Photo Credit: Melissa Wade, USCHO
Coming into the NCHC Frozen Faceoff weekend, it was already determined that the No. 7 University of Denver Pioneers had clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament. At #6 in the PairWise, it was impossible for DU to drop out of the top 16 even if they lost twice.
The Pioneers lost 4-2 to St. Cloud State in the semifinal and tied North Dakota 1-1 in the 3rd place game. These results didn’t affect the Pioneers’ #6 ranking in the PairWise and kept them just ahead of Michigan.
As it turns out, the Pioneers will fly back to Minneapolis-St. Paul for the second week in a row, but instead of driving northwest to Minneapolis, they will be traveling northeast to St. Paul to play at the Xcel Energy Center. As the #2 seed in the West region, DU will play the #3 seed, No. 12 Boston University Terriers in a rematch of the Halloween tilt at Agganis Arena in Bean Town.
In the first matchup between the Pioneers and Terriers, BU left the arena with a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory. The Terriers had a commanding 4-2 lead by the end of the second period, but thanks to two Pioneer goals in the 3rd period, including a clutch, game-tying shorthanded tally by Quentin Shore with just under eight minutes left, DU forced overtime. Just 21 seconds into the extra frame, Ahti Oksanen beat Evan Cowley to lift BU to the home-ice victory.
Boston’s size advantage was obvious throughout the evening. Denver had problems holding onto and pressuring the puck, something head coach Jim Montgomery has stressed all year as an important facet of Pioneer hockey.
Since Halloween, the Pioneers have gone through both the worst and best stretches of hockey in recent memory. Essentially, that means it’s pointless to try to predict what will happen Saturday evening. Instead, below is a profile of Boston University.
Terriers By the Numbers
Overall Record: 21-12-5
Hockey East Record: 12-6-4
Home Record: 14-2-2
Away Record: 6-9-2
Neutral Record: 1-1-1
Team Offense (National Rank)
Goals Scored: 122 (12th)
Goals per game: 3.21 (14th)
Total Shots on Goal: 1,321 (6th)
Shooting Percentage: 9.2% (T24th)
Power Play: 28-131, 21.37% (9th)
Shorthanded Goals Scored: 2 (T33rd)
Team Defense (National Rank)
Goals Allowed: 99 (T24th)
Goals Allowed per Game: 2.61 (T26th)
Total Shots Against: 1,130 (T30th)
Save Percentage: .912 (T23rd)
PIM per Game: 10.63 (30th)
Penalty Killing: 126-154, 81.8% (32nd)
F Danny O’Regan: 16G-27A-43P, 1.13 points per game
F Ahti Oksanen: 15G-21A-36P, 3 game-winning goals
F Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson: 10G-19A-29P, Best name on the team
D Charlie McAvoy: 3G-21A-24P, 51 PIM
D Matt Grzelcyk: 10G-12A-22P, 4 PPG
G Sean Maguire: 13-8-1 (.614), 2.27 GAA, .924 SV%
In a Nutshell
BU is a solid team. They’re not setting the world on fire this year, but they’re no doormat either. They rank in the top half of college hockey in almost every category. However, the Terriers rank in the top 10 in just one, total shots on goal.
It’s tough to find a specific weakness with this BU team. Top to bottom, they’re a good team. They have 12 players who have notched 10+ points. Of those players, eight have 20+. BU has plenty of scoring depth, but nothing that jumps off the page when looking at the season statistics.
With an average height of 6’0.6″ and an average weight of 188.4 lbs, size is going to be BU’s biggest advantage against Denver. In contrast, the Pios have an average height of 5’11.3″ and an average weight of 179.2 lbs. Both rank Denver among the 5 smallest teams in the country.
Boston is a big team and Denver isn’t. Believe it or not, statistically, size is one of the very few categories in which BU leads DU. Denver is better than Boston University, statistically. If the game was played on paper, the Pios would win handily and begin looking ahead to the regional final on Sunday.
As we know, the game isn’t played on paper and Denver shouldn’t look past BU. The Terriers are a good team and are very capable of topping the current Pioneers, despite what the numbers indicate.
Remember, Jack Eichel’s Terriers were in the National Championship game last year where they lost to Providence. Many of the pieces in place on that roster are on this year’s team. They have playoff experience and came within a game of winning it all. That can make for a dangerous playoff team.
Boston University hasn’t played well away from Agganis Arena this year with a 7-10-3 record without home ice advantage. As the higher seed, the Terriers won’t have the ability to match/optimize their lines in St. Paul. Denver has that advantage as the lower seed. That may not have had a serious effect on the Terriers’ home/away record discrepancy, but it certainly played a factor.
Denver and Boston University will face each other on Saturday from the Xcel Energy Center at 4:30 PM MT on ESPNU. Be sure to be near a television if you’re not making the trip to St. Paul.