Boston University men’s hockey coach David Quinn kept knocking on wood Thursday afternoon. He did this whenever he talked about the health of his players, saying he “can’t afford not to do that,” after his team’s recent luck.
Senior winger Jake Moscatel and junior winger Evan Rodriguez have not played since Jan. 4 at Harvard University, sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk has been out with a shoulder injury suffered in practice Jan. 9 and freshman forward Dillon Lawrence injured his foot during BU’s (7-11-2, 2-5-1 Hockey East) Frozen Fenway contest against the University of Maine on Jan. 11.
With the departure of forward Sam Kurker for the Indiana Ice of the USHL, BU is down to 16 healthy skaters as it heads to Conte Forum for its rivalry matchup with No. 3/4 Boston College Friday night.
“I still think you’ve got enough bodies,” Quinn said. “On paper, it looks like, ‘Oh my god.’ Plenty of teams play 11 forwards and five D during the course of the game even when they’ve got 12 forwards dressed and six defensemen dressed.”
The biggest blow of the bunch is the Grzelcyk injury, which will keep him sidelined for the rest of the season, according to Quinn. Grzelcyk leads the team with 61 shots this season, and Quinn had praised him as the team’s best player this season.
Grzelcyk’s injury coming in the midst of the team’s four-game losing streak is becoming a lot to handle for the Terriers.
“When it rains, it pours, huh,” Quinn said.
The absence of Grzelcyk on the blue line leaves BU without one of its best men on the power play — one of many areas that BU struggled with during its 5-1 loss to the Eagles (14-4-3, 8-1-1 Hockey East) Nov. 8. The Terriers were 1-for-7 with the man advantage in that contest, despite the 17 shots taken during those situations.
On the opposite end of special teams, the Terriers had their worst performance on the penalty kill of the season when the unit allowed goals on 3-of-6 Maine power plays last Saturday. BU has also gotten back into a trend of taking more than four penalties per game, which is something Quinn has strived to eliminate.
Perhaps BU will have a chance to rebound from its poor penalty killing performance Friday, as BC has struggled on its power-play chances this season. The Eagles are eighth in the conference with a 16.5 percent conversion rate despite having the league’s best scoring offense with 4.38 goals-per-game.
The Eagles have five players with more points than BU’s leading scorer in sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen (16 points), including forward Johnny Gaudreau, who has a nation-best 40 points this season. Even senior Kevin Hayes, who is BC’s second-leading scorer, has more than doubled the point total of Oksanen.
“That shouldn’t have any effect on how you’re going to play as an individual and that’s something we’ve talked about,” Quinn said. “Prepare yourself, have the best game you can and don’t worry about what they’ve got and who they’ve got and who you’re playing with and all those things that really don’t matter.”
BU is not only going to need preparation to beat the Eagles, it is going to need some luck. BC had won six in a row before tying with Brown University on Jan. 11, and has averaged 4.71 goals in its last seven games. BU has averaged 2.29 goals per game during that same span, and is now sending out an even thinner lineup.
“I love to play a certain way and we just can’t do it right now,” Quinn said. “We just don’t have the personnel and the depth to do it, so we are making some tweaks to what we are going to have to do to give ourselves a chance to have success”