For the second consecutive game, the No. 11/12 Boston University men’s hockey team will attempt to sweep a season series against a team they have historically battled for home ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
The Terriers (8-5-1, 6-4-1 Hockey East) will travel to the University of New Hampshire Thursday night on the heels of their first loss in six games, while the Wildcats (6-8-2, 4-6-1 Hockey East) enter the game searching for a win after losing four of their last five games.
“The only thing that’s streaky about UNH has been the goaltending,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “I think if you look at the shots and how they’ve played, they’ve played pretty well. They’re a team that is kind of a wounded animal.
“They need a win to feel better about themselves and they have an archrival coming in to play them, so they’ll be geared up, that’s for sure.”
The Terriers have outscored the Wildcats 9-1 in the two games against them this season, but will be missing one of their top forwards in sophomore Matt Nieto, who hurt his shoulder in practice on Tuesday.
Junior forward Wade Megan, who leads the team in goals (six) and game-winners (two), will fill in for Nieto on the second line. Megan has two goals against UNH this season.
“He’s almost been the sacrificial lamb in a way in that he might be our best forward from day one to right now, and yet we keep him on the third line because he has helped the freshmen out an awful lot,” Parker said of Megan. “He plays well with those two freshmen and I’m not sure that any other upper classmen could give them what they need like he can.
“He’s a good guy to have. He’s a goal-scorer. He makes nice plays. He gives them some size. He’s got the personality that won’t make them jumpy, the ‘Get me the puck, I’m the upper classman’ type of guy.”
Parker also said that sophomore defenseman Patrick MacGregor will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season in order to get freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera more ice time.
Senior goaltender Kieran Millan is expected to start in net following a difficult outing against Boston College last Saturday. Millan gave up five goals in two periods before being pulled for the third period.
The outing was the first in which Millan did not look solid in net since a 7-1 loss at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell on Oct. 5.
“I don’t really know the reason for what happened [on Saturday against BC],” Millan said. “If I knew, it probably wouldn’t happen very often so who knows. Maybe it was little bit of tiredness. I’m not quite sure, but I’m sure I’ll be fine for [Thursday] night.”
Parker was not willing to commit to who would start in net on Saturday night, when the Terriers close out the semester with a game at the University of Maine. He did note that Nieto is questionable for that game, and should all the defensemen play well on Thursday, MacGregor may not be back in the lineup either.
Maine (6-6-2, 5-5-1 Hockey East) enters Saturday’s game on a three-game win streak, although two of those wins came against the University of Vermont, who has just one win in 11 Hockey East games.
The Terriers will face quite a challenge against Maine’s power play, which leads Hockey East with a 25-percent success rate. BU, on the other hand, is second in Hockey East in average penalty minutes per game (21.1).
“Penalties are going to be inevitable,” said senior captain Chris Connolly. “It’s the lazy ones that we don’t like to kill. We’ll take hard-nosed efforts on necessary penalties. We’ll kill those off any day. We have to keep our emotions in check and not take the ones after the whistle, and the lazy stick penalties are the ones that kill us, but in terms of penalty kill, I think our team especially likes to rise to the challenge.”
While the Terriers will not have the challenge of marquee matchups against BC and at Red Hot Hockey like they have in the past few weeks, Parker said this weekend’s games are still extremely important for team morale.
“Having these last two games on the road against really big rivals of ours before the Christmas break, they are real important for us,” Parker said. “It just makes you feel a lot better to win some of those games and then go on a break than to sit there and think we didn’t get anything out of those and they’re our big rivals so, the teams we’re playing home ice for all the time, so it will be interesting to see how we perform [tonight].”