The time has come folks! Boston College hosts arch nemesis Boston University Friday night at Conte Forum before hopping on the Green Line (not literally) to head to Agganis Arena for a weekend series that is renowned for being one of the biggest college sports rivalries in history. This will mark the 275th and 276th meetings between these cross-town foes with the Terriers leading the overall series 133-123-18. In preparation for the big game, I managed to get a hold of Nicole Havens from the Daily Free Press, BU’s independent student-run newspaper, to get some insight into what always ends up being the most exciting match-up of the year.
1) Boston University came into this season as a predicted favorite to win the Hockey East and potentially the National title. However, after starting the season ranked #2 nationally, the Terriers have gradually dropped to 5th in the Hockey East standings and have been knocked out of the USCHO top 20 coaches poll with a losing record of 6-8-1. What factors have contributed most to this skid? What does the team have to do to turn this season around?
The preseason poll ranked BU as No. 2 nationally likely after seeing the caliber of the team and the players it recruited. However, a young team like the Terriers needs time to figure out their identity and how to work together. The freshmen are still learning the ropes of college hockey and even the sophomores continue to improve on their game.
In terms of dropping out of the USCHO poll, the 6-8-1 record shows the inconsistency of the team’s performance. BU has been unable to string together two wins with the exception of Union College and Quinnipiac University at the beginning of the season. Coach Quinn always talks about the consistency the team needs to bring and it rings true. The Terriers have the potential to play very good hockey and they have the games to prove it, just not the consistency each night to show the kind of team they can be.
2) Despite the rough start to the season, what have been some silver linings for the Terriers thus far?
Of the late, it appears like the Terriers are beginning to form a stronger mental toughness. Despite losing to Maine in the first game of its series, BU was able to come back with a 7-0 win. Jake Oettinger was strong in the net and the Terriers didn’t allow any goals while making their opportunities at the net count. Last weekend in Red Hot Hockey, BU almost successfully came back from a pair of 3-0 and 4-1 score lines. These performances have shown the Terriers have perhaps changed from letting a bad scoreline get the best of them.
3) BC has been quite a surprise over the course of the past few weeks with the team going unbeaten since their blowout loss to Denver back in late October. What does BU have to do effectively in order to stall the Eagles and steal a win (or 2)?
In order to successfully pull out a win, BU will need to limit BC’s offensive opportunities especially getting loose pucks out. Oettinger is a very good goaltender, but he needs support in front of him. The Terriers will also have to maintain a consistent offensive pressure on the Eagles and Joseph Woll. BU has been halted by good goaltenders before, so scoring on BC will be about taking advantage of its opportunities.
4) Historically, and understandably, the games between these Comm Ave rivals has been very chippy and has led to physical play and a plethora of penalties. Currently, BU is ranked 55th in the nation in penalty killing with them holding a 44-59 (74.6%) success rate on the PK. With this being a substantial weak point for the Terriers, do you think that simply being composed and not as physical will play a crucial role in determining the outcomes of this weekend series for BU?
A mix of both will be necessary for the Terriers. Against physical teams in the past, BU has needed to match that intensity or it will eventually get outplayed. However, too much physicality has created penalties for the team especially if they’re trailing in a game and even if the Terriers have killed off the penalty, they have the tendency to let in a goal right after. BU will need to match BC’s physicality, but remain composed and not draw too many penalties especially in the beginning of the game or if they’re trailing.
5) Bobo Carpenter and Patrick Harper have been some of the most prominent skaters on the team with both holding the top two spots in goals, points and shot percentage. Aside from these two, who are some other players to watch that could function as the catalysts in leading the Terriers to victory?
Sophomore defenseman Dante Fabbro’s name draws attention due to the fact that he was No. 17 pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and had a solid first season. However, this season Fabbro has seemed to find the back of the net at just the right times, including BU’s first goal against Cornell over the weekend. He’s gone fairly long stretches without registering a point, but if the Terriers find themselves in a bind, he may be able to uphold this streak. Freshman forward Brady Tkachuk collected eight assists before scoring his first collegiate goal. He’s a player that hounds the front of the net and will be essential in capitalizing on loose pucks or setting up one of his linemates.
6) Time for some predictions! Who grabs the win at Conte and who walks away with a 'W' at Agganis?
This game will be a large test to show if the Terriers can come into a weekend and emerge with two wins as well as four Hockey East conference points. It could likely end up a split, but this weekend might be the one for BU to make a few statement wins this far along into the season.
Thanks again to Nicole for speaking to BCI!