Game Previews

Terriers gear up for highly-anticipated Battle of Comm Ave

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

This is what college hockey is all about. 

The No. 1 Boston University men’s hockey team will face the No. 2 Boston College Eagles for the first time this season in a home-and-home series. The weekend matchup also marks the first time the rivals have been ranked first and second in the nation for a Battle of Comm Ave. 

The stakes, you could say, are pretty high. 

“Every year is special, but I think this is the one that mid-summer, working out in the gym, this is the one you’re thinking about. This is kind of like our ‘why’ in a way,” senior forward Dylan Peterson said Thursday. 

“We circled this one. This is the game you come to BU for. When I committed, God knows how long ago, this is why I came. I came to play BC…this is the one you dream about as a kid.” 

The Terriers (16-4-1, 11-1-1 Hockey East) are coming off a weekend sweep of the University of Vermont, beating the Catamounts 5-1 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday.

Despite the 10-goal weekend and sound performance from junior netminder Mathieu Caron, BU head coach Jay Pandolfo is looking for another level of consistency from his group – especially against an opponent like the Eagles (16-4-1, 9-3-1 HE).

Graduate defenseman and Terrier captain Case McCarthy and his team are focused on sticking to the things that have brought them success this season. 

“I think we’re most effective when we’re a direct hockey team. We have a lot of speed, a lot of skill both up front and on the backend, a lot of depth,” McCarthy said Thursday. “When we’re playing direct and using our speed and our size and our physicality to our advantage, we usually do pretty well.” 

BU will likely roll with a similar lineup to last weekend in Vermont. Sophomore forward Ryan Greene was held out of the third period Saturday as a precaution, Pandolfo said at the time. Greene practiced with the team for the first time this week on Thursday and is “ready to go” this weekend. 

Due to Greene’s brief absence, Pandolfo said he didn’t have a concrete lineup set. During Thursday’s practice, though, junior forward Jack Hughes was moved up to the left wing on the second line with Greene and Devin Kaplan. Sophomore forward Jeremy Wilmer moved down to the left wing on the third line and senior forward Nick Zabaneh shifted back over to center. 

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

“Nick Zabaneh has been on the wing for a while, I’ve liked him at center in the past. Just trying different things…I wanted to see Zabaneh in the middle of the ice again,” Pandolfo said. “Hughes played wing earlier in the season, maybe we’ll take a look at him there.” 

The noise around this weekend’s series has gotten louder as both the Terriers and Eagles continued to tear through their respective schedules, racking up dominant wins against Hockey East and out-of-conference competition. BU is now tasked with balancing the magnitude of the moment with a strong focus from puck drop. 

“I think we’ve been doing a good job keeping it pretty tight in the room and taking it day by day,” McCarthy said. “We’re obviously excited for the opportunity to play in this series. I think controlling our emotions will be huge this weekend.” 

While the headliners like freshman forward Macklin Celebrini (32 points) and sophomore defenseman Lane Hutson (28 points) have been intangible pieces of the 2023-24 squad, the Terriers have found strength in their depth. It will be all that more important against the Eagles. 

“We have a lot of talent, and they’re good people and they want to win,” Pandolfo said. They understand you have to sacrifice certain things to win and our group has done a good job of that.” 

Five things to know about Boston College: 

  • The Eagles are coming off a weekend sweep of Merrimack College in which they won 6-4 on Friday and 6-2 on Sunday. Prior to that, BC won three of its last five games, splitting conference series with Northeastern University and Providence College. 
  • BC has the second-best penalty kill percentage in the country at .901 percent. The team has only let in eight power-play goals this season – the Terriers have allowed 13. 
  • Freshman forward Gabe Perreault leads the Eagles in points with 34 (seven goals, 27 assists). Perreault has 13 points in his last 10 games and has been skating on the second line with freshmen Will Smith and Ryan Leonard. Their line has combined for 91 points this season. 
  • Sophomore forward Cutter Gauthier leads BC with 17 goals and had a hat trick Friday against Merrimack. Gauthier is on the first line with sophomores Oskar Jellvik and Andre Gasseau. 
  • Freshman goaltender Jacob Fowler has been the Eagles’ starter in net. Fowler has posted a 2.27 goals against average and .922 save percentage through 21 games. 

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Conte Forum and 7 p.m. Saturday at Agganis Arena. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on-the-ground coverage so be sure to follow along on Twitter (X) @BOShockeyblog and Instagram

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