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Weekend Preview: Boston University & Providence

#1 Boston University Terriers 17-8-1 (13-6-1) Hockey East – 1st

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Massachusetts Minutemen 9-12-5 (5-10-4) Hockey East – 9th

If UMass is to pick up their first road win of the season tomorrow, they’ll certainly have their work cut out for them.  The Minutemen travel to Agganis Arena, a place they’ve never played particularly well, to face Boston University, now the top team in Hockey East and in the country.  The predictions that the Terriers were doomed after losing star forwards Charlie Coyle and Corey Trivino, the first to major junior the second to criminal issues, in December were premature.  The team has gone 7-2-1 since the start of the new year and have not had any problems scoring in those wins despite the missing players.  If there’s any solace for UMass it’s that BU has played better away from Comm Ave (8-3-1) than at home (7-5-0).  Their only two losses recently game at the hands of a sweep by Maine at Agganis.

These teams last met at the end of October in what was an incredibly disappointing weekend for UMass.  Twice the Minutemen had the upper hand on the scoreboard and twice allowed BU to climb back into the game.  In the Friday game in Amherst UMass grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second period.  Yet, despite a 35-23 advantage in shots, keeping the Terrier power play off the board entirely, and getting 6 power play opportunities of their own, the game ended up in a tie.  It was a game that UMass should’ve found a way to win.  They didn’t.  It was unfortunate but at least it wasn’t as bad as what happened the next night in Boston.  UMass took a 3-0 lead thanks to three goals in the span of nine minutes to close out the first period.  They kept that lead all the way to under six minutes left in the second, but a couple of quick goals cut the lead to 3-2 entering the third.  A couple more BU goals midway through the period gave the Terriers a 4-3 lead, wasting the early UMass dominance.  Mike Pereira would tie it later to send it to overtime but a Mike Marcou crosscheck in the extra frame would give BU the power play and ultimately the game winning power play goal.  A potential four point weekend quickly turned into just one point.

The Terriers are led this season by junior forward Wade Megan who is coming off a two goal effort against Harvard in the first round of the Beanpot.  Megan has 14 goals while sophomores Matt Nieto and Sahir Gill and junior Alex Chiasson all have double digits as well.  As always BU has a solid group of defensemen, led by Adam Clendening, who is also 4th on the team in points.  Sophomore Garrett Noonan has also made solid contributions on the blue line.  In net for the Terriers is senior Kieran Millan who has a goals against average of 2.44 and a save percentage of .925, second best among Hockey East goaltenders.

If UMass wants to pull off the upset they’ll have to do it with special teams.  They did well, obviously not quite well enough, against the Terriers earlier because of special teams.  BU has the second best power play in Hockey East but the Minutemen were able to limit them to just one power play goal in nine tries in October.  On the other hand the Terriers are the most penalized team in the league and UMass had some success against them with the extra man, converting on three of 12 attempts.  Steven Guzzo and Pereira both scored that weekend as well and it’s critical to get them back on track offensively.  Pereira had a good game against Northeastern last week, but that’s still only his 2nd game in the last 14 with a goal.  Guzzo on the other hand has gone nine games without scoring.  Those guys getting in on the scoring is critical.  Of course one of our three goalies steal a game, something that hasn’t happened yet, wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

Providence Friars 10-14-2 (8-10-1) Hockey East – 6th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 9-12-5 (5-10-4) Hockey East – 9th

Saturday’s game against the Friars is absolutely critical for UMass.  For one, it’s likely the easiest game left on the schedule as in the coming weeks UMass will have to travel to Maine for two, host an underachieving but still dangerous UNH team for a couple, and then finish off the season with a home and home against a top ten Merrimack team.  Secondly, the Friars, and more importantly, their 6th place spot in the standings is still within reach of the Minutemen, just three points ahead.  Plus if UMass could gain a win they’d at least keep Providence from gaining the the tiebreaker since the Friars currently hold an 0-1-1 advantage on the season series.

These teams met first in October in a game that was decided by poor goaltending by the Minutemen as Kevin Boyle let in five goals before getting the hook in the 2nd period.  The Friars ultimately won 6-4.  They met again two days before Frozen Fenway, again in Providence, and a lackluster effort and poor execution seemed to doom UMass to a loss until Danny Hobbs was able to net the game tying goal with just 37 seconds left, salvaging a point.  Until last weekend that was the most recent game Kevin Boyle had played.  The Friars haven’t done very well since that game, going 2-6-0 in that time, though one of those wins did come against the Lowell River Hawks.  The Friars will face Maine at home tomorrow night before heading to Amherst on Saturday.

Providence’s biggest struggle has been in scoring enough goals, averaging just 2.65 per game, second last among Hockey East teams.  Only Tim Schaller, just returning after missing six straight games with illness, has scored double digits in goals with 11.  Two of those have come against the Minutemen.  Defensively UMass will likely face Alex Beaudry who is having a tough senior season with a goals against average above 3.00 and a save percentage of .893.  He has gotten better play from his defense this year however, especially in the form of junior Alex Velischek and sophomore Steven Shamanski.

It’s desperation time.  It has been a long time since UMass has missed the playoffs entirely but between the hole they’ve dug themselves, the zero points in the last two weekends, and the tough road to finish the season it could likely happen.  Beating Providence and finding some way to get at least a point out of BU isn’t a hopeful outcome.  It’s a must.

Beer The Triangle
BU’s highest ticket prices in the league has kept me away from their arena in recent years.  Only by taking advantage of a discount offer did I finally feel it worth it to make the trip in.  So since I haven’t been to Agganis in some time it means it’s been too long since I’ve done my usual pregame at Sunset Cantina aka Mini-Sunset.  Their beer menu is a bit out of date, but hopefully they still have some Left Hand Widdershins Oak Aged Barleywine on hand.  I also recommend the Maine Mean Old Tom as well.

Dick Baker has a feature on big man Oleg Yevenko.  Baker also thinks it’s time to end the game of goaltender roulette.  I can’t say I disagree.

College Hockey News has their weekend preview as well as their league rankings.

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4 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  February 10, 2012

    absolutely agree w/ baker….one goalie starting now – both games this weekend

    the freshmen have let in soft goals….pc/ne/uvm/merrimack….go teglia both games toot!

    go umass

    Like

  2. Carson

     /  February 10, 2012

    i think this weekend is our season right here…i think another pointless weekend and this team is done…time to pull out all the stops

    Like

  3. Anonymous

     /  February 10, 2012

    let’s do it boys!!! great win tonight….now pound pc tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Like

  4. Anonymous

     /  February 11, 2012

    awesome win tonight!! thought the PK was tremendous tonight!

    Like

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