Three Thoughts: BU’s split with Vermont

Charlie McAvoy has a team-best 11 assists, but was held off the scoreboard this past weekend against Vermont. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Charlie McAvoy has a team-best 11 assists, but was held off the scoreboard this past weekend against Vermont. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team traveled to Gutterson Fieldhouse for a pair of games against No. 12 Vermont last weekend, falling 4-2 in Friday’s tilt before cruising to a 4-0 win on Saturday. A lot happened in the last series of 2016. Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives from the Terriers versus the Catamounts.

1.) Keller’s return – Man, it’s good to have Clayton Keller back. After missing seven games, the star freshman forward returned to the ice Friday night, slotting back into his center spot on the second line. He didn’t miss a beat, as he won 12-of-14 faceoffs and notched a helper on Pat Harper’s goal in the second period. It was more of the same on Saturday, as Keller went bar down for his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third period. The Terriers may have gone 4-2-1 in Keller’s absence, but it’s obvious that BU is a much more dangerous team with Keller patrolling the ice. – Nick

2.) Power Play – BU came into this weekend having gone 1-for-24 on power plays in conference play. They really flipped the script on that one, going an impressive 3-for-8 on PP opportunities against Vermont. Bobo Carpenter and Pat Harper scored two on Friday, with Keller’s coming on Saturday. The Catamounts’ penalty kill was ranked 9th in the nation heading into Friday’s contest, so a very positive sign from a Terrier offense that has gone silent at times. – Nick

3.) Jake Oettinger – Sixteen games into the 2016-17 season, BU’s freshman netminder has recorded three shutouts and taken the starting job by storm. He posted 24 saves in Friday’s 4-2 loss, then bounced back on Saturday night and stopped 28 shots for his first goose egg on the road. Looking at the national picture, Oettinger is a top-five goaltender, at least according to USCHO’s statistics. Boasting .932 save percentage and 1.86 goals against average will do that for ya. Oh, and we’d be remiss not to point out that Oettinger soon heads to the U.S. Hockey World Junior Championship preliminary camp, so his stock should continue to rise.  – Jonathan

The Small Five

a.) Carpenter – I thought Bobo had a really strong weekend, especially on Saturday. On Friday, the sophomore kicked things off with a power play goal off a rebound, another case of him being around the puck at all times. On Saturday, Bobo was second on the team with four shots taken and was consistently chasing after the puck behind the Catamount net. He’s not going to get on the score sheet a whole lot this season, but he works his you know what off every night, and that was evident this weekend. – Nick

b.) Bellows sits – We mentioned in our Three Thoughts last week that we thought Bellows should sit a game, and that finally happened during Saturday’s win. He did have an assist on Friday, but he also was called for another penalty and finished the loss with a plus-minus of -2. It just hasn’t been the season we hoped the talented freshman would have, at least not yet. Hopefully he’ll turn it around in the second half of the season. – Nick

c.) Hockey East update – BU now sits tied for sixth in the Hockey East standings with 10 points in eight games. The University of New Hampshire, Notre Dame and Vemrmont are in front of the Terriers with 11 points each. Boston College may have a strong grip on the conference standings, but BU is right on the heels of the other frontrunners. Keep in mind, four of the five teams in front of the Terriers have played more games. – Nick

d.) Switzer and Diffley – Shane Switzer and Brien Diffley were pencilled into the lineup on Saturday night – Switzer alongside Brandon Hickey and Diffley with Somerby – and impressed. The moves were prompted by choice and necessity, as Dante Fabbro jetted off to Team Canada’s camp for World Juniors, while John MacLeod didn’t play. Nevertheless, these two blueliners seized their chance, contributing in notable ways to BU’s 4-0 shutout of the Catamounts. Furthermore, it was Switzer’s first appearance since Nov. 12’s 4-2 win over Michigan, while Diffley hadn’t skated since the 4-0 loss to UConn on Nov. 19. – Jonathan

e.) Team Defense –  For all the talk about how “stacked” BU’s offense is, it’s team defense is firmly entrenched in the country’s upper echelon. Its 2.06 goals against average is tied for the fourth fewest in Division 1 college hockey, while its 90.8 success rate on the penalty kill is third best nationally. One worrisome trend is the magic number number for opponents seems to be four – as in four goals allowed. BU has surrendered four strikes five times this fall semester, losing four times (t0 UConn, Michigan, Denver and Vermont) and drawing once (to Northeastern). – Jonathan