Any weekend when the Boston University men’s hockey team faces off against Boston College is a big one for the Terriers. However, No. 11/12 BU is in for more than just a matchup with the No. 1 Eagles this weekend.
The Terriers (4–2, 3–1 Hockey East) will go on the road to challenge the team only one spot behind BC (6–1, 6–1 Hockey East) in the Hockey East standings, Merrimack College, Friday night, before hosting their rivals Sunday.
The Warriors (4–3–1, 3–1–1 Hockey East) have the top offense in the league this season, averaging 3.8 goals per game in Hockey East play. This is in part due to junior Mike Collins, who leads the league with 10 points (3g, 7a) in Hockey East play.
“They still have plenty of firepower up front, and they’ve got a good core of defensemen coming back,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “They’ve added a couple pretty good kids too.”
Along with Collins’ scoring from the forward position, Merrimack has generated a lot of offense from its defensemen. Junior Jordan Heywood, who was named Athletic Republic Player of the Week last week, leads the league with four goals, while Brendan Ellis is tied for second in the league with five points in conference play.
Merrimack also has 6-foot-5 defenseman Kyle Bigos in its lineup, who returned from a lower body injury on Nov. 2 at Northeastern University.
“He’s a real strong player. He gives them a physical presence,” Parker said. “But he’s a good hockey player too. He moves the puck, he plays the point on their power play. He’s gotten better and better as his career has progressed.”
In goal for the Warriors this season, sophomore Rasmus Tirronen has split time with junior Sam Marrota 50-50. With the departure of goaltender Joe Cannata, who started 36 of 37 games last season, Tirronen and Marrota have teamed up to solidify the goaltending position.
Tirronen, who has posted a 1.92 goals-against average and a .965 save percentage over his previous two starts, impressed Parker.
“He looks a lot like our [freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor],” Parker said. “He’s a big, big kid, so that’s the thing that’s probably they were wondering, ‘How are we going to be there [in net]?’ and they can relax there, just like we can relax there.”
O’Connor, who is unbeaten in his four starts this season, will start for the Terriers again Friday at J. Thom Lawler Arena. The Toronto, Ontario, native made 26 stops in BU’s 4–2 win over the University of North Dakota Saturday.
Sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera, who set up the game-winning goal late in the third period in that win, will sit out Friday’s game for breaking an unspecified team rule.
Freshman forward Mike Moran, who did not play last weekend in favor of fellow freshman forward Sam Kurker, will be back in the lineup again Friday.
After its test on the road against the Warriors Friday, BU will return to Agganis Arena to take on rival BC. Sunday’s game will be the first contest between the longtime rivals since the 2012 Beanpot final, when then-sophomore forward Bill Arnold scored in overtime to lead the Eagles to their third consecutive Beanpot championship.
However, senior captain Wade Megan said that the team is not looking past Friday’s game to Sunday’s showdown.
“We’re not looking past this game tomorrow,” Megan said. “Obviously we’re well aware we’re playing BC and it’s something we’re thinking about, but we got a game tomorrow night that we’re focused on right now.”
The defending national champions shook off some early rust after it lost its season opener to Northeastern and has won six consecutive games entering this weekend.
Senior captain Pat Mullane earned Athletic Republic Player of the Month in October, when he tallied three goals and five assists in five games. He and sophomore forward Johnny Gaudreau (4g, 5a) have led the Eagles offense this season.
On defense, freshman Michael Matheson has been on a hot streak over the past three games. The Point-Claire, Quebec, native has scored all five of his points (1g, 4a) over that span.
While BU has not determined who will start in goal Sunday, senior Parker Milner will likely make the start for the Eagles. Milner, who has started each of BC’s games this season, has a 1.99 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage this season.
Parker said he is not concerned with his team’s ability to be focused for its game against BC, but he knows it cannot overlook Merrimack.
“I’m a little concerned that they’re still feeling good about themselves [after defeating North Dakota] and they don’t realize how tough Merrimack’s going be,” Parker said. “Obviously they always get up for BC, but Merrimack is a team that’s been terrific in their own building.”