The Boston University men’s hockey team made it through a treacherous October schedule with ease, cruising to wins over four ranked opponents and avoiding the dismal start that plagued the team last season.
With concerns of an October swoon put to rest, the No. 3 Terriers (5-1-0, 2-1-0 Hockey East) are in the midst of a six-game swing through the conference that will go a long way toward determining their postseason position. Tonight, they will take the ice at Tsongas Arena to face the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (3-2-0, 1-0-0) in a rematch of last year’s Hockey East quarterfinals, a series BU won two games to one.
The Terriers enter Tsongas with a full head of steam after posting back-to-back 7-2 victories over ranked teams. They picked up their first road win of the year in Burlington, Vt., over the then-No. 14 University of Vermont last Saturday, and will look to build on that success tonight against the River Hawks.
Though Lowell will be just the second non-ranked opponent for the Terriers, they aren’t taking UML lightly.
‘This team’s tougher to play at home because of the size of the rink and because they play so well in that rink,’ BU coach Jack Parker said. ‘We’ll certainly have our hands full with a real tough road game.’
If BU is going to skate past UML, the offense will need to solve junior goaltender Carter Hutton. Just five pucks have slipped past Hutton in four games this season. His spectacular play between the pipes has kept Lowell within reach in every game, as its two losses were both by one goal.
‘Every time he’s played against us, he’s been terrific. I thought he played extremely well last year in the playoffs,’ Parker said of Hutton. ‘He’s a real solid goaltender and I think they have a lot of confidence playing in front of him.’
At the other end of the ice, freshman goaltender Kieran Millan will make his first career road start for the Terriers. Millan’s early returns rival those of Hutton, as the BU rookie has registered a 1.67 goals-against average through three games.
Neither team has allowed more than two goals in a game this season, a far cry from last year’s effort by both teams. In three regular-season contests, the teams combined for 26 goals (8.7 per game) in a trio of offensive shootouts. The postseason series saw the teams combine for a 6.3 goals-per-game average.
The first month of this season indicates that the teams have put their defensive struggles behind them. Though BU’s 27 goals lead the league, Parker knows the Terriers’ current offensive pace will be difficult to sustain against Hutton.
‘They’re a very difficult team to score on. Our club understands that and they know that whatever was going on last weekend or the week before will not be going on this weekend,’ Parker said.
One area of play that has sparked BU in the early going has been special teams, on which the Terriers have turned up the heat after a slow start. It took a few weeks for BU to adjust to the increase in called penalties, but the power play has been spectacular by registering nine goals over the last two games.
‘There’s obviously going to be a lot of special teams play this year because of the way they’re approaching penalties in our league, so we’ve got to be good at both those areas ‘-‘- killing penalties and the power play. So far, so good, especially the last few games,’ Parker said.
‘[Lowell is] a team that’s given us fits on the power play and the penalty kill the last couple years. We need to be at the top of our game there and continue what we’ve been doing the last couple games.’
Special teams play will be key for the Terriers as they enter this important stretch of conference play. They’ve shown they can beat up on the nation’s best outside of the conference, but now need to string together a series of league wins to climb atop the Hockey East standings.