This afternoon, Boston University men’s hockey coach Jack Parker was walking back to his Agganis Arena office a little earlier than normal, especially given the fact that it was the day before a game. Typically, the team would have a meeting about the next day’s opponent – in this case Providence College and first-year coach Nate Leaman – after getting off the ice, but today that just wasn’t possible.
“We know absolutely nothing about Providence because [Leaman is] a new coach and they haven’t played a game yet, [so BU has no game video,]” Parker said. “We have no idea how good they’re going to be.”
But when the Terriers (1-0, 1-0 Hockey East) take to the ice in their first away game of the season, and in Providence’s (0-0, 0-0 Hockey East) home and season opener, they won’t go in completely blind. Providence goaltender Alex Beaudry did, after all, manage to keep BU’s win margin to just one goal in all three of its victories over the Friars last year.
“I’ve played against [Beaudry] ever since I was a freshman, and I always thought he was one of the best goalies in the league,” said senior captain Chris Connolly. “We know going into it with just having him in net it’s going to be a close game because he doesn’t give up many goals.”
Rest assured, Parker will counter with his best: senior goaltender Kieran Millan. After a 35-save shutout over University of New Hampshire last week, Millan will start in goal on Friday against Providence, as well as on Saturday when BU hosts No. 3 University of Denver at 7 p.m.
Since the Terriers are in “pretty good” shape, according to Parker, he isn’t worried about Millan or anyone else tiring, and he is looking to get the goalie re-established to start the season.
Millan may not face much of a challenge from the Providence offense, which graduated its top three scorers from its 8-18-8 season last year. Forward Tim Schaller is the top-scoring Friar to return after tallying five goals and 14 assists as a sophomore last year.
That said, BU isn’t taking the matchup for granted.
“Until we establish ourselves as a real good team, there will be no reason for us to look by anybody,” Parker said. “After one game, you don’t establish yourself as a real good team.”
After playing a relatively unknown in Providence, BU will face what will likely be a much tougher test in the form of Denver (0-0), which has accrued a 71-26-2 record in nonconference games the last ten seasons.
When BU and Denver last played, the Terriers topped the Pioneers, 4-1, to win the Denver Cup. The only problem with that past success? It was January 2009, and a total of three current Terriers – senior forward Corey Trivino, as well as Connolly and Millan – got ice time.
Familiarity or not, the preseason rankings alone indicate that the Pioneers will be an obstacle.
“We’re going to have to play very hard and we’re going to have to play very smart,” Parke said. “They have everything they need to be a national contender in firepower and defense core and goaltending, so it’s up to us to give them a real good game, give them our A game.”
Fresh off a 25-12-5 season that gave them their fourth NCAA tournament berth in as many years, the Pioneers will give BU a chance to gauge where it stands. Denver is the preseason Western Collegiate Hockey Association favorite, and although the Terriers know rankings this early don’t necessarily mean much, they are gearing up for the game.
According to Parker, staying poised on defense, taking less penalties, and meeting the team’s objective of 30-35 shots on goal are all points of emphasis, most of which weren’t as strong as possible last week despite the 5-0 win over UNH.
“We’re making progress here, but we’re not going to be perfect. There’s going to be mistakes made,” Parker said. “We just have to learn from them.”