By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The matchup between an eighth and ninth seed in should be, by its nature, one of the closest games of any NCAA tournament. The ninth-seeded Boston University men’s hockey team has plenty in common with its West Regional semifinal opponent, the eighth-seed University of Minnesota, but the differences between the teams’ styles will likely determine which one advances to play on Sunday.
Both teams are coming off semifinal losses, and both the Terriers (23-14-1, 17-10-1 Hockey East) and the Gophers (26-13-1, 20-8-0 WCHA) rely on a strong offensive attack. The Terriers’ 3.58 goals per game lead Hockey East, and the Gophers’ 3.55 rank second in the WCHA.
But while Minnesota’s defense is a difference-maker – holding opponents to 2.2 goals on 24.6 shots per game – BU leans more heavily on its goaltending, giving up 34.6 shots per game while taking 32.
BU senior goalie Kieran Millan has been up to that challenge all year, especially in the Hockey East playoffs, but his 39 saves weren’t enough in the conference semifinals, where BU lost 5-3 to the University of Maine. Four of the Black Bears’ goals in that game came on the power play, and BU coach Jack Parker said special teams will be crucial in Saturday’s game.
“In general, our power play has been a big part of our success all year long up until our recent outage, so to speak . . . so we’re trying to turn that around,” Parker said. “Penalty kill and special teams are always huge in these types of games, so we’d like to stay out of the box and take advantage of any power-play opportunities we get.”