Thursday, July 5, 2012

Know Your Enemy: Boston University

For only the third time since 1990, the Engineers and Terriers did not renew their friendly rivalry last season, but given the way the last game between these two sides ended - with some cheap shots on both sides and Jack Parker shouting at the referees on his way off the ice (with cause) - it's probably a good thing that it'll have been two full calendar years since the last time the teams did battle. That's plenty of time for simmering bad blood to cool down, and return things to the way things usually are when RPI and BU face off - a spirited contest that frequently turns out to be anyone's game.

Boston University
Nickname: Terriers
Location: Boston, MA
Founded: 1839
Conference: Hockey East
National Championships: 5 (1971, 1972, 1978, 1995, 2009)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2012
Last Frozen Four: 2009
Coach: Jack Parker (40th season)
2011-12 Record: 23-15-1 (17-9-1 Hockey East, 2nd place)
Series: BU leads, 33-29-3
First Game: March 14, 1953 (Colorado Springs, CO)
Last RPI win: December 11, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last BU win: January 2, 2009 (Denver, CO)

2012-13 game: January 4, 2013 (Boston, MA)

Key players: F Justin Courtnall, sr.; D Sean Escobedo, sr.; F Wade Megan, sr.; F Matt Nieto, jr.; F Sahir Gill, jr.; D Garrett Noonan, jr.; D Alexx Privitera, so.; D Matt Grzelczyk, fr.; F Sam Kurker, fr.; F Matt Lane, fr.; G Sean Maguire, fr.; F Danny O'Regan, fr.

Previous KYE installment:
Don't look now, but RPI's home victory in 2010-11 over the Terriers makes it two in a row against the boys from Comm Ave, and the Engineers are unbeaten in four of the last five games against BU. In addition, RPI has won both of the games they've played in BU's Agganis Arena, which opened in 2005. Both of those streaks will be on the line in January.

Since last we saw the Terriers, they have returned themselves to familiar territory. Rebounding from a "dismal" national title defense year in 2010 (which saw them still finish with a winning record), BU put together a better overall season in 2011 but missed the NCAA tournament in consecutive years for the first time since the late 1980s.

Last season, BU returned to their winning ways, completing a 20-win season and returning to the NCAA tournament, but their season ended poorly, with senior Kieran Millan, who had backstopped the Terriers to a national championship as a freshman, giving up 11 goals in his last two games against Maine in the Hockey East semifinals and against Minnesota in the NCAA tournament. BU's defense had been fairly porous down the stretch in general.

The Terriers may have been more notorious last year, however, for their off-ice problems despite their on-ice successes. During the season, two NHL draftees, Corey Trivino and Max Nicastro, were arrested - the former for indecent assault and battery and the latter for rape (though the charges were dropped last month). Trivino, a senior, had been leading BU and Hockey East in scoring at the time, and Nicastro, a junior, was one of the team's top defensemen. Earlier in the season, sophomore standout Charlie Coyle (another NHL draftee) fled the team for major junior in Quebec, Millan had been suspended for skipping class, and Parker himself had to issue an apology after losing his cool with referees on national television.

Despite all of this, BU managed to claim the #1 ranking in the nation for a week in early February after racking up a 14-4-0 record from the middle of November, but the team went just 6-7-0 the remainder of the way.

In addition to losing Nicastro's last year of eligibility and Coyle's last two, the Terriers, no strangers to early departures to the pros, lost top scorer Alex Chiasson and junior-to-be Adam Clendening to pro contracts. In all, seven of the team's 12 NHL draftees that were on the roster coming into the season are now gone due to graduation, expulsion, defection to major junior, or signing pro contracts.

Two of those seven were both of the Terriers' goaltenders, Millan and Grant Rollheiser, which means that BU will be starting from scratch in net to go along with the turmoil and turnover. Maguire appears to have the leg up on becoming the new starter, but he'll likely have to earn it. Defensively, Escobedo and Noonan will be called upon to provide leadership on the blue line.

Once again, as has been the expectation every season, BU brings in a large freshman class that has quite a bit of talent. On offense, Nieto, Gill, and Megan provide the experienced punch that the Terriers will need, and guide a bevy of very talented forwards that arrive this year, especially Kurker and O'Regan.

Overall, the Terriers are a tough team to pin down. On one hand, they are going through a great deal of turnover, and that can have a negative effect on even the most talented of teams. They're going to be young in net and semi-young defensively. However, after 40 years Jack Parker still manages to squeeze some of the best out of his teams, and four years ago he won a national championship with a freshman goaltender. Anything's possible, and it's in Boston, so the Engineers need to be loaded for bear when they reach Commonwealth Avenue.

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