Less than a week after winning the Kelley-Harkness Cup at the fourth edition of Red Hot Hockey, the Boston University men’s hockey team will head back into Hockey East play Friday evening as it kicks off a home-and-home tilt with Merrimack College at Lawler Arena.
The Terriers (7-6-1, 2-3-0 Hockey East) enter the series on a four-game unbeaten streak that was capped off last Saturday with a 3-2 win over No. 15 Cornell University at Madison Square Garden. Although the Big Red had more than three times the amount of shots on goal as BU, Terrier coach David Quinn said the team pushed through multiple obstacles to pick up the win.
“We found a way to win. We found a way to win the last few,” Quinn said. “We’ve got a great opportunity this weekend. Our challenge is to put ourselves in the same mindset and play with the same enthusiasm and adrenalin that we did Saturday night in front of 20,000 people against Cornell and bottle that and feel that way [Friday] night at [Lawler Arena] against Merrimack.”
For Quinn, the game against Cornell, as well as the past week’s practices, showed the Terriers’ defensive abilities both on and off the penalty kill. BU killed off all six of its penalties on Saturday, improving its penalty kill rate to 84.6 percent.
“We killed penalties better than we have all year,” Quinn said. “It’s a different system than what we used last year. I think guys are really starting to grasp it. We actually had our best practice killing penalties we’ve had all year [Thursday].
“I liked that week of practice, and our guys should feel good about what we did the other night.”
Meanwhile, the Terriers will face off against a Merrimack (3-9-1, 0-5-1 Hockey East) squad that has not won a game in more than a month. Despite their recent struggles, however, the Warriors took reigning national champion Yale University into overtime last Saturday before falling 3-2 in New Haven, Conn.
Forward Hampus Gustafsson, who was named the Hockey East Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Week, scored two goals in the contest, and is now tied for the team lead in goals with four.
“I don’t think we’re going to take this game lightly,” Quinn said of Merrimack’s recent struggles. “They’re Division I hockey players, those guys. They can beat anybody any day.”
As he has done for the past four games, Quinn will turn to sophomore netminder Matt O’Connor, who has worked his way to a 2.72 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage in 10 appearances, in the opening game of the series. O’Connor has played a major role in each of the Terriers wins during the unbeaten streak, and will continue to play a role as BU attempts to get its first true win on the road this season.
In four road trips this season, the Terriers are 0-4, including late-game losses to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, as well as a 7-0 defeat at the hands of the University of Maine.
Sophomore goaltender Sean Maguire, who has not played since he gave up three goals in the first half of the Terriers’ game against the University of Maine on Nov. 15, will get the nod on Saturday.
“He has had two great weeks of practice and he is in a great mindset … [He was] pretty happy,” Quinn said of Maguire’s reaction to getting the start. “He understands he is in a great place.”
As BU heads into the tail-end of the fall semester, it will finish out 2013 without junior wing Cason Hohmann who re-injured his shoulder in a game against North Dakota two weeks ago.
“We won’t see him for a while,” Quinn said. “We will see how he feels through the break and evaluation and medical notes. He is really a day-to-day basis. That being said he is not going to play before break. We will see how much he improves over the next three weeks.”
Quinn said the team is hopeful that Hohmann will not need surgery.
The team will also continue to play without sophomore forward Sam Kurker who has been sick for the past few weeks.
With just three games left before the intercession, Quinn stressed the importance of the Terriers ending the semester on a high note.
“There are 20 league games and here comes games six and seven,” Quinn said. “Next thing you know, we are going to be halfway through the league schedule in the blink of an eye.”