The No. 13 Boston University men’s hockey team has run into Northeastern University once already this year –– a 5-4 Terrier win back in December.
When the Terriers and Huskies close out their regular seasons with a home-and-home series this weekend, BU coach Jack Parker is just hoping to see better hockey than in Game One.
“When I saw them earlier in the year, they were as bad as we were,” Parker said. “I told the coach, Greg Cronin, at the time, ‘They should take us both out back and shoot us for impersonating two good hockey coaches,’ because his team didn’t play very well and my team didn’t play very well.”
Both the Terriers (17-9-8, 14-5-6 Hockey East) and Huskies (11-13-8, 9-9-7) have made big strides since.
BU has gone 9-5-3 since the winter holiday, including a recent 6-0-1 run in Hockey East games.
Meanwhile, Northeastern has turned a lot of heads over the last three weeks, and for many reasons.
First, the Huskies played in one of the most thrilling Beanpot finals of all time, a 7-6 overtime loss to Boston College.
Later that week, the Huskies lost head coach Greg Cronin and assistant coach Albie O’Connell were suspended indefinitely by the school for unspecified recruiting violations, leaving assistant Sebastien Laplante in charge of the program.
That weekend, under Laplante’s direction, the Huskies skated to a 7-7 tie with No. 2 BC, then proceeded to knock off the Eagles, 2-1, the next night.
Then, last weekend, the Huskies stole a point from the top team in Hockey East, University of New Hampshire, and were just 13 minutes away from beating the Wildcats before Kevin Goumas squared the score on Friday night.
“They were having a hard time earlier in the year when they were losing some games they shouldn’t have lost and playing really well and losing games they could’ve won,” Parker said. “They were picked to be a pretty strong team in this league, and now they are.”
The Huskies are generally regarded as a defense-first squad, but, as the 13 goals they dropped in two games against BC show, they’re capable in the offensive end as well.
Parker thinks a game like the 2-1 win over BC is more likely, and would probably lean more in the Terriers’ favor.
“I hope they’re not a 7-7 team because they’ll be beating us,” Parker said. “I see them very similar to us. They’re a team that likes to play defense first and can put pucks in the net, but they’re not an offensive juggernaut like BC or UNH. They’re a very efficient team offensively and a very, very solid team defensively.”
One big reason for the Huskies turnaround has been sophomore Chris Rawlings’ play in net. Goaltending is on a major upswing in Hockey East right now, and Rawlings is one of the guys leading that charge.
The 6-foot-5 goalie is second in the conference with a .925 save percentage, making him one of four Hockey East goalies with a save percentage over .920 –– the others are BC’s John Muse (.927), UNH’s Matt DiGirolamo (.923), and BU’s Kieran Millan (.922).
“I don’t think anyone’s had the year Kieran Millan’s had,” Parker said. “I don’t think anybody has the statistics that [BC goalie John Muse] has . . . but I think he’s certainly one of the top goalies in the league.”
Saturday will bring with it Senior Night for the Terriers, who have only two current players to honor –– co-captain Joe Pereira and goaltender Adam Kraus.
“We’ll have just as many managers as players being recognized Saturday night,” Parker said.