No. 14 Boston University Terriers (13-8-7(10-5-5HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (6-15-4(5-10-4HEA))
Tonight, UMass will face a team that is 4th (technically, tied for 3rd) in the Hockey East standings. This seems like a daunting task, especially considering that last weekend’s results make it look like the Minutemen don’t have a chance against any team with a winning record. Although BU looks like its miles behind of the BCs and UNHs of the world, they are still quite a formidable force. Offensive contributions by familiar faces have been strong; Alex Chiasson (9G/15A/24Pts), Chris Connolly (8G/13A/21Pts), David Warsofsky (7G/12A/19Pts), and Joe Pereira (12G/6A/18Pts) are as good as ever. Freshmen Charlie Coyle (7G/14A/21Pts) and Sahir Gill (4G/13A/17Pts) have been outstanding, as well. And junior backstop Kieren Millan’s numbers in conference play (8-4-5, 2.48GAA, .929save%) have been very solid.
The Terriers are a team that likes to play close games. They haven’t had a Hockey East Game decided by more than two goals since a 5-2 loss at Boston College on 12/4. In games decided by one goal this year they are 8-3; by two goals: 3-0. In blowout games (by 3 or more goals), the Terriers are just 2-5. The fact that BU is involved in so many games is not surprising considering that they are averaging 2.93 goals for and 2.93 goals against per game this season. The Minutemen prefer to play wide open games; their record in games decided by less than 3 goals is a miserable 1-8. If the Minutemen are to play in a game with a 3+ goal margin and win, huge contributions will be needed from guys like Mike Pereira (10G/10A/20Pts), Danny Hobbs (7G/13A/20Pts), TJ Syner (7G/12A/19Pts), and the red-hot-of-late Chase Langeraap (7G/5A/12Pts). A much better night in net will be needed as well, obviously, as both Paul Dainton (6-10-3, 2.88GAA, .912save%) and Jeff Teglia (0-5-1, 4.81GAA, .851save%(ouch, those number are physically painful)) looked overmatched last weekend.
Boston University LOVES to pass the puck around. They are a very skilled team with 9 NHL draftees, not counting the goalies, and they clearly know how to make some NHL-level passes. Seven Terriers have double-digit assist totals this year (tied for most in Hockey East with Maine and Merrimack, but done with less goals for than either). For comparison, UMass has 4. What the key to this game is to the Mass Attack should be clear. Solid, fundamental defense. A goalie can stop a guy with a great shot, but it is exponentially harder for a goalie to go post-to-post to stop a tap in that follows a great pass. The only way to disallow great-passing-goals is to stay with a man on a man. This means discipline in all meanings of the word (not getting caught up ice, not taking bad penalties, and executing clean line changes). It’s surprising that BU’s powerplay is not better (12.1%) given how good their passing is. But I still wouldn’t take a chance playing undisciplined hockey against the Terriers. To me, this is the key to the game. To even have a chance, the Minutemen must play solid defensively and let the offense come to them.