The Boston University men’s hockey team (7-4-0, 5-3-0 Hockey East) will head into the Thanksgiving break with a Big-10 matchup against the No. 19 University of Notre Dame (6-6-2, 3-4-1 Big Ten) for the first time since a 2017 split at Agganis Arena.
Both teams are coming off of Friday night losses turned Saturday night victories: the Terriers over Northeastern University thanks to freshman defender Lane Hutson’s overtime backhander, and the Fighting Irish from Jack Adams’ first period gritty tap-in from the crease to lift his group past Ohio State.
“We’re kinda used to playing Friday-Saturday weekend games and it kinda gets monotonous after a while (…) it’s a little different for us and I think our guys are excited coming off of a big win on Saturday,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said in today’s media availability.
Following the win at Matthews Saturday night, the Terriers will look to pick up three more points in a quick-turnaround matchup with the Irish, who seem to struggle when they’re outside of South Bend. On home ice, the Irish dominate with a 5-1-1 record, but in away games, they’ve gone 1-5-1. While the Terriers have put up good hockey both on the road and at home, they need to make sure they’re ready to go from puck drop Wednesday night.
Earlier this season we all watched the BU hockey system fall apart at the hands of Big-10 hockey against an increasingly dominant University of Michigan. Notre Dame has a big team of committed players who are, on average, blocking 13 shots a game and taking roughly 5 penalties per game. If the Terriers want to get any pucks in the back of the net, they’re going to have to produce more shots than they’re used to and find ways to skate around the Irish defense, something they struggled to do Friday night against Northeastern.
“I think Notre Dame plays a bit of a different style than Michigan does,” Pandolfo said. “They’re a little bit more structured and we have to be ready for that. We have to play a simple game.”
Not only is this Notre Dame team big, their roster is stacked with veterans. Four seniors, eight juniors, and six graduate students lead the Irish with the 12 top point leaders being upperclassmen. At the top of that list is forward Ryder Rolston who has put up ten points off of four goals and six assists in his 14 games played.
While his points aren’t particularly impressive, he does lead his group with 55 shots on net. Sophomore defender Jake Boltmann leads his team with 32 blocks in just 14 games and Notre Dame is blocking 188 shots to their opponents 166.
Likely taking the net will be senior Ryan Bischel. The Medina, Minnesota native has played in all 14 games the Fighting Irish have competed in so far, posting a goals-against-average of 2.46 and a save percentage of .929. While it seems like the Irish defense is locked in, they struggle with their special teams only killing 75% of calls drawn and only scoring 14% of the time, paving a way for the Terrier power-play unit to show some skill.
“We have to stick to playing a direct game,” Pandolfo said. “We can’t get fancy against teams that have a lot of structure. You have to play behind them, you can’t turn pucks over (…) That’s what we’ll be looking for tomorrow night –– good puck management, good game management.”
The Terriers continue to see most of their contribution from the same guys, but luckily for us, that list includes some seven-to-ten names. Senior forward Matt Brown leads the group with 13 points (5G, 8A), followed by Lane Hutson with ten, captain Domenick Fensore with eight, and tied at seven, freshman Ryan Greene and senior Jay O’Brien.
Fensore was arguably the best guy on the ice in both games and he and D-partner Ty Gallagher created some of the Terriers best chances against Levi. With a leader who performs as well on the ice as he does in the locker room, we should continue to see big things from that first line unit.
“Ty Gallagher… I think he’s a little disappointed,” Pandolfo noted of the beginning of the sophomore’s season. “Overall I think he’s playing well defensively, he’s breaking the puck out well, so I think the points will come for him.”
On the BU bench, a Northeastern split showed the two sides of the Terriers: Friday’s slow start that cost them a shutout and Saturday’s resiliency to crawl-back from two one-goal deficits. With an “everything matters” mindset, they’ll hopefully play with a healthy level of confidence that shows off what this team can do. Puck drop is set for 5:00 pm on Nov. 23 at Agganis Arena live on ESPNU. We’ll have full coverage on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog as well.