By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
The No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team’s first road trip of the year will take them to No. 15 University of New Hampshire on Saturday. There, they will face a team BU coach Jack Parker said he expects to compete for home ice in the Hockey East playoffs this year.
The last time the Terriers (1–0, 1–0 Hockey East) saw the Wildcats (2–0) was in the conference quarterfinals last year, when BU won the best-of-three series but needed two double-overtime games to do it.
“When we saw them in the playoffs, they had been playing a much better brand of hockey [than earlier in the year] and it was obvious that one of the major reasons why was because they were getting great goaltending,” Parker said. “They were not tentative. I think when you’re not getting great goaltending, you can be tentative.”
Sophomore Casey DeSmith, the goalie responsible for that feeling of security among the Wildcats, finished his freshman year with a .926 save percentage and played at then-BU senior goalie Kieran Millan’s level during the quarterfinals. He’s just one of the returning New Hampshire players Parker said will compensate for the loss of their top scorer, Stevie Moses, who graduated in the spring.
“Moses wasn’t a big scorer until his senior year,” Parker said. “He was a pretty good scorer, but he wasn’t a big scorer. They’ve always had somebody step up from junior to senior year and put up a lot of points. They’re losing a big goal-scorer in Moses, but the year before that they lost the Player of the Year [Paul Thompson] who was a right winger and thought, ‘Oh, how are we going to get goals?’ Well, they got it out of Moses. I think they have more balance this year than they had last year, and I think their first line, even though they don’t have Moses, is probably a better line overall.”
UNH will be the first team in Hockey East to get a look at BU freshman goalie Sean Maguire. His classmate Matt O’Connor picked up his first collegiate win against Providence College last weekend, and now it’ll be Maguire’s turn to try and do the same.
“I thought he looked really sharp today,” Parker said of Maguire after practice on Thursday. “He’s obviously anxious to get going. I’m sure he’ll be a little bit nervous. Matty [O’Connor] had the chance to play at home. [Maguire will] be playing on the road in front of an angry crowd, so that’ll be a little bit different. And he’ll be playing on the big ice surface. But he looked sharp.”
Since BU only played one game last weekend and will only play one this weekend, the freshman goalies, who are alternating games until one earns the starting role, will have to sit longer than usual between starts.
“I think [playing one game per weekend complicates the rotation], because now Maguire’s got to sit almost two full weeks before he plays again,” Parker said. “So after this weekend, after Saturday night, then we’re getting into a couple back-to-back games that make it a little easier. Everyone can prepare to play.”
BU’s practices this week have had an added quirk. Some NHL players who played at BU, most recently Nashville Predators forward Brandon Yip and Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney, have joined the Terriers for practice as the NHL lockout drags on.
“When we scrimmage it is nice to have six lines and eight defensemen, because then you don’t get exhausted scrimmaging,” Parker said. “So we will probably do that. I hope we can’t do it anymore. I hope they get the contract done and they’re all playing next week.
“It’s nice to have our guys who think they’re guns see the guys who really were guns, and went to the NHL, still doing it the right way. That certainly holds true with Yip and [Chris] Higgins and Whitney. When we were doing laps the other day, those guys were easily winning them all. Like, ‘whoa, these guys still know how to do this.’ They’re still willing to do that, which is important.”
Senior assistant captain Ryan Ruikka said he’s appreciated skating with the former players.
“It helps a lot, and it’s good to see those guys, because I played with a few of them, and just hanging out with them and getting a few laughs in and stuff, it’s nice having them around,” Ruikka said.
Ruikka said he expects a good game on the Wildcats’ home ice, the biggest ice surface in Hockey East.
“They’ve got a big ice surface so we’re going to need to be skating a lot,” Ruikka said. “Just make sure we’re staying to the middle of the ice, playing defense and just keep guys to the outside. They’re a quick transition team, so we’ve got to be ready for that. Other than that, I think we’re ready to go.”