All opinions are my own.
The two hottest teams of last year’s Hockey East conference will come face to face in a home-and-home series this Friday in Boston as the BU Men’s hockey team (3-7, 2-4 Hockey East) prepares to take on the UMass Amherst Minutemen (6-2, 4-0 HE). The Minutemen, who, like the Terriers, had a tough start to their season, seem to have found their groove again as they continue to improve upon a six-game win streak.
“We look forward to get back into league play and obviously play a very tough opponent,” head coach Albie O’Connell said on Thursday. “They’re on a little hot streak, we’re on a little not streak.”
The Minutemen are coming off of their most productive season yet in 2020-21 winning every accolade the Covid season could present to them with ease. The first-time national champions won every game they played––including the Hockey East and national titles––after dropping two games in mid January to BU. Now facing each other for the first time since that series, the Minutemen continue to play with incredible speed, poise, and talent: a true championship team.
With 14 NHL draft picks on one roster, this Terrier squad is obviously loaded with talent. Unfortunately, the team’s potential has been met with lackluster efforts and the worst start to a season BU has had since 2000-01––when most of the team wasn’t alive. Despite the disheartening start, the Terriers still have a pretty impressive penalty kill at 80.4% compared to a Minutemen success on the man-advantage rate of about 21%.
In regards to his team’s PK, O’Connell took the blame for confusing the players. “I think there was some confusion in a couple of situations. There was some poor execution that you know, guys did not absorb and if they’re not absorbing it, we’re not teaching it the right way,” he said.
In terms of offensive production, the Terriers have been shooting more pucks than their competitors at an average 29 shots per game, compared to UMass’ 27.
UMass definitely has more breadth to their point leaders, with the most goals coming from any player being three. Senior forward Bobby Trivigno leads his group with nine points on three goals and six assists, followed by junior Cal Kiefiuk and rookie Scott Morrow, each with eight (3g 5a).
Last year, the net was split between Flilip Lindberg and now graduate student Matt Murray. After earning his championship ring, Lindberg traded in his Hockey East patch for that of the pros with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh penguins. Murray returned for a fifth year in the Minuteman jersey and posts an impressive 2.13 goals against average and .933 save percentage in eight games so far.
“You know, obviously they’ve (UMass) got skill and they’ve got talent. But the best thing about what they do is they play as a team all the time, and they compete as a team all the time,” O’Connell noted of his opponent.
If the Terriers want to hang with the best, they’ll have to get enough shots on net to get past Murray. Instead of just relying on the top line of juniors Wilmer Skoog, Robert Mastrosimone, and Ethan Philips, the team will have to see production from the whole roster: a roster with unlimited potential at that.
Likely rattled mentally, it’ll be interesting to see who head coach Albie O’Connell starts in goal this weekend between sophomores Drew Commesso and Vinny Duplessis. Commesso, last year’s go-to, has struggled between the pipes as a result of faulty defense and inconsistent play from his teammates. Every opposing goal is not only a blow to his stats, but also to morale, something the Terriers need desperately at this point. Duplessis makes big saves in big games, but hasn’t gotten enough practice to take over just yet.
Hopefully, the caliber of this UMass team will lead to a much-needed mindset change for this Terrier team. BU spent much of last year as the underdog, playing up to better teams and taking down the predetermined winner. Even a split with the Minutemen has the potential to turn this season around.
“We had a bad weekend. So we’re gonna have to rebound and we weren’t as aggressive out there… so we got to have that kind of aggressive mindset,” O’Connell said.
Puck drop will take place in Agganis Arena on November 12 at 7:30 pm before the teams turn back to the Mullins center in Amherst on Saturday at 7, with coverage on Twitter @BOSHockeyBlog and on Instagram @Boston.Hockey.Blog.
