By James Garrison
With two months in the books for the Terriers, they hardly resemble the number ten nationally ranked team that they were in preseason polls. Despite that, there is still some reason for optimism at the end of November.
This month saw the Terriers take on the likes of UMass, Northeastern, and Cornell – all ranked teams. In those three weekends, the Terriers have played some of their best hockey and most competitive games, especially after a relatively-flat October.
They have looked like a much more engaged and hungry team despite only coming up with one win in those three weeks against UMass. The Terriers were also able to come up with some much-needed points in ties against UMass and Northeastern, as well as an overtime loss against Northeastern.
After playing down to their opponents in the beginning of the year with splits against UConn, Sacred Heart, and Merrimack in addition to getting swept by UMass Lowell and Northern Michigan, it was somewhat unclear as to what this Terrier team really was.
After these last three weeks, BU has shown that they are capable of playing with the best but are still a step behind as they’ve struggled with actual execution in their games. They have the ability and personnel to be even with those teams when healthy, but they’re still a work in progress.
It was clear on Saturday that Cornell is not any better than BU on paper, however they were able to slightly beat the Terriers in every aspect of the game, which obviously adds up and makes a large difference.
If the Terriers are to rise to the level of Cornell and UMass, details like managing the puck in their own zone and blocking shots are what led Cornell to edge BU in every aspect of the game, and ultimately are the details that they need to address.
“Some puck management issues cost us some goals,” Head Coach Albie O’Connell said post-game on Saturday. “If you watch Cornell block shots compared to the way our guys blocked shots tonight, it was night and day. That’s an area where we really need to improve,” O’Connell added. After the first period, Cornell was able to quiet down the Terriers’ offense largely through shot-blocking and breaking up offensive zone plays.
O’Connell addressed the necessary areas for improvement, but we know addressing those areas will be crucial for the Terriers if they are to take care of the opponents that they should be able to, while also winning games against top teams, which they are capable of.
With the end of the semester and winter break coming up, the month of December is much lighter for the Terriers with only five games, and only three of which are Hockey East matchups. This upcoming weekend, the Terriers will take on the UNH Wildcats.
This matchup is more important than it may seem, as the Terriers need to begin to improve their record and climb the Hockey East standings, and that starts with beating the opponents that they should. The Terriers cannot hope to be a top Hockey East team or find a spot in the national rankings if they only show up in games where there is a tough opponent.
Their play has been mostly strong the past three weeks, but it will be interesting to see if they revert back to old habits when the opponent declines, or if they have actually found a rhythm as a healthy team and just need to find results.