In the grand scheme of a six-month, 34-game regular season, a single contest against an Atlantic Hockey Association team is not particularly significant.
Saturday’s matchup between the Boston University men’s hockey team and Bentley University at Agganis Arena, however, is a little different.
For the Terriers (7-7-2, 2-4-1 Hockey East), it will be the unofficial end of an inconsistent first half. It could be the difference between finishing a game above .500 and a game below. And against a red-hot Falcons squad (7-7-1), it should prove to be a pretty good test, too.
So does this game carry a little more weight with the team than a typical Saturday night of hockey would? David Quinn thinks so.
“I hope so. I hope to them it does. To me it does,” the head coach said of the program’s first-ever matchup with Bentley. “You’re going to live with it until Jan. 4 [when BU plays Harvard]. And it would be nice to get over .500 before the break. It makes you feel good about yourself, and that’s what we want to do. It would be nice to go to practice on the 27th over .500 and coming off a win.
“It would certainly make the holidays more enjoyable.”
The break cannot come soon enough for BU, which will have zero healthy scratches.
Junior forward Cason Hohmann is out through at least the New Year with a bad shoulder, and sophomore wing Mike Moran will miss the game with an upper-body injury sustained against Merrimack College last week.
Sophomore goaltender Sean Maguire’s back issues have not completely subsided, and it is questionable whether or not he will be available. Sophomore wing Sam Kurker is still out with what Quinn last week cited as an illness.
As a result, the forward lines will look like this:
Matt Lane – Danny O’Regan – Nick Roberto
Tommy Kelley – Robbie Baillargeon – Evan Rodrigues
Brendan Collier – Dillon Lawrence – Kevin Duane
Jake Moscatel – T.J. Ryan – Matt Ronan
While just .500 on the season and in second place in the AHA, Bentley is 5-0-1 in the last month, albeit against Atlantic Hockey competition, which is generally weaker than that in Hockey East.
Still, the Falcons boast special teams that convert once in every four tries on the man-advantage and kills 85.9 percent of opposing teams’ power plays.
Bentley also has a pair of juniors tied for the team lead in points with 20. Defenseman Steve Weinstein’s 19 assists rank him second in the country in helpers, while forward Alex Grieve has netted 12 goals, good for fifth in the NCAA.
Containing those two will go a long way toward working on the Terriers’ working on their semester-long goal: increasing the amount of time they spend in their offensive zone. That, in turn, will lead to more shots on net — something BU has struggled with of late.
Quinn explained that the trend boils down to the Terriers keeping a quick pace, as they did in the third period and overtime in Saturday’s 1-1 tie with Merrimack. The result was a 16-12 shot advantage after BU had garnered just eight in the first two periods combined.
“Shots can be deceiving,” Quinn said. “They’re not [in this case] because there’s too much of a body of work here to say it’s just an aberration. It’s not. We have a problem.”
The team has one game to fix that problem before its layoff. For a young team that has had trouble finding its way, a strong effort — and re-finding the win column — could go a long way toward starting the second half on a high note.
“I see a team that is still trying to figure out what their identity is,” Quinn said. “I know what I envision us playing like, we have shown flashes of it.
“We’re really going to benefit from the break.”