In a final tune-up before the Beanpot, the Boston University men’s hockey team will host No. 2 University of Massachusetts Friday night in one of the Terriers’ most difficult matchups of the season.
While history may favor BU (10-10-3, 8-5-2 Hockey East), who have not lost to the Minutemen (19-5, 11-3 Hockey East) since 2013, a victory over this UMass team is by no means a guarantee. The Minutemen have been consistently ranked among the top teams in college hockey all season, including multiple stints holding the No. 1 spot in the Division 1 rankings.
This season, UMass has the second-highest scoring offense in D1 hockey, averaging 3.79 goals per game. Individually, forward Jacob Pritchard holds a team-best 31 points on 12 goals and 19 assists, while forward Mitchell Chaffee leads the team with 15 goals.
Chaffee has also been recognized on a national level, currently tied for fourth among all D1 players with an average of .65 goals per game.
On the defensive end, the Minutemen have been nearly as dominant as they have been in attack. UMass has allowed the fifth fewest goals per game in the NCAA’s top division, with only 1.96 goals conceded on average.
Anchoring the defensive effort has been sophomore goaltender Matt Murray, who ranks fifth in college hockey in terms of save percentage, turning away 93 percent of all shots faced.
While the Minutemen boast the joint-best D1 winning percentage at .792, the Hockey East leaders have stumbled as of late.
UMass fell 1-2 in a visit to Northeastern University on Jan. 19, before splitting a series at the University of Maine over Jan. 25 and 26. The team’s current road swing could be responsible for their drop in form, as all but one of their losses have come away from home ice.
Like UMass, BU will also enter Friday’s contest coming off a loss, as the Terriers fell 0-3 to No. 17/15 Arizona State University on Jan. 26. After benefitting from some fortunate bounces to put up four goals in a 4-2 victory over the Sun Devils the night prior, the Terrier offense came up dry in the second game of the weekend series.
It was the first time in nine games that the Terriers had been held goalless, a streak dating back to Dec. 1.
“The team that wants it more usually wins,” BU head coach Albie O’Connell said after the loss. “Arizona State wanted the game more.”
The Terriers were without a few significant names during the loss to Arizona, as junior netminder Jake Oettinger and senior forward Bobo Carpenter each got the night off. After appearing in every one of BU’s 22 contests prior, Oettinger was replaced by freshman Vinnie Purpura, who made 36 saves in his debut with the Terriers.
“Our goalie was our best player,” O’Connell said Jan. 26 of Purpura, who joined the Terriers during the winter break.
O’Connell reported that Carpenter, who is BU’s leading goal scorer, had been banged up going into the Friday contest. Still, the co-captain was still able to tally his 100th point as a Terrier — joining a list of 82 other BU hockey alumni who have hit the century mark.
“I love Bobo,” O’Connell said following the milestone game. “Everything he gets, he deserves.”
All hands will be on deck for this week’s meeting with UMass. BU’s two-game home-and-home set against the Minutemen will be split between Feb. 1 and Feb. 8, separated by the first round of the Beanpot Feb. 4.
It will be a challenging stretch for the Terriers but one with crucial implications for their season, as the team simultaneously fights to claim a Beanpot title and climb above fourth in the Hockey East standings.
The Terriers will take the Agganis Arena ice against the Minutemen at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Boston Hockey Blog will have minute-by-minute coverage of the game through a live blog, accessible on hockey.dailyfreepress.com or @BOShockeyblog on Twitter.