Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Know Your Enemy: Boston University

So far, so good for the mostly-annual "rivalry" game between RPI and BU since the retirement of Jack Parker. Undoubtedly aided a little bit by the expansion of Hockey East's non-conference schedule (the in-conference schedule shrank with the addition of new teams), the Engineers and Terriers will meet for the second straight year in the David Quinn era on Commonwealth Avenue.

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: David Quinn (2nd season)
2013-14 Record: 10-21-4 (5-12-3 Hockey East, 9th place)
Series: BU leads, 34-30-3
First Game: March 14, 1953 (Colorado Springs, CO)
Last RPI win: October 18, 2013 (Boston, MA)
Last BU win: January 4, 2013 (Boston, MA)

2014-15 game: December 13, 2014 (Troy, NY)

Key players: F Cason Hohmann, sr.; F Evan Rodrigues, sr.; D Matt Grzelcyk, jr.; F Matt Lane, jr.; D Ahti Oksanen, jr.; G Matt O'Connor, jr.; F Danny O'Regan, jr.; F Robbie Baillargeon, so.; F Nick Roberto, so.;  F Brendan Collier, so.; F Kevin Duane, so.; D Doyle Somerby, so.; F Liam Coughlin, fr.; F Jack Eichel, fr.; D Brandon Hickey, fr.; D John MacLeod, fr.; F Chase Phelps, fr.; F J.J. Piccinich, fr.

Previous KYE installments:
It was a tough year for BU, but at least there's an understandable difficulty in transitioning to a new head coach for the first time in 40 years. That's not something that you just easily move on from. The Terriers didn't pick up their 10th win of the season until March 1st, the back-end of a home-and-home sweep of Northeastern that constituted only their 2nd and 3rd wins since November.

That's just something you don't ever see from BU. In fact, 10 wins is the lowest total for the Terriers since 1964, the year before Jack Parker came to BU as a student a half-century ago. It was BU's first losing season since 2004, first 20-loss season since 2001, and worst winning percentage since 1963. The 1962-63 season was the second in the history of the ECAC, and the first under coach Jack Kelley. Within a decade he'd led the Terriers to back-to-back national championships, their first ever, so all is not lost simply because a new coach struggles in his first year.

As one would imagine for a team that managed just one win in 18 games in the middle of the season, offense and defense were both pretty rough. During that 18 game stretch, the Terriers scored 3 or more goals six times, but gave up three or more on 13 occasions, including five in which they gave up 6 or more goals.

More bad news came just this week as it was announced that goaltender Sean Maguire, who has been in a platoon with O'Connor for the last two years, will miss the entire upcoming season, putting the #1 spot solely in O'Connor's hands. He did have a roughly 3:2 edge in minutes last year, but BU will undoubtedly be leaning much more heavily on him this season.

But help is certainly on the way as several talented skaters join the fray for the Terriers. Eichel is a future star who is considered a shoo-in for a first-round selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (his birthdate was about a month late to be eligible for the 2014 draft, where he would have also been a high selection). MacLeod went late in the second round of this year's draft, and Hickey went early in the third, both should add strength to a still-young defensive corps. Coughlin and Piccinich were drafted as well, giving BU nine NHL draftees on their active roster for the coming season.

Eichel especially should add a boost to an offense that was led last year by Baillargeon and O'Regan. With Rodrigues and Hohmann the only two seniors on the roster, this is still a very young team, but there's no doubt it's going to be full of talented players. Much will hinge on Quinn's ability to get them to play together as a team.

As we've said in the past, RPI-BU games have tended to be on the fun side in the recent past, and one might have to give a slight nod in this contest to the Engineers based mostly on home-ice advantage, but RPI will also hopefully provide a solid defensive challenge for a young BU offense. Scott Diebold last year gave BU fits similar to the ones Bryce Merriam previously provided. Having missed Jason Kasdorf in the last two seasons due to injuries in both games, we'll (hopefully) see how well they can stack up against the redshirt sophomore. Meanwhile, the RPI offense, especially the power play, will need to push the pace of the game in order to keep pressure on what could be a shaky defensive front.

Assuming no early jumps to the pros, BU will have at least 11 NHL draftees on their roster in 2015-16 after Eichel is drafted and Maguire returns. So the loss of Jack Parker hasn't exactly stemmed the tide of blue chippers choosing BU for college, and the Terriers' status as one of the big dog programs of college hockey doesn't appear to be in long-term danger.

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