Scouting BU Hockey’s Playoff Opponent: Denver

Photo by: Dakota Randall Northeastern Men's Hockey team poses with Hockey East Championship trophy Saturday Night
Written by Marisa Ingemi

By Marisa Ingemi
BU News Service

The Boston University hockey season lives on.

After falling to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East quarterfinals last weekend, the Terriers will have a chance to make a championship run, and that path will go through Minnesota next weekend. Yesterday it was announced that Boston University would be drawn into the west bracket, where the Terriers will face the University of Denver.

BU was one of a record six Hockey East teams to make the national tournament. Last season, BU made it to the championship game where the Terriers lost to fellow Hockey East team Providence College.

This won’t be the first time this season that the Terriers will face Denver. BU defeated the Pioneers in overtime, 5-4 at home on Halloween of this past year, a game where Terriers’ forward Ahti Oksanen scored two goals. BU led 4-2 going into the third period when Denver tied it, before Oksanen scored just 21 seconds into overtime to win the game. This is also the fifth time the Terriers and Pioneers have ever faced each other in the playoffs, with BU winning the last matchup in 1997.

Denver went 0-1-1 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs, with a loss to St. Cloud and a consolation game tie with North Dakota. Before the loss to St. Cloud, the Pioneers had not lost a game in regulation in 2016. Troy Terry, a freshman forward, has come alive with points in three of his last four games.

BU’s offense is slightly better than Denver at 14th in the nation compared to 16th. The weapons of attack for both rosters are similar, as they both use defensemen to get on the scoreboard. Led by captain Matt Grzelcyk, who has ten goals, and 24 points from freshman Charlie McAvoy, the Terrier defense has been able to put points on the board all season. Brandon Fortunato has also added 22 points.

Meanwhile, Denver has 29 points from defenseman Will Butcher and 18 from Nolan Zajac. Buther’s 0.81 goals per game is tied for fourth in the nation by a defenseman. The defense allows just over two goals per game, good for 13th in the nation and considerably better than the 26th rank of Boston University.

Sean Maguire has played nearly every game of the second half of the season in net for BU and has settled down the defense, but BU is still prone to allowing big goal games, as evidenced by the 5-0 loss to Lowell last week. Maguire’s goals against average is 2.27, just a tick higher than Tanner Jailbert’s 2.23 goals against for Denver.

Denver’s forwards are led by a line of Danton Heinen, Dylan Gambrell, and Trevor Moore, which has a combined point total of 127. The Pioneers power play isn’t excellent, with a 17% clip, but the Terriers have a tendency to take penalties which could allow chances. BU allowed two power play goals to Lowell, a low-scoring team, in the first game of the Hockey East quarterfinals.

BU went 1-1-1 in neutral site games this season and 2-2 in the playoffs overall after sweeping UMass Amherst before falling to Lowell. BU has played in many tough games this season, falling to Boston College 1-0 in the Beanpot before losing in the conference playoffs to Lowell. Denver will be the toughest test yet, and the two teams will face off Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

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