The No. 8 Boston University men’s ice hockey team (9-2-0) will be taking on the Merrimack College Warriors (4-10-2) in a home-and-home series this weekend. Puck drops for both games will be at 4 pm, with the Terriers hosting the Warriors Friday before traveling to North Andover for the Saturday game.
The biggest news for the Terriers will be the return of senior defenseman David Farrance and freshman goaltender Drew Commesso, which BU head coach Albie O’Connell confirmed in a press conference today.
Farrance, despite appearing in just six games so far this season and having not played since Jan. 23, leads the team in points (14) and assists (10). After missing so much time, it’s very unlikely the 2021 Hobey Baker nominee will end up winning the award, but the team is still excited to have a player of his caliber back on the ice.
“He’s felt better everyday this week,” O’Connell said, “[He] puts guys in a little bit more of a right spot from an offensive standpoint in those power play situations.”
O’Connell also mentioned Farrance will only be played 15-18 minutes to start out as opposed to 20-25. The focus will be getting him readjusted in the lineup after missing an entire month.
As for Commesso, O’Connell was noncommittal on naming a starter in net for this weekend, saying he’s still monitoring both Commesso and breakout freshman Vinny Duplessis.
“Vinny has been pretty hot, but Drew is obviously very capable himself. It’s never an easy decision, but we like the way both guys have played when they’ve been in there,” O’Connell said.
In six games this season, Commesso boasts a 5-1-0 record to go with a .917 save percentage and a 3.08 goals against average (GAA). Factoring out the high-scoring opening weekend against Providence, where he allowed 10 goals across two games, Commesso is 4-0-0 with a 1.98 GAA and a .938 save percentage.
Duplessis, meanwhile, has held down the fort over his four games in action, going 4-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a .962 save percentage. Having to choose between two goaltenders playing at the top of their game is a good problem to have for the Terriers, but the two could very well split starts this weekend as O’Connell and the coaching staff continue to evaluate.
Looking at the matchup this week, the Warriors enter this weekend with the third-worst scoring offense (2.50 goals per game) and defense (3.75 goals allowed per game) in Hockey East.
While Merrimack sits towards the bottom of the standings, having won just two games in their first 13 games, the Warriors enter this weeking 2-0-1 in their last three games, winning 3-2 against Providence on Feb. 7 and 6-2 against New Hampshire on Feb. 20. The shootout loss came against the Wildcats on Feb. 19.
Merrimack forward Liam Walsh scored five points (3g, 2a) in that three-game span for the Warriors. The sophomore is tied for second on the team with 10 points on the year. His five goals lead the team.
Walsh isn’t the only hot scorer for the Warriors in their recent run, with fellow sophomore Declan Carlisle tallying six assists in that same three-game span. The defenseman is now the fourth-leading scorer on the team (1g-8a-9p) and is tied for the most assists.
Leading the team’s scoring is sophomore forward Filip Filsmark. The Skövde, Sweden native has 11 points (3g, 8a) in 16 games, and he picked up one goal and two assists in Merrimack’s most recent game against New Hampshire, the 6-2 victory.
In the crease, freshman Zachary Borgiel has earned the majority of the minutes, starting in 12 games and appearing in two others. Borgiel has a 3.02 GAA (seventh-best in Hockey East) and a .885 save percentage (10th in Hockey East).
Helping out the netminders on defense, Carlisle and senior defenseman Dominic Dockery are second and fifth in blocked shots in Hockey East, respectively. Carlisle (40) is one of two players in the entire league with 40 or more blocked shots so far, joining UConn’s Jonny Spetz (46), while Dockery boasts 32 of his own.
The Terriers struggled on the face-off dot against UConn last weekend, losing 24-39, and Merrimack’s Max Newton is one of the best face-off men in Hockey East this season. The senior forward is winning 57.5 percent of his face-offs, good enough for fourth-best in the league.
“One of our best face-off guys is [Wilmer] Skoog, and Skoog struggled over the last couple weeks,” O’Connell said of the team’s face-off woes. Skoog went 2-12 on the face-off dot against UConn.
“I think that’s an area that we have to definitely improve. We talked about it. I think some of it was a five-man problem rather than just the centerman,” O’Connell said, saying his players need to be better on the edge.
O’Connell does not want the team to always anticipate winning the face-offs, but also to anticipate losses in order to avoid jumping on the wrong sides.
Make sure to follow coverage of this weekend here on the blog and @BOShockeyblog on Twitter.