones has seven assists, good for the team lead.
On the defensive end, Massachusetts is backstopped by the tandem of junior Matt Murray and sophomore Filip Lindberg. Both keepers have played four games so far, and Murray has posted slightly superior numbers with a 1.51 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.
The position of greatest change for UMass has been the defensive corps. Hobey Baker winner Cale Makar departed for the Colorado Avalanche following last season’s playoff run, while impressive sophomore defenseman Marc Del Gaizo has missed all but one game this fall.
In the current Hockey East standings, the Terriers rank about UMass on five points compared to four for the Minutemen, who do have two games in hand. The national polls may indicate otherwise, but conference play suggests these games will be extremely competitive.
Last season, UMass went undefeated against BU with a victorious scorelines of 7-5 at Agganis Arena and 4-2 at Mullins Center. With matchup history and recent form on their mind, BU’s urgency to get back to winning ways has never been stronger.
“I’m not happy, they’re not happy,” said Albie O’Connell. “We have to clean some stuff up.”
This will be BU’s second consecutive weekend against a team ranked in the top ten nationally, their third in a row against teams receiving votes. According to the boss, an increase in health may aid their effort.
“We know that we have some guys coming back, some reinforcements in time,” said O’Connell. “I think the depth of our team will grow, and I think we’ll continue to get better as guys become a little more mature and experienced.”
The Terriers and Minutemen will kick off the series at Agganis Arena at 7:30pm on Friday night before travelling west to Amherst’s Mullins Center for an 8pm puck drop on Saturday.
The Boston Hockey Blog will have coverage straight from the rinks all weekend! Be sure to check out @BOSHockeyBlog on Twitter, and hockey.dailyfreepress.com.