By James Garrison
The Boston University men’s hockey team (12-10-3, 8-6-3 HE) is set for another Hockey East matchup this Sunday, taking on the No. 17 nationally ranked Providence College Friars (17-9-2, 8-7-1 HE) for the first time this season.
Coming off of a big 6-4 win in Amherst Tuesday night, the Terriers are looking to continue their strong second-half play as they fight for position in the Hockey East standings as the final month of the regular season approaches.
Like the Terriers, Providence is also coming off of a road win against UMass. The Friars defeated the Minutemen 2-1 on Friday night. Friars’ freshman forward Riley Duran scored two goals in the third period to lift Providence to the Friday night victory.
“It’s gonna be a really challenging game,” Head Coach Albie O’Connell said in his weekly media availability. “Just watching Providence vs. UMass last night it was a very tight-checking, low-scoring game.”
For the Terriers, they have only lost one game in regulation after November 6th, have won six out of seven games in the second half of the season, and have received points in all contests in the second half.
Junior forwards Ethan Phillips and Matt Brown have been leading the Terriers offensively as of late. With two goals in his last three games, Phillips seems to have found a home on the first line with sophomore Luke Tuch and junior Jay O’Brien.
Brown is currently riding a six-game point streak, with four goals and four assists for eight points during that stretch. For Phillips and Brown, as well as the Terriers as a whole, a major factor is finally being almost completely healthy.
“Our team’s feeling pretty confident about what we’re doing as a group,” said O’Connell.
Junior goaltender and Hobey Baker Award nominee Jaxson Stauber has been very strong for the Friars this season with a 1.98 GAA, a .921 save percentage, and four shutouts. In front of Stauber, Providence is led up front by sophomore forwards Brett Berard and Nick Poisson.
The Friars’ power-play has been humming along at a very solid pace so far this season with a 27.7% conversion rate. O’Connell credited Providence’s ability on the power-play as well as their consistent play up and down the ice.
“They pose a lot of problems for teams in how they defend but also, they’ve got a dangerous power-play and special teams,” O’Connell said. “They’re very thorough in all three zones, special teams, off face-off dots.”
With the Terriers’ next game after Sunday set for February 4th, this will be the last start for BU starting goalie Drew Commesso before he departs to represent his country in Beijing. Team USA will play their first game of the tournament Thursday, February 3rd against Finland.
“[Commesso] will be ready to play tomorrow,” said O’Connell.
While it is still unclear exactly how much time Commesso will miss in Beijing, it will be at least until February 15th. During that stretch, the Terriers will play four games against Maine, Providence, and the two Beanpot games.
Even though it is unknown exactly how the Terriers will manage their goaltending solution, it seems likely that sophomore Vinny Duplessis will see the bulk of the action during Commesso’s absence.
The Terriers currently sit in fifth place in Hockey East standings with twenty-six points, only one point behind third-place Providence. With the fight for positioning on, the Terriers will want to have good showings against tough teams before the playoffs start.
Another win against a ranked team this week will go a long way for the Terriers as they continue the push to break back into the national ranks to try and qualify for the NCAA Tournament after falling out of the rankings early on this season.
Coverage for Sunday’s game can be found with a recap posted on the blog shortly after the final buzzer and additional coverage can be found on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and on Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.