By Mark Fraenkel
With Bostonians celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, The No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team (25-10-0, 18-6-0 Hockey East) hopes that their third trip to TD Garden will be the lucky charm. At 4p.m., the Terriers will face the Providence College Friars (16-13-7, 9-9-6 HE) in the Hockey East tournament semifinals.
“We’re looking forward to this weekend,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said during his midweek media availability. “I think you work all year to get to this spot, you know, having a chance to compete for a Hockey East championship.”
BU has rebounded strongly since the last trip to Causeway Street. After falling to the No. 16 Northeastern Huskies (17-13-5, 14-7-3 HE) and Boston College Eagles (14-16-6, 8-11-5 HE), the Terriers continued the skid by losing five out of six points to the No. 14 Merrimack College Warriors (22-12-1, 16-8-0 HE).
Since then, Jay Pandolfo’s team swept the University of Vermont Catamounts (11-20-5, 5-16-3 HE) and Providence College. Powered by a hat trick from junior forward Nick Zabaneh, BU convincingly defeated UVM 7-3 in the Hockey East Quarterfinals at Agganis Arena last weekend.
During the opening seconds of Saturday’s contest, senior defenseman Domenick Fensore left the game due to an injury, it was confirmed to be lower body after the game. The captain’s availability for tomorrow is still unclear.
“At this point, right now, Dom is still day-to-day,” Pandolfo said. “So we’ll have to wait till tomorrow just to see where it’s at. No decision yet, whether he’s in or out, still just kind of waiting now.”
Pandolfo did tell the media that he does expect the captain to return by the end of the season.
Since falling to the Terriers on March 4, Nate Leaman’s squad has picked up two overtime victories en route to the Garden.
Senior forwards Craig Needham and Jamie Engelbert found the back of the net in PC’s 2-1 win over the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (11-21-2, 6-15-3 HE) in the opening round of the tournament.
In the quarterfinals, senior forward Parker Ford and freshman forward Brady Berard each lit the lamp to elevate Providence over Jerry Keefe’s Northeastern Huskies at Matthews Arena.
Playing the Friars twice in recent memory, Pandolfo was impressed with PC’s ability to win faceoffs.
“They’re a really good face off team,” he said. “So it’s something we’ve looked at. Our centers looked at some video of what they do. But you gotta give them credit, they are a really good faceoff team.”
Pandolfo also pointed to the Friar’s physicality as something to focus on heading into tomorrow. But ultimately, the Terriers are most focussed on their own game.
“[They’re a] really good forechecking team,” Pandolfo said. “[They’re a] really good team in the neutral zone, they stay above the puck, they’re physical. You have to get inside against them in the offensive zone –– they’ll try to keep us away from the net.”
The winner of Friday afternoon’s matchup will face the winner of the Merrimack and UMass Lowell matchup on Saturday evening back at the Garden. The NCAA Tournament field will be announced on Sunday.
The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on the ground coverage of the semifinal game so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.