After a hard-fought 1-1 weekend series with No. 7 University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Boston University men’s hockey team will return home to face the University of Vermont in conference play Friday and Saturday at Agganis Arena.
“Vermont is really well-coached,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell. “They play hard.”
BU (3-4-4, 2-3-3 Hockey East) will be without Coach O’Connell for game one on Friday as the bench boss will be serving a one-game suspension dealt by Hockey East following last Saturday’s loss at UMass.
“I accept everything the league put on me,” said O’Connell. “One game is well deserved.”
In his absence, O’Connell noted that associate head coach Paul Pearl will be taking over head coaching duties for the night, and director of hockey operations Eddie Effinger will be joining Pearl and assistant coach Len Quesnelle on the bench.
“Obviously it’s tough when your head coach isn’t on the bench, but we feel like we’ve got two great assistants as well as a director of hockey operations who’s going to be alongside us on the bench,” said senior forward and captain Patrick Curry.
Last weekend against the Minutemen, BU earned their first win in three weeks, 4-3, in the series opener on home ice. When the series shifted to Amherst the next night, UMass answered with a 4-1 win to split the series.
Fatigue appeared to play a role in both games as three goals were scored against BU in the third period in both their Friday and Saturday games.
“We got a little tired,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell on Saturday. “We ran out of gas.”
With three games coming in the next five days, the Terriers are feeling more confident in their conditioning thanks to some reinforcements returning from injury. Freshman forward Sam Stevens and sophomore forward Jack DeBoer were both back on the ice practicing this week.
“We’ve got the ability to play them,” said O’Connell. “There’s going to be a couple tough decisions, which is nice to have.”
“We got a couple players back from injury, so that’s kind of boosted our confidence,” added Curry.
On the other side, the Catamounts (1-7, 0-5 Hockey East), are entering on a six-game skid, with their most recent loss coming against Boston College in a 3-0 defeat to conclude a weekend sweep by the Eagles.
Headlining Vermont’s lineup is the man between the pipes, senior Stefanos Lekkas. Lekkas has backstopped the Catamounts since his freshman year and is averaging 28.1 saves per game this season. Supporting Lekkas is sophomore defenseman Carter Long, who has recorded a team-high 13 blocked shots for the Catamounts this season.
The Catamount offense has scored ten goals this season, 12 fewer than Merrimack College, who has the second-fewest goals in Hockey East. Sophomore forward Joey Cipollone, junior forward Alex Esposito and junior defenseman Christian Evers have led the attack with a combined seven goals, using the help of freshman defenseman Andrew Lucas, who leads the team in points.
“If you look at the stats line they’ve outshot every team they’ve been [against], they just haven’t found the back of the net probably as much as they’d want.”
With another physical series on the horizon, Captain Curry pointed towards recovery as a major factor towards staying sharp as the games roll on.
“We just want to focus on making sure the guys are doing the right things outside the rink.”
BU and Vermont will drop the puck at 7:30pm on Friday before going again at 4pm on Saturday. You can follow both games on our live blog and on Twitter @BOShockeyblog.