With seven games remaining in the regular season, this weekend’s matchups against No. 12 University of Massachusetts-Lowell are crucial to the No. 13/15 Boston University men’s hockey team. Against the surging River Hawks (16-9-2, 10-8-2 Hockey East), everything must go right — including junior assistant captain Garrett Noonan avoiding the costly mistake he made last time.
“I expect I won’t spear anybody,” the defenseman said.
On Jan. 19, when UML beat BU (14-12-2, 11-7-2 Hockey East) 4-3, Noonan collided with River Hawk goalie Doug Carr late in the game and was called for spearing. He was suspended for two games by Hockey East for the incident.
Noonan said Carr is a good friend of his, and that they laughed about the incident after the fact. With that suspension behind him and just six penalty minutes in five games since, Noonan said he is ready for another chance at the River Hawks.
“They’re in your face,” Noonan said of UML. “We need to play the body. We need to be physical right back at them. We need to be ourselves.”
After a loss to Harvard University in the Beanpot consolation game that may have marked the low point of a six-week-long skid, BU took three of four possible points last weekend from the University of Maine.
In those two games — a 3-3 tie and a 5-4 overtime win — the Terrier power play thrived, but the struggling penalty kill almost cost them a shot at victory.
“It has not been a great part of our game all year, but it’s not been as bad as it has been the last couple weeks, so we’ve got to get back,” Parker said of the penalty kill. “We could make a big jump in our success story if we could kill penalties better than we have been.”
Maine’s league-worst power play tormented BU for four goals in two games last weekend. BU’s PK has succeeded 81.9 percent of the time this year, and it will face a challenge against the River Hawks’ power play, which is firing at a 17.7 percent success rate.
On the other end of the ice, the River Hawks tend to keep both wings low in the defensive zone to pressure opposing players with the puck in the corners.
“They play a completely different D-zone coverage than anybody else in college hockey. It’s a throwback to the 60s and 70s,” Parker said. “That’s what I played when I was a player here.”
Parker said that distinctive coverage has helped UML’s goalies, junior Doug Carr and freshman Connor Hellebuyck. Carr has started the majority of the River Hawks’ games, but Hellebuyck played in both of UML’s wins over the University of Massachusetts last weekend, bringing his save percentage to .936 in 10 starts.
Carr broke out last year, starting 33 games and compiling a .928 save percentage. This year, that mark sits at .897. He is the only River Hawk goalie BU has faced this year, allowing three goals on 32 shots at Agganis Arena on Jan. 19.
“I thought Carr played pretty well against us,” Parker said. “I think the other guy has played better, probably, over the entire season. But Carr was unbeatable last year, and he may revert to that form at any moment, too.”
No River Hawk stands out from the pack as the team’s top scoring threat, but eight players have 14 or more points. Last weekend, it was junior forward Derek Arnold (three goals and two assists) and freshman defenseman Christian Folin (one goal and three assists) who led the way.
“I’ve heard [River Hawks coach Norm Bazin] refer to his team as a team that has four second lines,” Parker said. “I think that is a pretty good assessment. They don’t have the ‘big line,’ but they certainly have four very solid lines top to bottom.
“So it doesn’t matter if our fourth line is out there against their third line. That fourth line is just as good as their first line.”