The Boston University men’s hockey team (10-3-0) will play only once this weekend in a matchup against the UMass Lowell River Hawks (7-8-0) after the Terriers’ Thursday afternoon game against the University of New Hampshire got canceled earlier today. The cancelation was due to problems on the Wildcats’ end, and their administration saw it best not to move forward with the competition.
“It’s a crazy year, so we’ve just got to be flexible and be ready for the next challenge,” head coach Albie O’Connell said in a press conference today. “They [the team] were a little bit disappointed, but we’re just gonna have to move on.”
It was also a surprise to many that a Northeastern matchup was not in the cards for the Terriers this weekend, seeing that the two teams haven’t faced off this season and the five-minute commute between the universities seemed to make a matchup logical .
“It’s a crosstown rival, so it’s a little unfortunate, but it’s been an unfortunate year in a lot of different ways,” O’Connell said of not playing the Huskies this season.
This Saturday will mark BU’s last regular season game before heading to the Hockey East playoffs to compete in the single-elimination tournament. The group is looking to build some momentum after an unimpressive showing last Friday against Merrimack. The Terriers rebounded with a 4-2 win in the second game of the series, and will look to carry that success into this weekend.
Lowell has won three of their last four games, most recently sweeping the University of Vermont on the Catamounts’ home ice. Prior to last weekend, though, the squad had dropped six of their last seven games, and seem to just now be hitting their stride with the postseason on the horizon. However, O’Connell made it clear that the River Hawks’ struggles are no reason to underestimate their abilities.
“I think anyone in our league can beat anyone,” he said. “Lowell is arguably the best coached team in the league, they pose a lot of problems. They’re a big, strong team. They’ve got a good blend of size, strength, skill, speed and they’ve got a couple weapons on the blue line.”
Two of these weapons on the blue line are junior defensemen Chase Blackmun and Seth Barton. Blackmun has a collective eight points thus far with five goals and three assists––he is the second-leading scorer on the roster. Barton has garnered seven points (1g, 6a) and may find himself in the same sweater as BU’s very own Ethan Phillips in the future, as both were drafted by the Detroit Red Wings.
The River Hawks have had three goaltenders on rotation: junior Owen Savory, sophomore Logan Neaton, and freshman Henry Welsch have all appeared between the pipes this season. The first-year Welsch has seen the most time in the crease with eight starts––he has a .895 save percentage and 2.77 goals against average.
For the Terriers, goaltending has been one of their many strong suits. Freshman Vinny Duplessis got the opportunity to prove himself during Drew Commesso’s absence and has a 4-1-0 record this year. Commesso has also been solid from the get-go and helped BU get the three points last Saturday with 25 stops. O’Connell said Commesso was supposed to start in the UNH game and that they’ll have to reevaluate due to the schedule change, but there’s “a pretty good chance” we’ll see number 29 get the nod against Lowell.
Senior defenseman David Farrance will be back for the second weekend in a row after returning from almost a month of not playing. The super star defenseman saw plenty of ice time in the Merrimack series and immediately resumed his offensive production with a goal in Friday’s competition.
“I think Dave ended up playing probably a little more minutes than we might’ve expected. He felt very good on Friday night from a legs standpoint. Saturday night I think he faded as the game went on, but he feels a lot better this week after getting a couple games under his belt,” O’Connell said.
In terms of the scarlet and white’s lineup against Lowell, O’Connell said graduate forward Max Kaufman is currently day-to-day following an undisclosed injury last Saturday, so we may see a similar mix up of lines as we did in the second half of that matchup. O’Connell also said they’ll continue to skate with their seven defensemen because it has given them the room to get more guys into the action.
As the regular season comes to a close, O’Connell recognized the many ups and downs his group has faced to make it to this point. They have had to find a way to fight through adversity and still play good hockey, an accomplishment the head coach fully credits to the players.
“We’ve had to do a lot of things not super conventional this year, but it has worked. I think a lot of it has to do with the competitiveness of our guys,” he said. “Some of the downs we’ve had have kind of brought the group a little bit closer too.”
The Terriers will head to Lowell for a 3:00pm start this Saturday at the Tsongas Center before preparing themselves for the playoffs next week. @BOSHockeyBlog on Twitter will have live updates of the game, and the recap will be up on the blog following the final buzzer.