The Boston University men’s hockey team (2-2, 1-1 HE) will make the short trip over to North Andover, Massachusetts to drop the puck against the Merrimack College Warriors (2-2, 0-1 HE) this Friday to start a home-and-home series.
“I think the biggest thing is make sure we’re protecting our net,” head coach Albie O’Connell said on Thursday. “If you can play good defense, we all agree we have pretty good goaltending, so if we play good defense and we can protect our net, we feel like that can really help us not only now, but moving forward towards the end of the year.”
The Terriers, who split last weekend against the Sacred Heart University Pioneers, will hopefully build off of their Saturday 4-1 home-ice victory and play two complete 60 minute games this coming weekend. Despite the underwhelming, and ultimately deflating, 3-2 loss on Friday, the squad does have a few bright spots to take advantage of this weekend.
Led primarily by their juniors, BU will rely on point leader and defenseman Domenick Fensore (1-4–5), along with forwards Robert Mastrosimone (2-1–3), Ethan Phillips (1-2–3), and Wilmer Skoog (1-2–3) to create their offense against the Warriors. This group of veterans is beginning to redeem themselves, still not having played a full season in a BU sweater, and will hopefully continue to do so as leaders on the ice.
Fensore had seven points in 11 games during the Covid year and is on track to reach his total from last season in the next few games. His four point weekend earned him a spot as the Hockey East Defender of the Week this week as well.
One area in which the team needs to get organized is in their after-the-whistle behavior. The past weekend against Sacred Heart truly looked more like a penalty-kill drill with 37 minutes of penalties––including one five-minute major and a game misconduct––and 13 Terriers spending time in the box. In order to see some success this weekend, they’ll have to learn how to stay out of the sin-bin with clean entries, conscious puck management, and composure after the whistle.
“First thing is you’re gonna [need to] stay out of the penalty box. [Merrimack’s] powerplay actually looks really good––both units are threatening… we just got to manage the puck smartly and play hard on guys: play physical, play smart,” O’Connell said.
Aside from the offensive-producing junior class, sophomore goaltender Drew Commesso continues to be the Terrier lifeline. In four games so far, Commesso has garnered a 2.6 goals against average and a .926 save percentage, as well as earning himself some impressive accolades on SportsCenter.
On the Warrior end, graduate student and captain forward Max Newton and junior forward Ben Brar lead the pack with six and five points, respectively. Despite having a matching record as the Terriers, Merrimack has yet to win against a Hockey east opponent, facing only Providence College and losing 5-2 on October 7.
Also like BU, Merrimack seems to struggle to stay out of the box with an average of 4.5 penalties per game. When on the man advantage, they’ve only been able to convert on three of their 14 power play opportunities, so while BU needs to stay out of the box regardless, they should be able to hold off the Warriors and maintain their perfect penalty kill on the season.
Protecting the crease will likely be sophomore goalie Zachary Borgiel. The Fort Gratiot, Michigan native put up a 3.1 gaa and a .883 sv% in 15 games last season, and has earned both of the Warrior’s wins to start this season.
The Terriers have also been struck with injuries in the past two weeks, with sophomore forward Luke Tuch seen on crutches between periods during last Saturday’s matchup. In regards to injured players, Tuch and junior forward Jay O’Brien will likely be out for the next two weekends. Sophomore defenseman Thomas Jarman also suffered a season-ending injury that will have him out for the year, according to O’Connell.
“We’ve got more guys than we had last weekend,” O’Connell said.
The Terriers will need to use this weekend to prove their ability to play a full, competitive 60-minute game. BU and Merrimack will drop the puck in North Andover Oct 22 at 7p.m., followed by a home game at Agganis on Oct 23, also at 7p.m. with live coverage on Twitter @BOSHockeyBlog and on Instagram @Boston.Hockey.Blog