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Preview ▲ #9 Terriers Travel To Amherst To Face UMass

Boston University Terriers 15-7-4 (8-4-3) T-4th Hockey East

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Massachusetts Minutemen 7-16-4 (2-11-4) 12th Hockey East

When the schedule first came out this five game homestand for the Minutemen, though against some challenging opponents, seemed like a good jumping off point into the final stretch of the season.  Instead it’s been a disaster.  It kicked off with a 8-0 beatdown by Boston College that saw Jerry York etch his 1000th win.  The next night UMass surrendered a two goal lead in the third period to lose 6-4 to Vermont.  Last weekend really seemed like the best chance for the team to get back on track with last place Maine coming to town without a single win away from Alfond Arena on their resume.  Instead UMass got swept and now find themselves in last place in Hockey East.  The home stretch ends Friday with a game against #9 Boston University and UMass will have to play considerably better than they have in months if they want to get the win.

It’s tough to remember now, but when UMass and BU last met the Minutemen played the Terriers pretty tough for over half the game.  The Minutemen would get on the scoreboard first when Shane Walsh scored less than three minutes into the game.  BU would tie the game late in the first and get the lead 13 minutes into the 2nd, but UMass tied the game 2-2 with 27 minutes to go.  The game would quickly get out of hand.  BU scored two goals in the remainder of the second period and then added three more in the third.  What looked to be the most promising game for UMass in months against decent competition was suddenly another lopsided loss.

BU came into that game in early January on a pretty good roll, winning against ECAC powers Harvard and Quinnipiac in their prior games, and have pretty much continued playing well since.  In the weekend immediately following their win over UMass BU would lose and tie to BC in close fashion.  But since then they have pretty convincing wins over Maine, Merrimack and then Northeastern in last Monday’s Beanpot opener.

BU continues to be a top offensive team in the country.  Their 3.58 goals per game is 8th best in the country and their 34.7 shots on goal is 6th.  BU is 6th in the country in even strength Corsi, which presents a huge challenge for a UMass team that is 6th to last.  Possession was a big reason why the Minutemen dropped last weekend’s games, despite having the advantage in number of power plays.  Most of BU’s offense goes through Ahti Oksanen who leads the country in shots on goal with over 5 a game.  He has 14 goals on the season as does linemate Matt Lane.  Danny O’Regan is the points leader on BU with 30.  Though he’s terrific in his own end, UMass won’t need any warning to watch out for the offensive skills of defensemen Matt Grzelcyk.  The Bruins draft pick had a natural hat trick when the teams met earlier.

Grzelcyk anchors a very solid defense that also includes three other NHL draft picks; Doyle Somerby (NY Islanders), Brandon Hickey (Calgary), and John Macleod (Tampa).  Though primarily an offensive team, BU is not too shabby on defense.  They’ve allowed just 2.58 goals per game, which is 21st in the country.  That’s despite playing the 8th toughest schedule among DI teams, according to the KRACH rankings.  UMass faced Sean Maguire in net the last time these teams met.  Maguire has a .923 save percentage on the season.  He has started the Terriers’ last nine games, but if he doesn’t get the start UMass would face backup Connor LaCouvee who has a .very respectable 911 save percentage in 14 games this season.

UMass, a team with just one win in their last 19 games, is playing poorly but I wouldn’t say they’ve given up.  There was a lot of effort in their most recent game against Maine where they did their best to claw back into the game.  They’re just not playing with the kind of focus and execution needed to win tough Hockey East games, no matter who the opponent is.

The most recent weekends have been, frankly, brutal, but there have still been some positives.  After getting nearly all of their offense from one line in recent months you’ve seen players like Dennis Kravchenko, Austin Plevy, and Patrick Lee reemerge in the last two weeks.  At the same time they’ve slowly gotten healthier and, with reports that everyone is practicing this week, may finally get all the bodies back in the lineup.  The loss to Vermont two weeks ago and Saturday’s defeat to Maine were games that it seemed like UMass could win if they could just put in a complete 60 minutes.  UMass played a complete 30 minutes against BU the last time they played and looked very solid for that partial time.  But they lost the focus they had and the game quickly turned bad.  They need that same kind of effort and approach on Friday against these Terriers if they want to keep things respectable.  Can they win?  It’s tough to see that at this point.  But with one win in 19 games you’re just hoping for some kind of redeeming value from the game.  But who knows, maybe for the first time ever they catch a BU team looking ahead to the Beanpot?

Preview from UMass Athletics.

Collegian preview where it’s noted that UMass has given up an average of 8 goals in their last three meetings with BU.

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2 Comments

  1. George

     /  February 5, 2016

    “But who knows, maybe for the first time ever they catch a BU team looking ahead to the Beanpot?”

    2/10/12 3-2 win at #1 BU

    Liked by 1 person

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