After picking up another six points last weekend, the Boston University men’s hockey team (8-2-0) will face the University of Connecticut Huskies (8-8-2) in a home-and-home series in the third-to-last weekend of the regular season.
“[We’re] very excited to play again. UConn poses a lot of different problems for any opponent,” head coach Albie O’Connell said.
The Terriers, who just moved up to number 11 in the USCHO polls, will have an extra edge to their play this weekend as they look to break into the top-10 ranking, and similarly, the Huskies who sit just outside of the top-20, will look to take down BU in hopes of making the national polls.
“We’re gonna have to beat them. They’re not going to beat themselves, we’re gonna have to really show up and play our A-game to win,” O’Connell said.
The Huskies are coming off of a two game losing streak after being shut out by Providence and by falling short to UMass Lowell in a shootout. Despite the recent losses, UConn is one of the only other teams in Hockey East to have successfully taken down the number one team in the nation, Boston College. With the reestablished ranking system through the Hockey East Power Index, a sweep of UConn could move BU into first place.
In terms of offensive production, the Huskies seem to rely on a handful of junior forwards, namely Jonny Evans, Jáchym Kondelík, and Carter Turnbull, to put them ahead. Evans and Kondelik have secured the number one spot in goals, assists, and points per game in Hockey East. Having scored 12 times in 18 games, Evans averages .67 goals per games and 1.22 points per game when considering his 10 assists in the same amount of time. Kondelík leads in assists with 16, for an average of .89 per game.
UConn has a handful of freshmen making their name in college hockey as well, with defenseman John Spetz and forwards Hudson Schandor and Artem Shlaine each earning nine points so far.
In the Husky net will likely be Tomáš Vomáčka who is fourth in Hockey East in both save percentage and goals against average. The junior out of Trutnov, Czech Republic has a .916 save percentage and a 2.58 goals against average.
The Terriers, who have been shorthanded for the last few weeks, will begin to piece their roster back together with last week’s return of captain Logan Cockerill and this weekend’s return of junior forward Jake Wise. Other players who have been out, like David Farrance and Drew Commesso, “will be available next week” according to O’Connell.
With Farrance still out of the lineup for now, the Terriers will continue to rely on key freshmen and sophomores who have been proving themselves on the ice week-in and week-out to lead the team. One sophomore in particular, Jay O’Brien, played an impressive series against the University of Vermont with his first career hat trick, improving his point total to ten in the same number of games. Behind O’Brien is freshman forward Luke Tuch and sophomore defenseman Alex Vlasic, who have eight and seven points each.
Because of the inconsistency in player availability, O’Connell has started to roll out new lines with plenty of success. The second line of Tuch and sophomore Wilmer Skoog had already racked up two points, and with the addition of sophomore forward Robert Mastrosimone, the line has seen even more chances.
“Well, it’s a good mixture of players, you know,” O’Connell said. “With those two guys, the size of the screen for those two allows Mastrosimone, who is 155 pounds, to kind of dart in and dart out.”
The Terrier crease seems to again be up for grabs this weekend with Commesso still out, but freshman Vinny Duplessis continues to make his case after allowing just one goal over the weekend. Due to his impressive play so far, Duplessis has been named both Hockey East Rookie of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week in the last two weeks, and improved his goaltending statistics with a .67 goals against average and a .974 save percentage.
The teams will drop the puck Friday at Walter Brown Arena and Saturday in Storrs, Connecticut both at 4pm, with coverage to come on Twitter @BOSHockeyBlog.
*Update: the teams will not meet on Friday.