It would be hard to blame the No. 13 Boston University and Northeastern University men’s hockey teams if the two are sick of each other by the end of this weekend.
The Terriers and Huskies will face off Thursday night for the second consecutive weekend as the two teams open a best-of-three Hockey East tournament quarterfinal series at Agganis Arena. Both teams are familiar with how the other plays, and both teams are fighting to keep their seasons alive, so the games could easily be decided by heart rather than by skill.
“Desire, determination and the will to win is what’s important here,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “It’s not skill. Skill is the last thing that will win out here.”
When the Terriers saw the Huskies last weekend, two important faces were missing from behind the Northeastern bench. Head coach Joe Cronin and assistant coach Albie O’Donnell were absent because of suspensions resulting from an investigation into possible recruiting violations.
Cronin and O’Donnell were reinstated on Monday and will be back behind the bench Thursday night at Agganis. Parker said that despite the coaching shuffle, he does not expect much to change in Northeastern’s style of play.
“They’ve been doing the same systems,” Parker said. “If I left for two weeks and Mike Bavis was running the team, we wouldn’t change many things. I don’t think it will be anything drastic.”
The Terriers will also add a face to the lineup who was missing from last weekend’s series. Junior assistant captain David Warsofsky will be back on the ice for BU after missing four games with a concussion.
With his return comes another absence, however, as freshman defenseman Garrett Noonan will be suspended for Thursday’s game as a result of registering his third game misconduct this season in his last game against Northeastern.
“We’re going to step up, [freshman defenseman Patrick MacGregor is] going to step up and play for him for a game,” said senior co-captain Joe Pereira. “He’ll be ready to go Friday night, hopefully, when we close the deal.”
In recent BU history, closing out the quarterfinals in two games has not been an easy feat. The Terriers have gone to three games in each of the past four seasons, although they have won the series all four times.
The sweep is not the only concern for BU, however. In February, the Terriers struggled at times to stay focused throughout entire games, often giving up leads or falling behind and then forcing themselves to play catch-up in the closing minutes of the game.
“Always with us it is how can we keep our focus shift to shift through the entire game,” Parker said. “That’s what’s most important for us. That’s what makes us a good team.”
And while it is same-old, same-old for BU in terms of playing Northeastern and playing in the HE quarter finals, the Terriers will have a bit of a change in the schedule. Instead of the typical Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule, BU will play on Thursday and Friday night and then Sunday night if necessary.
The games were moved because the BU men’s basketball team will be playing in the America East Championship game at Agganis on Saturday at noon. The women’s hockey team will also be playing in the NCAA quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon, and the BU women’s basketball team will play in the AE championship game Saturday night. Parker said the team is happy for the other athletic teams but the excitement has not been a distraction from their own series this weekend.
“I think they’re focused on what we have to accomplish,” Parker said. “I’m sure if we’re not eliminated Friday night, they’ll all be at the basketball games Saturday. If they are eliminated, they might feel sorry for themselves and not want to show up. But we’ll support the other teams, that’s for sure.”