Coming off of a two-week break, the No. 8 Boston University men’s hockey team (11-5-0, 8-4-0 Hockey East) will look to pick up their momentum against a dominant Beanpot rival with an old-time hockey matchup against No. 9 Harvard (8-2-1, 7-1-0 ECAC) at Walter Brown Arena tomorrow night.
The Terriers will enter the series with five more games under their belts compared to their opponent across the river, but despite playing fewer games, the Crimson have dominated in their league. They started the season with the longest win-streak in college hockey this year with victories over nine different opponents, only being dealt their first loss against the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 26.
Their win-streak featured a stretch of impressive goal differentials, with most victories coming with a two or three goal cushion over opponents. While the Crimson play in an arguably less competitive league where only two ECAC schools are ranked in the top-20 of the USCHO poll, the Terriers will still need to prepare to take on a team who averages 3.6 goals per game and only lets in 2.3.
“I expect it to be a really tough matchup,” Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said in his media call. “Harvard’s a really good team… they have a ton of offensive talent, so we certainly have to be aware of that.”
In addition to their top group of forwards and shut-down defensemen, Harvard boasts the best penalty kill in D1 Hockey. The Crimson average nine minutes of penalties a game but kill 91% of their opponents power play chances. Not only that, but when the tables are turned and they skate with an extra man, they capitalize nearly 28% of the time.
The Terriers struggled to stay out of the box early this season but have definitely started to improve as the year goes on. BU’s kill will have to be solid given the 12 minutes they average in the box, and a less impressive 22% conversion rate on the power play.
“We’ve talked as a team, that’s one area that we definitely need to improve,” Pandolfo noted. “The first half our special teams were just average, so that’s something we focused on a little bit this week as well… I think our penalty kill is starting to get a little more aggressive.”
Playing 60-minutes of even-strength hockey will be key in breaking through the Crimson’s tight defensive squad. Senior captain Henry Thrun leads the blueline in points with 14 from three goals and 11 assists. Thrun is joined by D-partner Ryan Seidem who has seven assists in 11 games played so far.
In front of Thrun and Seidem are point leaders Sean Farrell, Matthew Coronato, and Alex Laferriere, each posting over a point per game– the three combine for half of Harvard’s total scoring so far.
Lastly to note on the Crimson roster is senior Mitchell Gibson who will likely get the nod between the pipes. The Phoenixville, Pennsylvania native boasts a 1.83 goals against average and a .930 save percentage that the Terrier offense will have to break through. Freshman Aku Koskenvuo and junior Derek Mullahy have each gotten two starts, but Koskenvuo will be unavailable as he represents team Finland at the World Junior Championships.
The Terriers will also be short handed however, as freshman defenseman Lane Hutson is out donning the red, white, and blue in Moncton. Without Hutson, Pandolfo will have to rearrange his second D-pair but has yet to decide if he will put 12 forward and seven defensemen on the ice, or if he’ll rearrange for 13 forwards and six blueliners. As for the power play unit, sophomore Ty Gallagher will slot in for Hutson.
Even without their top defenseman, the Terriers will be able to rely on veterans Matt Brown, Domenick Fensore, and Jay O’Brien, as well as freshmen Ryan Greene and Quinn Hutson, all of whom have over 12 points in the games they’ve played. Brown leads the group with an impressive 23 points in 16 games, fifth among the entire NCAA in points per game.
This will be the first time the Terriers have played at Walter Brown since their opening exhibition game against Holy Cross in October of 2021 and is the first time Wally B has been sold out Jan. 2 2005, right before Agganis Arena opened.
“The ice surface is a little smaller so that things happen a little bit quicker over there,” Pandolfo said of his home rink.
The two teams will take the ice at Walter Brown Arena but the last time they met was at TD Garden in the opening round of the Beanpot. The Crimson showed their resiliency and climbed back into the game in the closing minutes of the second period with two goals in 20 seconds, but BU came away with a 4-3 win and ultimately, a Beanpot trophy.
In a top-10 matchup between greater Boston rivals, this game will stand as an early Beanpot barometer and one that both teams will look to use to pick up momentum heading into the second half.
“We’re excited to be back –– seems like break has been forever,” Pandolfo said.
Puck drop is set for 7:00pm at Wally B with live coverage on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog. The game will also be available on ESPN2, with former Terrier Colby Cohen on the call.