The Boston University men’s hockey team (18-11-3, 12-7-3 Hockey East) will close out the regular season in Orono this weekend against the University of Maine Black Bears (6-20-4, 4-16-2 HE).
With six Hockey East points up for grabs against a subpar team, it’s non negotiable for the Terriers to complete a series sweep. BU last took on Maine at Agganis Arena on Feb. 4 where they came away with a 4-0 victory before their Beanpot run.
However, as Head Coach Albie O’Connell acknowledged in his media availability today, this weekend is a fresh slate of games for the two groups.
“Maine poses a lot of problems, especially in their building,” O’Connell said. “The game last time won’t be any indication of what it’s going to be like to play at Maine.”
This will be the Terriers’ first road trip since their Feb. 10 win against the Friars in Providence. O’Connell said it will be nice for his squad to get away from campus for a bit.
The only away-game BU has lost in the second half of the season was last Sunday against Boston College where they fell 3-1 after a shutdown 6-3 win on Saturday.
Despite the loss, the scarlet and white have skated with immense confidence since January and no doubt have what it takes –– mentally and physically –– to beat the Black Bears if they simply play their game.
“All-in-all, we’re not worried about the opponents, we’re worried about how we’re playing,” O’Connell said. “From how we forecheck, to how competitive we are, and what we’re working on as a group.”
BU has been hurt by some injuries, most recently the absences of junior defenseman Case McCarthy and junior forward Ethan Phillips. O’Connell said they both didn’t skate yesterday, but were expected to practice this afternoon by themselves.
“Nothing major, it was just kind of a couple precautionary bumps and bruises so I think they should be fine, but time will tell,” O’Connell said about their conditions.
It’s unknown whether the two upperclassmen players will be in the lineup against Maine or if they will be held until playoffs roll around.
Another question lies in who will start between the pipes for BU. Sophomore goaltenders Vinny Duplessis and Drew Commesso split the BC series and both put up impressive performances. In Commesso’s first game back since the Olympics, he made 21 saves.
Duplessis was just named the Hockey East goaltender of the month following his 5-0-0 stretch and significant role in the Beanpot championship. O’Connell’s got two top-tier netminders to choose from, and we could see another split.
On the other side of things, the Black Bears have lost four of their last five matchups, getting swept by Providence College last weekend. Maine currently sits last in the Hockey East standings, but has the opportunity to be the spoilers.
Sophomore forward Lynden Breen leads his team in points with 20 (7g, 13a), and collected two assists against the Friars. Breen and his teammates have averaged 2.1 goals per game compared to BU’s 3.1.
In the crease for the Black Bears has been sophomore netminder Victor Osman. He will likely get the nod on Friday with his .903 save percentage after not playing in Maine’s most recent game.
O’Connell said his group will have to come ready to compete against Maine.
“They make it difficult on you to earn ice and they’ve got talent within that room and enough experience to beat anyone –– we’re not taking anyone lightly,” O’Connell said.
With standings on everyone’s minds, BU needs to go to Maine this weekend and take care of business. The Northeastern Huskies lost to the University of Vermont last night, opening the chance for the Terriers to finish the regular season in 2nd place.
Although there are only two games left on the calendar, things could greatly shift after this weekend. BU may also end up playing in the first round of the Hockey East tournament –– at this point, it’s up to them.
“You want to finish as high as you can, you want to finish out strong,” O’Connell said. “Playing in the last weekend, it’s an exciting chance to try and create some momentum for the team going into that next week.”
The puck will drop at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday at the Harold Alfond Sports Arena. We’ll have full coverage throughout the series so make sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.