Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hockey squares off with No. 9 Boston University Friday night

Sam Anderson/Daily Collegian
(Sam Anderson/Daily Collegian)

Whenever the Massachusetts hockey team has clashed against No. 9 Boston University in the last two seasons, things have gotten ugly for the Minutemen.

In two games last season and a 7-2 loss at Agganis Arena Jan. 9, the Terriers are 3-0 and have averaged eight goals per game against UMass (7-16-4, 2-11-4, Hockey East). The closest result was a 9-5 BU victory in its second matchup with the Minutemen last year with the most lopsided being an 8-1 Jack Eichel-led thrashing on opening night of the same season.

Eichel isn’t around anymore, but UMass will still be presented with a formidable task in trying to beat a loaded Terriers (15-7-4, 8-4-3 HEA) team Friday night in a Hockey East matchup at Mullins Center.

Led by a talented group of forwards, BU is eighth in the country in scoring at 3.58 goals per game. Seniors Danny O’Regan (nine goals, 20 assists), Ahti Oksanen (14-14), Matt Lane (14-10) and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (7-15) have combined to score 44 goals this year.

Senior captain Matt Grzelcyk and sophomore Brandon Fortunado headline an equally talented group of defensemen that has played a big role in the Terriers’ success this season. Doyle Somerby, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Hickey are also impact players for BU on defense, and by any measure BU features one of the best groups of defensemen in the country.

Quite simply, the Terriers are a deep and talented team that will pose significant problems for the Minutemen, who are losers of eight straight games.

UMass coach John Micheletto said his team needed work on defense and the penalty kill heading into the matchup with BU before Monday’s practice. UMass ranks 58th in the country in goals against and tied for 48th in penalty killing, which doesn’t bode well for the Minutemen against the Terriers.

“We’ve got to sure up the penalty kill and our team defense,” Micheletto said. “If you look back at the last seven games, the (penalty kill) is not where it was in the couple of months previously, nor is our goals against.”

Additionally, Micheletto cited that UMass would need to slow BU down in the neutral zone to avoid letting them build up offensive attacks. Senior defenseman Ben Gallacher and Ivan Chukarov also talked about the importance of slowing down the Terriers attack Friday night.

“The key is just to slow them down and not let them get to open spaces,” Gallacher said.

Chukarov elaborated a little more about the specific challenges BU would present.

“We play on a pretty big ice, so we’ll have to try to contain them a little bit with what they have on the wings,” Chukarov said.

Gallacher – a Florida Panthers draft pick – and Chukarov – a freshman who was selected by the Buffalo Sabres – have been leaders of a maligned defensive corps as of late. Freshmen William Lagesson and Callum Fryer are both uncertain for this weekend after missing last weekend’s action against Maine with injuries.

Fryer appeared to have suffered a blow to the head after a late hit against Vermont two weeks ago that went unpenalized, while Lagesson has been out for several weeks with an undisclosed injury.

Both returned to practice at the beginning of the week but their statuses for Friday night remain up in the air.

Another question mark for the Minutemen is their starting goaltender. Freshman Nic Renyard has made the most starts of any UMass goalie this season, but backups Henry Dill and Alex Wakaluk have each made appearances as of late.

Micheletto declined to name a starter for the next game, saying he would wait to see how the week played out before making a decision.

Offensively, senior Shane Walsh leads the team in goals with 15 and is tied with junior Ray Pigozzi for most points with 23. Sophomore Dennis Kravchenko and freshman Austin Plevy have also eclipsed the 20-point mark, with 21 and 20 respectively.

Ultimately, Micheletto said UMass would need to stay focused for 60 minutes and avoid the meltdowns that BU has made a living off of in recent matchups.

“We can’t give them a five-minute span to run free,” Micheletto said. “Hopefully, we can put together 60 minutes of forcing them to play a 200-foot game.”

If they don’t, the Minutemen will have another long night with the Terriers on their hands.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. at Mullins Center.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RossGien

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