Game Previews

Terriers draw RIT in opening round of NCAA Tournament

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

A tale of two Terriers.

It was the best and the worst of times for the Boston University men’s hockey team this past weekend. BU defeated Maine 4-1 on Friday night — an antithesis to its 6-2 Hockey East Championship loss to Boston College the following day.

In a season when great just isn’t good enough, the Terriers have yet another runner-up distinction to add to their trophy case of “almosts.” It is accompanied by their second place in the Beanpot, their spot behind BC in the Hockey East regular season and the No. 2 in national polls that’s been displayed beside their name for the last month or so. 

“You’ve got to use last night as motivation,” graduate student forward Sam Stevens said after Sunday’s Selection Show. “We’ve whiffed on a couple of our tries at trophies so far this year. So we feel lucky that we had a good enough regular season to classify for this, and hopefully, we can take home the big one.”

There are now no more chances, no bigger trophies to chase. Few teams have more championship experience than the Terriers this season, but experience doesn’t raise a banner. BU has one more chance to be the team throwing its sticks in the air as opposed to the one looking on from the other side of the ice, and it begins tomorrow.

The No. 2 Terriers (26-9-2) begin their road to St. Paul on Thursday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament when they take on the No. 17 Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers at 5:00 p.m. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

“These guys, they respond pretty well, so that’s the expectation,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said on Wednesday. “This is a whole new season. Now everyone’s in the same spot, everyone’s zero and zero here in the NCAA Tournament, so that’s our mindset going in.”

Last Friday, the Terriers played far from their best game against the Black Bears. Maine nearly doubled the shot total of a potent BU offense, outshooting 33-18. Goaltender play was one of the key separators for the Terriers who walked away with a 4-1 victory.

Junior goaltender Mathieu Caron kept BU alive in the Hockey East semifinal with 32 saves and several stops on grade-A chances by the Black Bears. Transferring out of Brown, Caron’s first playoff, high-pressure experience has come this season in scarlet and white.

“Caron has been really good for us. He’s gotten better really from day one, he seems to get better every week,” Pandolfo said. “He’s another guy that has won some games for us, and we’re looking forward to seeing him play here in the NCAA Tournament.”

Saturday night against Boston College, the BU special teams faltered. The Terriers played a mirror image of Friday night’s game with special teams shortcomings ultimately deciding the contest. 

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

The Eagles converted on four of five power play opportunities, needing, on average, less than a minute to find the back of the cage. On the other hand, BU scored one power-play goal on five chances.

A penalty kill that allows four goals will never win a game, especially in the NCAA Tournament. However, the Terriers also have the fourth-most penalty minutes per game of tournament teams at 11.95 per game — a number that will need to be suppressed to find success this weekend.

“The margin for error is very slim in these games, so you have to make sure you’re doing things the right way, you’re disciplined, and not only discipline taking penalties but discipline in the way you want to play,” Pandolfo said. “You can’t beat yourself.”

The Terriers had their success at the Manchester, New Hampshire Regional last season, making a run to the Frozen Four. The gift of experience and the tenacity the team has displayed all season will be crucial to its play come Thursday night. 

“Every shift matters. Every detail matters,” Stevens said. “At this point of the year now, it’s really one and done, so if you’re not ready, you’re seizing to that and so every single detail matters to us.”

Five things to know about the Tigers: 

  • The Tigers have four players with 35 or more points, including goal-leader graduate student forward Elijah Gonsalves (19), assist-leader senior forward Cody Laskosky (27), and points-leader junior forward Carter Wilkie (41).
  • RIT won the Atlantic Hockey Championship over American International College in a 5-1 contest to earn the conference’s autobid. It is the fourth time RIT has qualified for the NCAA tournament, and the first time since 2016.
  • The Tigers are anchored by junior goaltender Tommy Scarfone, who posted a .928 save percentage and just over 2 goals allowed per game.
  • This Thursday will be the first-ever meeting between BU and RIT since the Tigers made the leap to Division I in 2005-06.
  • RIT is the oldest team in college hockey with an average age of 23 years and two months old. BU, on the other hand, is the fourth-youngest team in the NCAA at an average age of 21 years and four months old.

Puck drop is set for 5 p.m. Thursday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on-the-ground coverage of the game so be sure to follow along on Twitter (X) @BOShockeyblog and Instagram

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