By Mark Fraenkel
Since the schedule was released over the summer, Dec. 9 was circled on the calendar for Terriers, Eagles, and college hockey fans in general. On Friday night the No. 7 Boston University men’s hockey team (10-4-0, 7-3-0 Hockey East) will face the Boston College Eagles (5-5-4, 4-3-3 HE) in the 288th playing of the Battle of Commonwealth Avenue at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill.
“I know our guys are excited,” BU Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said in Thursday’s media call. “I’m excited. And we’re all looking forward to it.”
Over three games last year, the Terriers were 1-1-1 against their archrival. In the rivalry, BU has struggled on the road in recent years, with their last win at Conte Forum coming in 2017.
On Friday night, Boston College will honor their legendary former head coach Jerry York. The Watertown native was a Division I head hockey coach for 50 years, spending the last 28 at BC. This matchup will be the first time without York or esteemed former BU head coach Jack Parker behind the bench in nearly six decades.
Ranked seventh nationally per the USCHO poll, the Terriers swept the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (3-13-1, 0-11-1 HE) last weekend, winning 6-3 in Durham on Friday night and then beating Mike Souza’s team 3-0 at Agganis.
“It’s a hard league, it’s a competitive league,” Pandolfo said. “And it’s hard to win back-to-back nights. And honestly, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing. Every team presents different challenges… it is a difficult league,” the first-year head coach added.
The Eagles also enter the weekend on a high note. Last weekend, Greg Brown’s team picked up three out of six points from the No. 10 Providence College Friars (9-3-5, 6-0-5 HE).
Strong performances from freshman forward Cutter Gauthier and graduate goaltender Mitch Benson earned them Rookie of the Week and Goaltender of the Week, respectively.
BU also picked up some league honors last week with senior defenseman Domenick Fensore being named Defender of the Week. Fensore led the league in scoring last weekend with three goals and an assist in the two games, including both game-winners.
Both teams were also represented in the monthly awards for November. Freshman phenom Lane Hutson was named Hockey East Defender of the Month for his six goals in 14 games thus far this season. For the Eagles, Gauthier was named Hockey East Rookie of the Month. Hailing from Scottsdale, Arizona, Gauthier has eight goals through 12 games and leads BC in scoring.
The Terriers enter the weekend fifth in the Hockey East standings. With 20 points, BU leads the sixth-placed University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks (9-6-1, 5-4-1 HE) by three points and trails the fourth-placed Northeastern Huskies (7-7-3, 6-4-2 HE) by two points. BC is in seventh place with 16 points.
While the on-paper statistics may lean in the Terriers’ favor, the Battle of Comm. Ave is a rivalry that can go either way. BU is riding a hot streak and BC will honor their most iconic player and coach, while also turning over a new leaf on their season in their most recent series. The 288th edition isn’t just about Hockey East points, Beanpot Previews, or the Green Line – it’s a competition of pride for a new era and legacy of two storied programs.
The Boston Hockey Blog will have full coverage on Instagram @Boston.Hockey.Blog and Twitter @BosHockeyBlog, in addition to a special BC preview episode of Terrier Hockey Talk available wherever you get your podcasts Friday morning.