Caroline very informative article. Lackluster performances is a accurate term to describe BU play this year. I do disagree with the wording and here is why I choose the word performances instead of effort. I have no doubt in my mind that every kid is trying and that includes kids not in lineup but what happens to this club is players are falling behind and trying to do things on there own and that’s not working. I have gone to every game I can see the frustration on there faces . Fans are loosing patience just look at the comments on this blog some folks could not wait to pounce on these kids. It’s no mistake coach mentioned how U mass plays like a team it’s because he’s trying to get his team to buy in. We have a good team who has played very well in spurts that second period in Michigan was as good as any hockey I saw this year . The unfortunate part is you don’t win too many games by spotting a team 3 goals and only play one period. Now how can BU play more like a team one have breakouts moving too many guys standing still our wings can’t be standing still on boards facing our goalie catching pass then turning that does not work at this level. Speed will work on this club . If teams lay back on us same plan just play a little dump and chase and remember the object of dump and chase is to win the race. BU needs to understand U mass is coached by a great coach I got to know him a lot this summer even had to sit through his trophy appearances on a few occasions. I know how he operates u mass will be ready tomorrow and BU will need to clean up so much of what has cost them so far this year. This is a tough challenge against a great team but your right Caroline if we get a victory or hopefully two it could do wonders for our program. I’m not sure what BU game plan was on on pk was or how they failed to execute what I saw was a lot of watching I want to see active sticks and I want to see players box guys out and keep puck to the outside. As to goaltending we have good ones who just had a bad weekend I have no doubt they will be on this weekend. It’s important for these kids to be loose I’m rooting for them as hard as I can I know many are disappointed and want to see them fail so they can force the change they have been hoping for. But for me being a BU fan is something I don’t take lightly or that I can take off BU hockey is important to me so before everyone attacks me for cheering for them understand you may have deserted them but I won’t . As always go BU 🐾
Caroline hopefully we can get some guys back from injury. We need some goal scorers in line up which will help players play more of there game it may seem weird but sometimes a player plays better offensively if he’s not trying to play more offensively. When players go down and other players try to do too much they press and make errors hopefully we can get Obrien and Brown back that would be huge . Go BU 🐾
Absolutely agree– even from a morale standpoint, getting Brown and O’Brien back could be huge. O’Connell said in today’s conference that he’s “hoping to get some guys back,” but didn’t give us any more than that. I imagine constant line changes are stressful for the team, but you also can’t blame O’Connell for trying new combinations with so many guys out. Still hoping for some magic this weekend.
Caroline I just heard coaches media call and heard the whole segment of him talking about u mass playing as a team and I don’t have to tell you or anyone else on the blog I’m a big fan of coach OConnell and his staff . He finished off his media call by saying they play as a team all the time he also mentioned u mass is machine like and test the wills of there opponents. What coach is saying and doing is sending a message to his team if you want to give yourself a chance to win this is what you have to do. I could not agree more with coach he sees the game he sees what needs to be done it’s up to the players to be mentally tough enough to get it done. Our players need to realize bu hockey is a great thing I know we are trying I just think sometimes our heads are elsewhere and our influences are coming in some cases outside our locker room. Every kid owes it to the kid next to him to not only give it 100 percent but to give it 110 percent bu hockey there is a difference. I see and hear things that upset me as a hockey guy a bu fan and someone who understands sports college is short make the best of it. I really do care and like this group of kids I would love to see them pull off a couple of upsets . Go bu 🐾
Greatest coaching staff in college hockey did it
We went from number 50 to 48 in the pairwise
Maybe the NCAA will expand tournament field to 48
Ozzie it’s a start . U mass is a good hockey team
Thought we played a really solid 60 minutes tonight. Arguably the best “overall team effort” since Game 1 at UConn.
UMass may have come in expecting to steamroll us and I suspect we’ll see a better performance from them tomorrow after a wakeup call but that shouldn’t distract from us making it tough for them.
Thought we were the far better side in the OT. Don’t really care about the shootout.
Will be a tougher task on the big sheet after the top D-men logged a lot of ice time tonight but if Drew plays well and we bring the same focus, we can get something out of Amherst.
Good: Thought O’Brien had a nice return, 8 is getting healthier, 13 played well, and 23 had a solid 2-way game (finally got a new partner which I think helped overall).
Bad: Vlasic just can’t seem to make the leap. Still too many lapses and poor decisions. He’ll need to be faster, a lot more physical, and generally imposing to play at the next level but he’s got to show it here first. Boucher seems to either play 100% on the edge or invisible. The benching after the dumb penalty was deserved but also neutered him for the rest of the game. Coaches and he need to figure out how to get him balanced.
Good luck to anyone traveling to Western Mass tomorrow.
Nice game by our terriers tremendous team effort against a great team. I hate shoot outs I don’t even like 3-3 play I thought the game was evenly played and possibly a slight edge to us . Having O’Brien in line up is huge. As I have been saying throughout the efforts been there the team play has not . Last night we got some team play very happy for this team they needed something to feel good about. Tonight on the big sheet it will be interesting bu needs to do what they did last night and just a little bit more. Outside of Ty penalty I thought the refs were on. It’s no secret we need to stay out of the box. Go bu 🐾
Totally agree on 3×3 and shootouts. Gimmicky. Give me 4×4 OT and a tie if it ends that way.