After an underwhelming performance on October 9, the Boston University Men’s Hockey Team (1-1) will drop the puck for a back-to-back home series with the Sacred Heart Pioneers (0-2) of the Atlantic hockey Association at Agganis Arena in Boston this Friday night. During the Covid season, the Pioneers got to play in 18 games compared to the Terriers 14, and finished with a regular season record of 6-10-2.
The non-conference game will be a test of resilience for the Terriers, after an impressive 2-1 comeback win against the University of Connecticut Huskies (2-1) on October 8 and a disheartening 5-1 loss to the Huskies at home Saturday night.
“We’ve had a really good week of practice, up to this point,” head coach Albie O’Connell said to the media on October 14. “I think our sentiments on Saturday night––what we saw live––was pretty accurate about how we played last week so we’re, I don’t know if we’re looking for redemption, but we’re looking to play again, as a group and as a coaching staff.”
Playing up to “the premiere league in college hockey,” the Pioneers will rely on plenty of upperclassmen to help them get the job done. Senior forward Ryan Steele returns after his 12 point season last year and is already leading the way for his team with two points in two games. Along with Steele are sophomore and junior forwards Braeden Tuck and Austin Magera who totalled 16 and 14 points respectively, and are tied with Steele for points in the 2021 season so far.
Protecting the Pioneer crease is senior Josh Benson, who recorded a 3.02 goals against average and a .899 save percentage last year, but struggled in the team’s opening matchup with UConn where he let in four goals. Next to Benson is junior Justin Robbins who has seen just over 30 minutes of action in 2021, but recorded a .868 save percentage to start the season.
On the opposite end of the ice, the Terriers will rely on the same group of veterans from last weekend to hopefully turn things around for BU Hockey, and to earn the team’s first victory on Agganis ice in nearly 600 days.
“The guys who are leading the charge in the [locker] room are really having the right conversations in the room. We’re not in there, but the way that the focus is coming out to practice and how they’ve competed… obviously the right message is getting sent by those guys,” O’Connell said.
Despite only being two games into the season, the Terriers have seen contributions from nearly every line with nine players tallying one point so far. Junior forwards Matt Brown, Robert Mastrosimone, and Sam Stevens have been leading the way, each with one goal on the weekend against UConn. As the team starts to stabilize, especially a team with so much depth, it’ll be interesting to see who will stand out in the contests this weekend.
Last weekend, sophomore Drew Commesso started in net and had an incredible game Friday with a showing for “SportsCenter #1 play of the night,” before struggling against an aggressive UConn team and a defense that didn’t show up. Commesso’s composure is one of the most reliable aspects of the Terriers’ game, and despite being relieved by fellow sophomore Vinny Duplessis for the last nine minutes of the third period on Saturday, the brick wall will be back in net for Friday’s game against the Pioneers.
The last time the two teams met was in November of 2019 with a 4-0 shutout victory for the Pioneers. A frustrated Terrier team and an almost empty student section left BU with much to prove before the biannual Red Hot Hockey competition at Madison Square Garden against Cornell.
“We’re going to have a very tough opponent in Sacred Heart. The last time they were in our building, I don’t want to say they caught us by surprise, but they caught us on a Tuesday night where we were sleeping, and they played really well,” O’Connell said of the 2019 loss.
Also for the first time in nearly a year and a half, the Terriers will play back-to-back games at Agganis Arena. The last two-game series at home was a 3-0 win and a 3-3 overtime victory against the University of Vermont just before the Sacred Heart game in 2019. As for the home team advantage, O’Connell emphasized the resources and reliability you get playing at your own rink, as well as an excitement for a packed crowd.
“I can’t wait to see what the crowd looks like this weekend,” O’Connell said. “Hopefully we didn’t disappoint too much last week and people come back and see it’s early, so I’m excited to see what it looks like.”
Puck drop will be at 7:30PM on Friday and 7PM on Saturday, both at Agganis Arena, with live coverage on Twitter @BOSHockeyBlog and on Instagram @Boston.Hockey.Blog.