Game Previews

Terriers look to ride momentum into weekend series against UConn

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

The Boston University men’s hockey team has faced a number of trials throughout the season — the early loss to New Hampshire, the sweep at the hands of Boston College and, most recently, the Beanpot loss to Northeastern.

Entering last weekend’s series against Providence College, the Terriers had lost four of their last seven. On Friday night, BU struggled with an aggressive Friars team, falling in a shootout. Then, the Terriers took care of business with an emphatic 5-2 victory at Agganis on Saturday.

The No. 2 Terriers (20-8-2 14-4-2 Hockey East) have the chance to take the momentum from that dominant win into their final two-game series of the season in a home-and-home set against the University of Connecticut Huskies (12-15-2, 7-11-1 HE). 

BU has a bye week the following weekend, raising the stakes even more for the conference series.

“Every weekend is tough,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said Thursday. “We certainly want to go into this bye week playing the right way and playing with some urgency and making sure that we go into the bye week having some confidence.”

The Terriers received a wake-up call early in the game against Providence on Friday when the Friars netted a goal just 4:34 after puck drop. The physical, aggressive Providence outshot BU 18-7 in the first period. Senior forward Nick Zabaneh scored the equalizer short-handed on an intercepted pass at the top of the zone to answer back.

Zabaneh provided a spark throughout the entire weekend with BU’s first goals in both contests, both of which were scored on breakaways.

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

“I got a lot of breakaway opportunities, and they weren’t falling for me earlier this year,” Zabaneh said after Saturday’s game. “Just seeing a couple go in the back of the net goes a long way.”

BU was only charged with two penalties the entire night, but in the second — a hooking call on senior forward Dylan Peterson — they let in a power play goal, the seventh power play goal allowed in their last seven games.

As the game went into overtime, the Terriers’ slow, possession-heavy approach came back to bite them with a loss in the shootout, only gaining one point in Hockey East standings. 

Saturday’s game, however, told a different story. While Providence notched the early tally and Zabaneh had the answer, the Terriers were a much more imposing team — thanks in part to special teams.

It was far from the cleanest game of the season for the Terriers, recording six penalties throughout the night. However, the penalty kill locked down the Friars, not bleeding a single goal in that span. On the other side, BU had one advantage, but it was enough for freshman defenseman Tom Willander, who scored his fourth goal of the season. 

Another underrated aspect of the weekend was the play of junior goaltender Mathieu Caron, who has had his ups and downs throughout the season. Caron stopped 35 shots and 32 shots on back-to-back nights, mixing in high-pressure stops from the shot-heavy Friars. 

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

“They’re a difficult team to play because they throw everything to the net,” Pandolfo said after Saturday’s game. “[Caron] was really good fighting through the traffic and finding the puck. He was excellent.”

BU made adjustments to every line going into the game on Saturday, most notably moving freshman forward Shane Lachance to the top line, senior forward Luke Tuch and Peterson to the fourth line and shuffling every defensive pair. Pandolfo said he expects to roll out the same lines this weekend.

“See how I feel when I wake up tomorrow,” Pandolfo said. “I anticipate we’ll start that way tomorrow night with the lines that we finished with on Saturday.”

Five things to know about the Huskies:

  • The Huskies are 1-4 in their last five contests, facing a gauntlet of ranked opponents from No. 8 Quinnipiac to No. 10 Providence to No. 11 UMass. Coming off of their bye week, they have another formidable opponent in BU.
  • UConn is led in scoring by junior forward Chase Bradley, who has recorded 11 goals and 11 assists, leading the team in points as well.
  • The Huskies run a two-goaltender system with senior Ethan Haider splitting time between the posts with sophomore Arsenii Sergeev. The two own a .911 and a .921 save percentage, respectively. 
  • Since UConn opened the doors to the Toscano Family Ice Forum in Jan. 2023, Friday will be the first time they welcome the Terriers onto their home ice. 
  • It’s a brotherly coaching battle as UConn assistant coach Michael Pereira will be facing off against his brother and BU associate head coach Joe. So far as coaches, the brothers are knotted up 1-1 head-to-head.

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

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