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Hockey East Quarterfinals: Scouting Ahead to BU vs. Northeastern

Is it finally do or die time for the Terriers?

Matt Dewkett

It’s finally the post season.

So far in trophy season, Boston University is 0-1 with a loss to Harvard in the Beanpot final in one of their worst performances of the season. In a contest where the Terriers were outshot 18-2, it exposed how BU can play when they’re not in sync.

In a season where team maturity and compete level have been questioned, the Terriers now head into the playoffs in the most important stretch of their year.

Beginning the Hockey East playoffs with a bye week, BU will host Northeastern at Agganis Arena, where the Terriers went 11-3-2 in the regular season. The Huskies struggled away from Matthews Arena at 6-8-2 on the year.

This is the first time the two teams have faced in the Hockey East quarterfinals since 2010-2011, when the Huskies won the series in three games.

In their two conference matchups in the regular season, the Terriers and Huskies had some dog fights. The first, a Friday night November contest at Matthews, resulted in a tie with the Huskies scoring with a minute left in regulation.

The Terriers took game two the next night, but at the expense of Clayton Keller, who missed time until late December.

The BU defense suffered a set back late in the season, which could pose a challenge against a strong Northeastern attack. Starting with a Beanpot final loss to Harvard where they surrendered six goals, the BU defense went on to allow tally totals of four in back to back games against UNH before settling down in the season finale contests against Notre Dame.

Brandon Hickey, a Calgary Flames prospect, was injured in the Harvard game and is expected to be back in time for the weekend series.

The Terriers were 4-2 in one goal games in the regular season. This is where the Huskies struggled, going 4-7.

Ryan Ruck has been in the center of Northeastern’s struggles with a 2.94 goals against average, but a defensive unit led by Garrett Cockerill, who is a -1, hasn’t helped the sophomore goalie’s cause.

When scoring the first goal, BU went 14-2. But when surrendering the first tally, they were just 7-8-3. Despite being a good team late in games, with 46 third period goals for the most in any frame.

Meanwhile, Northeastern’s best period has been the first, with 48 goals scored in that frame. They’ve been successful in the third as well, with 44 tallies, but the Huskies are a team that can jump out early in the game.

It’s been a while since the Terriers were on the ice, while Northeastern took down UConn in a first round battle just this past weekend, so how BU responds to that layoff will be important to note early on in the contest.

Yet, even with the Huskies jumping out as they did, they are just 10-5-1 when leading after one period and 3-5-2 if the game is tied. Northeastern has scored the first goal in four of their last five contests, and are currently on a stretch of seven wins over the course of eight games.

BU is undefeated when leading after the first period with 10-0-1 marks, but are 6-6 if the game is even and 5-4-1 when trailing.

The Huskies also have the second best power play in the nation at 28.9%, led by top-six point scorers Adam Gaudette, Zach Aston-Reese, and Dylan Sikura who operate that man-up unit.

BU’s penalty kill has been a strength all season long, but penalties have carried over from early season struggles, forcing the penalty kill to be in action more often than they’d like.

Meanwhile, the Huskies offense is prominent, the seventh in the nation, but their defense has continued to struggle, partially due to Ruck’s tough year, ranking near 40th nationally in goals allowed per game.

A strong showing from the Terriers, given they can limit the Huskies start, could be all they need to advance to the Hockey East semi finals at the TD Garden next week.