In a doubleheader with now-No. 7 Massachusetts, the BU men’s hockey team won the opener at home 4-3, but fell in the rematch in Amherst 4-1. With plenty to discuss from the series, please enjoy this latest edition of my weekly column. All opinions are my own.
This series had something extra to it
BU has played in some close games at home this season, but I don’t think we’ve seen a better arena atmosphere than what we got on Friday night. Agganis Arena was rocking with the usual BU diehards and a healthy UMass contingent to counter, and the next night, Mullins Center didn’t disappoint either, with the UMass faithful certainly not taking the Terriers lightly. There was an additional intensity in the building both nights, and if that’s what we get for BU-UMass, these BC and Northeastern rivalry games down the road should be interesting.
BU’s depth scoring returned
Against Providence, one man (a defenseman, no less) scored five of BU’s eight goals. Great for him, not great for everyone else. This time around, BU had five different scorers provide their five goals. Against UMass, three of the four forward lines came up with a goal in game one, and a defenseman got on the scoreboard each night. Will Gabe Chabot and that fourth line give BU a goal every weekend? Probably not. But at the same time, can Patrick Curry and that top line be expected to contribute more than a single goal every weekend? Yes. For the first time in weeks, BU showed the ability to produce up and down the lineup.
Eyes drawn to officiating in game two
I didn’t touch on this talking point in my takeaways article over the weekend, but when the head coach is suspended after a game, you have to look a little further into a potential cause of it. In Coach O’Connell’s postgame press conference on Saturday night, it was evident that he wasn’t too pleased with the way the game had been called. My opinion? Yes, I think some infractions by the hosts went unnoticed. That said, I do feel that BU put themselves in positions to be penalized. The whistles blew early and often, and that cost them. At the end of the day, you never want to blame a loss on the referees, and I’m not going to.
Sam Tucker responded – again
Give credit to the kid. With the scrutiny picking up again after the Providence series, Tucker answered with what must have been the best weekend of his career. The grad transfer made 85 saves in two games against UMass, and according to Minuteman head coach Greg Carvel, Tucker was the only reason BU got by UMass in game one. The goalie came to play this weekend, and BU needed it with the amount of pressure they faced in their defensive zone. Going forward, perhaps the focus needs to shift from the crease to the blue line, where BU continues to look a little shaky. This time, though, Tucker bailed them out.
Can we get more out of BU?
Okay, so they got two points out of the weekend instead of one as they had the two weekends prior. That’s an improvement. But the reality is, it didn’t do anything to aid BU’s national reputation. In fact, the 1-1 weekend deprived the Terriers of any mention in either poll; not even a vote. Against a top team in the country, sure, take your two points and run. But when you face a team more your level or below like you will this week, the bar should be, and by all accounts is, set higher than .500 hockey.
What impact will O’Connell’s suspension have?
In my mind, this one-game suspension for Coach O’Connell could go two ways. The first potential outcome is that BU takes care of business on Friday night, Paul Pearl steps into the head role from his usual associate position seamlessly, and O’Connell returns on Saturday with no harm done. The other way it could go is that the temporary coaching change interrupts BU’s rhythm and development, especially among the younger members of the team. Losing your coach is not ideal, but it should be survivable.
Can BU capitalize on some weaker opponents?
After three weeks against teams that are garnering national attention, BU finally gets a more favorable set of fixtures this week. Vermont remains winless in conference play, and Sacred Heart has played to a 6-5-1 record against opposition generally a tier lower than what the Terriers have become accustomed to. We shouldn’t write off these opponents, but it isn’t exactly Providence or UMass coming in. With a three-game homestand in the next week, BU should be looking for at least two wins here.
The Terriers will host Vermont at on 7:30pm on Friday and 4pm on Saturday before turning their attention to Sacred Heart on Tuesday at 7pm.