The No. 12/13 Boston University men’s ice hockey team enters this weekend’s home-and-home series against the University of Massachusetts-Amherst searching for four points and its own identity.
But the biggest question for the Terriers is not which opponent they face, but which BU team comes out to play.
If the unmotivated Terriers from the College of the Holy Cross or Providence College losses show up, the weekend will be a step back regardless of win or loss. But if the determined BU hockey team that beat the University of New Hampshire and the University of Denver comes to play, it will be a step in the right direction.
And so, to help them step forward, coach Jack Parker delivered the Terriers’ first kick in the pants came on Sunday when he made the team do skating drills for a full hour with no sticks or pucks.
As Parker put it, “I didn’t think they skated hard Saturday night so we made them skate like hell on Sunday.”
Then there were the meetings with the coaches both individually and as a group. The team as a whole talked about why they are not playing well enough at the moment and how they need to be more focused and aware during games. Parker said he spoke to his players about how each of them is progressing as well as how they are reverting.
But Parker is not the only person trying to redirect the team — the captains are doing their part as well.
Senior captain Chris Connolly said he and junior assistants Alex Chiasson and Justin Courtnall talked with their teammates about coming to practice more focused and putting aside individual goals for the good of the team.
“Whether it be just coming to the rink and watching TV before practice or whatever it may be, playing soccer in the weight room before stretch, we just want to clamp down on some things and get guys focused on practice a little more,” Connolly said.
“We want to be able to have fun at practice and things like that, but at the same time, we think that there’s a time period before practice, whether that be an hour or 45 minutes, where guys should buckle down and focus on what they want to do and what they want to accomplish in practice to make themselves and their teammates better.”
The Terriers even got some outside motivation from former Terrier captain Joe Pereira’s younger brother Mike, a sophomore forward for UMass. Mike Pereira made an appearance on a Minnuteman radio show Tuesday and answered a question about why he chose UMass over BU with some interesting remarks.
“It’s one thing, you know it’s BU players, BU hockey, they kind of have that swagger to them, that snob sort of thing,” Pereira said on the radio show. “It’s just not me. I’m a blue-collar guy. I don’t like to get handed things.”
The Terriers were caught a bit off-guard by Pereira’s comments, since it is generally discouraged in sports to take shots at opponents in the days leading up to a series against them. Pereira’s remarks were even more suspect when considering they applied to his older brother as well.
“He thinks his brother’s a snob?” Parker asked. “Maybe he thinks that I’m a snob, but I don’t think that makes my players snobs.”
“It’s one of those things where you might be regretting what you said,” Connolly said. “That’s just the type of thing that we try not to do. It puts some fuel up on the bulletin board for other teams and you know if that’s how he feels about it, if that’s what his decision to go to UMass was, that’s completely fine and that’s his thing.
“That’s not going to change the way we play. Hopefully we can come out and respond well to his comments.”
The personnel who will have the opportunity to respond to Pereira’s comments will look different than those who played against Holy Cross last Saturday, since, in addition to the meetings and skates, there were line-up changes.
The defense, which has struggled in three of four regular season games, will look very different. None of the defense pairings from Saturday remain intact. Parker confirmed that sophomore defensemen Adam Clendening and Garrett Noonan will be paired together this weekend, but did not reveal any of the other defensive pairings. Junior defenseman Ryan Ruikka will make his season debut after healing from a foot fracture, making freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera the odd man out.
On offense, senior forward Kevin Gilroy will get a start over freshman forward Cason Hohmann. Junior forward Ben Rosen will remain in the line-up.
Senior goaltender Kieran Millan should get the start in net Friday night at UMass, but classmate Grant Rollheiser is expected to start between the pipes at home on Saturday.
Parker warned that these line-up changes might not be the last — or the only ones — that he makes this weekend. He acknowledged that some of the impetus for change will have to come from statements by the coaching staff.
“We have to be more responsible game-to-game and not give them too much sweat equity from last year if they had a good year last year,” Parker said. “They know what’s expected of them. If they aren’t going to play the way we want them to play, they don’t have to. We’ll play someone else.”