When the Boston University men’s hockey team takes on the University of New Hampshire in a home-and-home series this weekend, it will be going up against the best power play in Hockey East contests.
Perhaps the matchup will help the Terriers (8-16-4, 3-8-3 Hockey East) rekindle their own power play, which is currently scoreless in its last 23 chances. BU coach David Quinn emphasized the fact that with a good power play, his team has a chance to put some wins together before the Hockey East Tournament.
“We understand that in a crazy way there is a whole season in front of us because we can really salvage a season in three weekends,” Quinn said. “Our power play has got to cash in. That really has hurt us during the stretch where we played well… It’s the difference in those one-goal games.”
The Terriers’ recent struggles on the power play come without sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who had been an integral piece to the top unit earlier in the season and is out for the year with a shoulder injury. While the man advantage had scored in each of the first four games without Grzelcyk, it is scoreless in the team’s previous five contests.
“We have become too stationary, too predictable,” Quinn said. “We have made a few changes and hopefully we have more luck tomorrow.”
While sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen has been the primary option on the power play for the Terriers, the Wildcats (16-15-1, 8-8 Hockey East) have had several top scorers with a man advantage this season. Forwards Kevin Goumas, Nick Sorkin, Matt Willows and defenseman Eric Knodel all have three or more power-play goals this season – and are the top four scorers for UNH.
It will be the first time the Terriers face the Wildcats this season, meaning this will be the first time Quinn will take on long-time UNH coach Dick Umile as head coach of the Terriers.
“You talk about the great coaches in college hockey, you mention Dick Umile in a hurry,” Quinn said. “I don’t know if there’s been a more consistent program than UNH over the last 20 years, 25 years since he’s been there… It’s kind of exciting to go up there and coach against him.”
The Terriers will be starting sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor Friday night at the Whittemore Center, who will be making his fourth start in the team’s last five games. O’Connor has been playing well as of late, and has a 2.23 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage in his last three outings.
O’Connor will likely be going up against Wildcat goaltender Casey DeSmith, who has started the last 17 games for UNH. DeSmith has been pretty consistent all season, and has only allowed more than three goals in one of his last 14 starts. He has a 2.35 GAA and .920 save percentage on the season.
The next six games are critical for BU, which has a chance to earn home ice in the new first round of the Hockey East Tournament. The No. 6, 7 and 8 seeds in the tournament get home ice in the first round, and a win or two on the weekends would give the Terriers a chance to jump from 10th place to as high as eighth place.
Wins have not come easily for the Terriers – who only have one since the end of November. However, if they can get back to the way they were playing before Monday night’s loss to Harvard University, where the Terriers only lost to No. 1 Boston College 3-1 before tying No. 7 University of Massachusetts-Lowell 2-2, BU has a chance to take some points this weekend against UNH.
“Nobody enjoys having the season we’re having,” Quinn said. “It sucks. I know we have a great nucleus here and we can make progress and we’re going to get better within the season. Season’s not over. We can change an awful lot of feelings here in the next three weeks.”