Coming off a statement 5-2 win over No. 9/12 Harvard University, the Boston University men’s hockey team will look to make it two wins in a row as crosstown foe No. 8/12 Northeastern University comes to Agganis Arena on Saturday night.
“It’s two Hockey East points before the break and we’ve got a month to sit on it so hopefully we’re ready to go,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell.
BU (5-6-5, 3-3-4 HE) knocked off the Crimson for their first win in three games, having been shut out in two games prior at the hands of Sacred Heart University and Cornell University. Northeastern (10-4-2, 6-3-1 HE) enters off of securing a Friendship Four title, defeating New Hampshire and Colgate along the way. Currently, the Huskies sit atop Hockey East on 13 points, while BU is just three points behind in a tie for fourth.
“They’re gonna be a tough out,” said O’Connell. “We’ve just got to play our game, play smart, and try to out-compete them.”
The last time the Terriers and Huskies clashed was the Hockey East Semifinals last season, with Northeastern taking down BU 2-1 in overtime. Overall last season, BU head coach Albie O’Connell’s group went a combined 1-2-1 against Jim Madigan’s Northeastern squad, with the other loss for BU coming by the same score in the Beanpot semifinals.
“They’ve been kind of bullying us for as long as I’ve been here,” said junior defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo.
The Huskies come into the contest as one of the stingiest defensive teams in the nation, allowing the ninth-fewest goals-against per game (2.06). As for the Terriers, their 2.94 goals-against per game falls well below Northeastern’s mark. The Huskies are just as tight defensively on the penalty kill as they are at even strength, working at a 92.6 percent success rate, which is fourth in Division I. Meanwhile, killing penalties has been an issue for BU with just a 78.5 percent clip.
Both teams are evenly-matched offensively, for the most part, as they are tied for the 22nd-most goals per game with three. Looking at the power play, the Terriers have been able to do some damage with the man-advantage, working at a 19 percent clip, compared to a percentage of 17.8 percent for Northeastern.
Individually, the Huskies are led by sophomore forward Tyler Madden, who has picked up right where he left off from a stellar freshman season. So far, Madden has 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points in 16 games this season. Senior defenseman Ryan Shea has also been a key facilitator of the offense for Northeastern, with 2-13-15 totals in 16 games.
“They’ve got one of the best players in the country in Madden,” said O’Connell.
For BU, junior defenseman David Farrance has been other-worldly on the back end with 21 points (10g, 11a) in just 16 games, leading all defensemen in scoring. Senior forward and assistant captain Patrick Harper (6g, 13a) and senior forward and captain Patrick Curry (10g, 6a) are both scoring at a point per game pace, if not better.
In net, graduate transfer Sam Tucker has been solid for BU, posting a 5-4-5 record to go along with a .912 save percentage and a 2.60 goals-against average (GAA). For Northeastern, Craig Pantano, who is also a grad transfer, has been slightly stronger with a 10-4-2 record and a 1.97 GAA, tied for the 12th-best mark in the nation, as well as a .927 save percentage, tied for 13th-best.
According to Coach O’Connell, “it’s been a long first semester. We’ve just got to play well on Saturday to feel good going into the break.”
Puck drop on Saturday is slated for 7:00 pm. For coverage throughout the game, make sure to tune in to the Boston Hockey Blog’s live blog, which can be found through hockey.dailyfreepress.com and @BOShockeyblog on Twitter.