While the men’s hockey team’s fan base has traditionally been strong, recently there has been a consistent and growing contingent of fans attending games, both home and away.
The group of student fans, which calls itself “The Dog Pound” and has taken to social media to rally the troops, has not gone unnoticed by the team. Last week, BU coach Jack Parker sent the fan group a thank you note for its attendance at games at Northeastern University on Jan. 13 and Harvard University on Jan. 14.
“I just wanted to thank you and let you know how much our team appreciated your support at our games at Northeastern and Harvard,” Parker wrote in a letter addressed to Terrier Nation. “After both games, I heard several of our players talk about how great the fan support was and how it helped us pick up those key wins.”
In both games, the Terriers erased early two-goal deficits to win 4-3.
“I think they think they help us win,” Parker told The Daily Free Press on Jan. 19, the day he sent the letter. “But I don’t think they know how much they help us win, how important it is to have great fan support.”
After being written off and left for dead by many over winter break because of the departures of two of its top scorers, the BU men’s hockey team has been on a tear as of late, and one needs to look no further than NCAA-wide statistics to notice it.
Owners of a five-game win streak and winners of 10 of their last 12, the Terriers (15-6-1, 12-4-1 Hockey East) are among the best when it comes to several prominent categories. Most surprisingly to some after those mid-December losses, BU has the third best offense in the country – the best on this side of the United States – averaging 3.73 goals per game. Only University of Minnesota-Duluth (3.96) and University of Minnesota (3.81) rank higher.
Sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening and senior captain Chris Connolly are tied for 12th in the nation with 19 assists each, and Clendening ranks third in the nation amongst defenseman in points per game (1.00). Meanwhile, sophomore Garrett Noonan’s eight goals are the third most in the nation for a defenseman. He trails Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz (12 goals), Denver’s Joey LaLeggia (nine goals) and Air Force’s Tim Kirby (nine goals).
This overall offensive boost has come thanks to the team’s efficient power play. The power play enjoyed an impressive 8-for-15 performance this weekend in a pair of games against Providence College, improving the Terriers’ success rate to 23.9 on the season and vaulting the BU power play to fifth place in the nation. Junior forward Wade Megan is tied for 10th in the nation with his seven power-play goals.
The Terrier penalty kill is 15th in college hockey, holding opponents scoreless 84.6 percent of the time. This could be because of pure practice – BU is the most penalized team in the country, registering almost 21 penalty minutes per game. They’ve also been productive while on the penalty kill and are in a three-way tie with Colgate University and Providence for most shorthanded goals (eight).
Pole position? Almost
Those stats caught the attention of writers and coaches alike. Both the USCHO.com poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll have the Terriers in the No. 2 slot in this week’s rankings.
In the PairWise Rankings, the poll most influential in determining the seeding for the NCAA tournament come mid-March, the Terriers are first, holding the slimmest of margins over UMD.
Parker, for one, does not put much stock into polls, especially this time of year.
“PairWise is the most important poll, but it really doesn’t mean anything until all the games are played,” he said. “As you get closer to the end of the season and a good body of all the games are played, then that poll is real important.
“The most important thing is we’re tied for first place in our league.”
Senior captain Chris Connolly has seemingly solidified his position as the team’s new first-line center in 2012, but as of late it has been junior assistant captain and first-line right wing Alex Chiasson doing part of a centerman’s work: taking faceoffs.
Connolly, who has a .323 faceoff win percentage, has been giving way to Chiasson whenever there’s a draw, with Connolly lining up in Chiasson’s position on the right. The pair switches back once the faceoff is complete.
“Chris is struggling a little bit and I feel confident in there,” Chiasson said. “For a winger, it’s hard to say that. I look at a guy like Corey [Trivino]. He was taking faceoffs his whole life, so he knew what he was doing. Sometimes I’m on, sometimes I’m off.”
Chiasson has a better average than Connolly with a .496 win mark, and has been taking tips from junior Ben Rosen, the usual fourth-line center.
“It’s good learning from a guy like him because he’s kind of the same way as me,” Chiasson said. “He moves position, so he knows a little bit, the little tricks here and there. I think it’s just practice and confidence and knowing that you’re capable of winning some.”
Since taking on the responsibility on Jan. 6 against Merrimack College, Chiasson is an even 44-44 on faceoffs.