The last time the Boston University men’s hockey team played the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, coach David Quinn’s body language said it all. It was a 3-1 loss in which the hapless Terriers managed just 12 shots. Quinn’s low, subdued tone and exasperated facial expression Jan. 18 was that of a man coaching a team that had not won in seven weeks.
Now, though, BU (8-15-3, 3-8-2 Hockey East) has a little more pep in its step — and a few more conference points to its name — despite the results still being less-than-spectacular as they prepare to host the No. 7 River Hawks (18-7-2, 8-4-1 Hockey East) Friday. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. at Agganis Arena.
So what can the Terriers do differently this time around? Quinn could not help but laugh.
“Play better,” he said. “The good news is we haven’t played the night before, so I think we’ll be fresher than we were last time we played them. We’re healthier. We seemed to be more mature, more purposeful in our play over the last two weeks. Against them, you’re going to have to be.”
Not a ton has changed for the River Hawks since that first matchup. They split a home-and-home with Providence College — including a 6-1 blowout one night — and swept a two-game set with Merrimack College by a combined score of 8-2.
Sophomore Connor Hellebuyck started three of those four contests, putting up a .929 save percentage bolstered by his most recent game, a 33-save shutout of Merrimack Saturday. On the season, Hellebuyck owns 1.76 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.
One of Lowell’s biggest strengths — besides its Hockey East-best 1.89 team GAA, of course — is its offensive depth. Instead of stacking his top forwards on the top two lines, UML coach Norm Bazin sprinkles them throughout the lineup. That results in — taking the teams’ game last month as an example — senior Joseph Pendenza (21 points), sophomore Adam Chapie (17) and senior Derek Arnold (16 points) playing on different lines.
This contrasts with Boston College, who beat BU in the Beanpot Monday and features one particularly dominant line, as well as Quinn’s philosophy when constructing BU’s lineup. Of late, BU has had its top three forwards — junior Evan Rodrigues, freshman Robbie Baillargeon and sophomore Danny O’Regan — on the top line. Sophomore Matt lane, junior Cason Hohmann and freshman Nick Roberto have been the second.
“They have the experience and the depth to do that,” Quinn said of Lowell spreading out its talent. “For us, we’re so young that it’s, you play your guys that have proven to have success at this level and you sprinkle a couple of freshman in who may compliment them. That’s kind of the situation we’re in – we’re just two completely different rosters at the end of the day.”
According to Quinn, sophomore goaltender Sean Maguire is still not at full strength after a bout with the flu that kept him out of action last week. That means sophomore Matt O’Connor (2.98 GAA, .921 save percentage) will start for the third game in a row.
O’Connor has not started against the River Hawks since last Feb. 22, a 3-0 loss. In the last two seasons combined, BU is 0-5 against UML.
“At the end of the day, they’ve owned us for the last two years,” Quinn said. “At some point in time you have to get sick and tired of somebody kicking your ass. Hopefully we’ll come out with the same type of purpose and maturity that we did Monday night against BC.”