Ice Hockey, Sports

BU men’s hockey to play host to nationally ranked Rensselaer, Wisconsin

And now, the true tests begin.

The No. 15 Boston University hockey team got off to a fine start last weekend, taking games from the University of Massachusetts and College of the Holy Cross, thanks in large part to solid goaltending and single tallies from six different players.

But this weekend’s slate is an animal of another sort.

The Terriers (2-0, 1-0 Hockey East) will host No. 17 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Friday night at 7:30 p.m., then No. 2 University of Wisconsin-Madison Saturday at 7 p.m. Both contests will be at Agganis Arena

“It’s like taking a test,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday — we got better every day this week. I’m anxious to see how we play Friday night.”

BU had no shortage of offense last week — it averaged one goal and 8.5 shots per period — but given that the season is still young, and the pieces to the Terrier puzzle are still coming together, Quinn is made changes offensively. The top three lines will look like this:

Tommy Kelley – Danny O’Regan – Evan Rodrigues

Matt Lane – Cason Hohmann – Robbie Baillargeon

Brendan Collier – Nick Roberto – Sam Kurker

 

The fourth line was still up in the air as of Thursday afternoon.

Kelley moving up to the top line bumps Baillargeon down, which in turn puts Kurker on the third line, where he spent most of last season.

Kurker, who took holding and slashing penalties last Friday, did not play the second half. According to Quinn, the pair chatted Saturday morning and Kurker played much better that night against Holy Cross.

“I just said ‘Sam, you think I like doing that? That’s not fun for me. That’s the last thing I want to do,’” Quinn relayed. “He’s a good player and we’re going to need him. I can’t allow him to do that for himself because he’s not going to have a chance to have success at the next level if he takes penalties like that.

“And more importantly, we’re not going to have success as a team if he takes penalties like that here.”

Quinn is also deviating from last week’s plan in terms of who he is putting between the pipes. Sophomores Sean Maguire and Matt O’Connor played a game apiece a week ago, but this time Maguire will play against RPI while Saturday’s starter is undecided.

Quinn is not afraid to ride the hot hand.

“I told [the goalies], ‘Listen, if he goes in there and plays outstanding, we will probably put him back in, just like you would want me to offer you the same opportunity,’” Quinn said. “We have the luxury of having two great goalies, so I feel confident. It will all work out.”

RPI comes in at 1-1, having blown out Sacred Heart University, 6-0, before getting rocked by No. 6/7 Boston College, 7-2. Although it is a very small sample size, junior Ryan Haggerty comes in with two goals, while forwards Matt Tinordi, Milos Bubela and Mike Zalewski have three points (one goal, two assists) each.

Wisconsin, which lost to UMass-Lowell in the first round of the NCAA tournament in March, opened up by sweeping a two-game set with Northern Michigan at home, winning by an aggregate score of 7-3.

One of the Badgers’ top athletes is forward Nic Kerdiles. The sophomore, who played with Lane and sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk when the trio was with the USNTDP team, is a plus-5 with one goal and two assists after just two games.

That said, Quinn isn’t too worried about Kerdiles or Wisconsin or even RPI. If he focuses on knowing his own team, he says, he’ll be better off.

He was thoroughly enthused with his team’s effort and concentration this week.

“Just playing responsible, smart hockey,” Quinn said of what the Terriers are focusing on. “I hate to say this, but you don’t want to play hockey like a normal 18-year-old because that’s an immature way to play. We’re trying to accelerate their maturity process in the hockey world, and it’s hard to do.”

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