By Mitch Fink
Cade Webber’s identity on the ice runs contrary to most of Boston University’s strengths.
The Terriers play at breakneck speed, zipping past defenders in transition to create the odd-man rushes they feast on. Webber, BU’s bruising 6-foot-7 defenseman, would rather throw himself in front of a slapshot on the penalty kill than spring a 2-on-1 the other way.
But in a tense, tight-checking playoff game, the snarl, consistency and discipline of Webber is key to BU’s success.
We saw why on Saturday night.
Webber is on the ice to block shots, defend with physicality and make the correct read. He stars in that role. Against Merrimack on Saturday, he played the part to perfection.
And, in one critical sequence, he saved a goal. Shortly after the Warriors took a 2-1 lead in the second period, they created a grade-A chance to make it 3-1. Domenick Fensore made a costly turnover in the defensive zone, leading to a chaotic sequence at the netfront. Drew Commesso was drawn off his line, and the puck squibbed through the crease, leaving Merrimack’s Ben Brar alone on the doorstep.
Webber was ready for it. He dove onto the ice, using his huge frame to sprawl out and stifle Brar’s effort before BU eventually regained possession and cleared the zone. Those are the winning plays needed to win a playoff game — even with a supreme offensive talent like Lane Hutson on your side.
Webber has 12 blocked shots in his last four games, and he leads BU with 83 on the season.
For BU to make the Frozen Four, he’ll need to keep that pace up. All signs seem to be pointing towards a first round showdown between the Terriers and Western Michigan in Manchester, New Hampshire. If that happens, Webber’s role will only be amplified.
The Broncos have been the top offense in the country for most of the season, and will present a number of challenges to a BU defense that has been porous at times this year. Webber would certainly be at the forefront of the effort to keep Western Michigan’s attack under control.
Webber is the yin to Lane Huston’s yang, and not a bad thing. And although he may never play overtime hero or skate circles around defenders like Hutson, Webber’s contributions in the margins can make all the difference.
- Devin Kaplan’s top-corner snipe on 6-foot-8 goalie Hugo Ollas to tie the contest in the third period was the play of the game on Saturday. Kaplan also assisted on Lane Hutson’s first goal, and earned a spot on the Hockey East All-Tournament team. Can’t say enough about how much he’s improved from the beginning of the season. Philadelphia Flyers fans should be getting excited about Kaplan, who was selected by Philly in the third round of the 2022 NHL Draft.
- The fate of BU’s season might just depend on which version of Drew Commesso shows up in the NCAA Tournament. Luckily for BU fans, he’s been locked in for over a month now. The Terriers will need him to stand tall next week — especially against an offense like Western Michigan.