This weekend, the Vinny Saponari Goodbye Tour will make its last stop.
The Northeastern University captain, who got kicked off of the Boston University men’s hockey team after his sophomore season and has helped beat his old team twice already this year, will play the final college hockey games of his career as the No. 19 Terriers and Huskies tangle in a home-and-home series to cap the 2012-13 regular season.
The teams will play at Matthews Arena at 7:30 p.m. Friday on CBS Sports Network before the Terriers’ senior night at Agganis Arena 7 p.m. Saturday.
At 9-19-4 overall and 5-16-4 in Hockey East, the Huskies’ season is, in effect, over. Jim Madigan’s squad is not going to the playoffs for the second time in as many years as he has been at the helm, and the only thing it has to play for — other than pride — is the role of spoiler, as BU jostles for positioning in the Hockey East tournament.
But BU coach Jack Parker is not expecting the Huskies to roll over. If anything, they may play even harder.
“These games mean a lot more to us than they do to Northeastern, so we should be ready to go,” Parker said. “But Northeastern is a good matchup against us and they won’t be uptight — they have got nothing to lose. We have got something to lose.”
Northeastern has already beaten BU (16-15-2, 13-10-2 Hockey East) twice this season, first 6-5 in a back-and-forth affair at Agganis Jan. 18, then 3-2 in the first round of the Beanpot Feb. 4.
Saponari scored the game-winner in the first game — just as he did in last year’s regular-season finale — and Northeastern’s star freshman, forward Kevin Roy, netted a hat trick to down BU in the Beanpot.
The Terriers may have found a bit of luck, though. Roy was out hurt for two games against the University of Maine last week and is questionable for both games this weekend.
Missing Roy, who ranks first in the league and second in the country amongst rookies in scoring with 17 goals and 17 assists, would be a huge hit for a Husky lineup that averages 2.47 goals per game.
“He is one of the best players in the league, there is no question about that,” Parker said of Roy. “You want to beat the other team’s best when you are playing them. You want to compete with them at their best. So that is unfortunate.”
Then Parker smiled ever so slightly before adding: “But very frankly, I would rather him out of the lineup than in the lineup.”
Indeed, BU would likely gladly take all the help it can get.
The Terriers sit in fifth place, on the outside looking in in terms of trying to get a top-four spot to earn home ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals. They are two points behind No. 6 Boston College and No. 18 Providence College.
BC is playing seventh-place and sub-.500 Vermont, so BU may not get much help there. PC, however, has a home-and-home with No. 7 University of Massachusetts-Lowell, considered by many the hottest team in the country, so BU catching PC is feasible.
Parker said the possibility of getting home ice is more of a motivational factor than the fact that Saturday’s game could be the seniors’ last one at home.
“The seniors will be ready to play because they want to have the best run they can, and the best run they can is to get home ice,” Parker said.
If BU does end up with home ice, it will likely come after a big effort from freshman Sean Maguire, who will start both games in net because classmate Matt O’Connor is done for the season after undergoing surgery Thursday to repair a collapsed lung that kept him out of action last week.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to hear that he has to go through that,” Maguire said. “It’s something that nobody wants to do, especially this time of year. But at the same time I felt a lot of responsibility fall on my shoulders, and I’m ready for that.”
Parker suggested last weekend he may tinker with the lines for the final regular-season weekend, but that ended up not being the case. He said no one played poorly enough to necessitate change.
The first line, though, has been quiet of late. Senior captain Wade Megan, sophomore Cason Hohmann and junior Sahir Gill have combined for just five points in BU’s last five games, with Gill the owner of three of those.
The top offensive unit — on paper, at least — coming alive would be instrumental as BU heads into the playoffs.
Parker knows they can do it.
“There was a while when [junior forward Matt] Nieto wasn’t scoring, now all of a sudden he’s on fire,” Parker said. ‘Obviously the [freshman Danny] O’Regan line has been our most productive line lately because all three of them are generating offense and getting points.
“But for Cason, it is not a lack of effort. I’m sure he can break out any time. Same is true for Gill and Megan.”
Wade Megan – Cason Hohmann – Sahir Gill
Matt Nieto – Danny O’Regan – Evan Rodrigues
Matt Lane – Ben Rosen – Sam Kurker
Mike Moran – Ryan Santana – Jake Moscatel
Sean Escobedo – Ryan Ruikka
Garrett Noonan – Matt Grzelcyk
Ahti Oksanen – Patrick MacGregor