By James Garrison
It’s finally time.
358 days separate Dylan Peterson’s late-game heroics and the third meeting of the 2022-23 season between the Boston University Terriers (20-6-0, 14-4-0 HE) and the Northeastern Huskies (13-10-3, 11-5-2 HE). As entertaining as two November matchups were between the Terriers and Huskies, the Beanpot should remain supreme.
BU has served as a model for consistency all year, having failed to lose two games in a row thus far. A combined ever-growing game and a lighter second half schedule has seen the Terriers rocket up the national rankings with seven consecutive wins.
Despite the dominance shown by the third ranked team in the country, the Huskies cannot be overlooked. A fight is always expected between these two rivals, especially on such a massive stage.
“We try to approach every game the same,” Jay Pandolfo said at last Monday’s Beanpot Media Day. “I get it. This game is a little bigger just because of the environment and where it’s at. I think our leadership group has done a really good job of helping the young guys that it is just another game.”
Those young guys –– the freshman class that has been so vital to the Terriers’ success –– will have to adapt quickly to meet the high-intensity of the game for the Terriers to fully utilize their offensive depth. Despite the 118 points distributed across five first-year players, the most important Terrier to debut on February Garden ice is that of Drew Commesso.
While Commesso has had the occasional off-night this season, the junior goaltender has battled through injuries and illnesses and put together another dominant stretch of play. After allowing five goals against the University of Maine, Commesso has put together a .921 save percentage including a dominant 40-save performance against Boston College.
“[Commesso’s] been a rock, he has been all year,” said freshman forward Ryan Greene following the Terriers’ 5-3 victory over Maine last Friday. “We have a lot of trust in him, and he trusts us. Good relationship with him for sure and he’s been unbelievable.”
180 feet across from Commesso, the Terriers face a tall task in solving Huskies’ goaltender Devon Levi. Like Commesso, Levi will be taking the Beanpot reins for the first time in his third year with the club. The two represented their respective countries in last year’s Winter Olympics, and Levi did not play the entire 2020-21 season due to injury.
Levi can take full credit for handing the Terriers one of only two home losses this year. A 41-save shutout from Levi in mid-November saw the Terriers fall in the first of two weekend matchups. The Terriers managed to solve Levi the next night in a thrilling overtime victory at Matthews Arena.
“It’s going to be a good test,” captain Domenick Fensore said. “I know Northeastern’s not happy because we beat them. It’s kind of the same feeling we had when we lost to them two years ago when I was a freshman. It’s gonna be a good game, good atmosphere. I can’t wait.”
Senior forwards Jamie Armstrong and Ethan Phillips remain week-to-week and will not be suiting up Monday night. Senior defenseman Case McCarthy, who missed Friday’s matchup against Maine, will “hopefully” play Monday, per Jay Pandolfo.
With McCarthy out Friday night, the Terriers’ lack of depth on the right side was quite apparent. Late in the game, Cade Webber moved to his off-side to give Lane Hutson a steadier partner during crunch time.
As Hutson would be the offensive driven on any defensive pair he is on, Webber would not require too many touches on his off-side, making the pair a solid fix in the absence of McCarthy.
McCarthy is among many other seniors who made the hard decision to return to Comm Ave for this season. For the seniors, two main reasons caused them to turn down professional contracts: coaching and the opportunity to play in games like this.
“These guys did come back for a reason,” Pandolfo said. “They felt like they had some unfinished business. We did win the Beanpot last year, which was great for these guys, but they want more.”
With coaching having passed with flying colors, the most meaningful games are finally upon us. The Terriers have put themselves in a position to be considered “favorites” going in. The Beanpot however, is anyone’s game.
Recent history should tell everyone though, that getting hot at the right time can propel a team through the four team, single elimination tournament. BU will have to have their guard up, as a Huskies squad –– that eerily mirrors the Terrier team that got it done last year –– awaits.
“They always play us very well,” Pandolfo said. “We just have to be ready for it. “It’s obviously a big stage and I think last year our guys rose to the occasion.”
The puck will drop at 8:00pm tomorrow night at TD Garden. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on-the-ground coverage of the tournament so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.
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