Ice Hockey, Sports

Season’s Greetings

The No. 9 Boston University men’s ice hockey team will kick off the 2008-09 season this weekend, welcoming the No. 5 University of North Dakota tonight before facing No. 11 Michigan State University tomorrow night as part of the 12th annual Ice Breaker Invitational, hosted for the first time in Massachusetts at Agganis Arena.
For the Terriers, a group with just one game under their belt heading into the season ‘-‘- a 4-1 exhibition win over the University of New Brunswick last Sunday ‘-‘- tonight will be the first chance for their 10 freshmen to round the learning curve.
In the scrimmage against New Brunswick, BU coach Jack Parker’s new faces got their first competitive look at the collegiate game.
While the exhibition game gave the class a chance to show its talents, the speed of play did little to prepare it for the speed at which North Dakota and Michigan State will play.
Two years ago, the Terriers were knocked out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Michigan State. Tomorrow will be the first time the Terriers see the Spartans since their flight out of Grand Rapids, Mich., two Marches ago.
With the fate of BU’s goaltending duties still undecided, Parker said earlier this week that a decision would be made later today as to who will start against North Dakota.
‘What we’re expecting is good goaltending, solid goaltending,’ Parker said Wednesday. ‘Who will wind up the number one guy? I don’t know. Will there be a number one guy or two guys, or one and one-A? I have no idea. It won’t be a three-man rotation.’
Regardless of who earns the starting nod, however, Parker expects to split this weekend’s pair of games between the two strongest goaltenders.
‘In all probability, two different goalies will play this weekend and then we’ll make a decision on [the game against Merrimack College] the following week,’ Parker said. ‘Two out of the three will get a game this weekend.’
Against New Brunswick, freshman Grant Rollheiser put together a strong outing. Kieran Millan, BU’s other freshman goalie candidate, matched Rollheiser’s poise behind the defense in his 33 minutes of play, despite allowing a deflection through for New Brunswick’s only goal.
‘Millan is more of an economy, standup type of ‘hit me goalie,” Parker said. ‘Rollheiser is a more of a butterfly, take away the floor, hand on his glove with everything else. Rollheiser is more of a current pro-style goalie, where he can play back in the net more. They both look pretty poised, but they are different in their styles.’
Fighting the hangover from last year’s disappointing finish, Parker expects the Terriers to erase the memories of last season’s futile start.
Starting the year 0-4-1, Parker said last year’s season was over long before BU’s loss to the University of Vermont in the Hockey East Tournament last March.
To beat both North Dakota and Michigan State, BU has to establish itself as the fast-paced team it hopes to be.
‘The teams that are good year in and year out are the teams that can attract good players,’ Parker said of North Dakota and Michigan State. ‘They are up-tempo college hockey teams. We’ll see how much our guys get rattled. How enthusiastic are they, or are they poised.’
Against UNB, BU opened the first period with a flurry of offensive chances facilitated by speed.
Freshman forwards Chris Connolly, Corey Trivino and Vinny Saponari highlighted the speed and awareness of the Terrier youth, as each found the back of the net once while registering several other scoring opportunities.
BU proved last Sunday that preseason practices and workouts have gotten the Terriers ‘-‘- underclassmen and upperclassmen alike ‘-‘- to work together as a unit, a feature that was absent from BU’s locker room last season.’ ‘ ‘
‘I was surprised how well the offense played defense,’ Parker said. ‘From day one, you could see how well they are working together. The lessons learned from last year’s younger guys will be relayed this year, and this class won’t go through that. There is a better feel that the people are worried about the name on the front of their shirt rather than the back.’

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