Hockey East Semifinal #2: No. 3 Boston University vs. No. 4 Maine
Game Time: 8 p.m.
Game Location: TD Garden, Boston, MA
TV: NESN in New England, NBC Sports Network outside of New England
Both Maine and Boston University will look to follow through on some lofty expectations Friday evening when they face each other in the second Hockey East semifinal.
Boston University came into the season with extremely high expectations and a talent filled roster. But three departures and several bouts of sleepwalker style play later, the Terriers fell into the league's third playoff seed and struggled against the University of New Hampshire in their quarterfinal series last weekend. They lost the series' first game in double overtime, 3-2, won the second game outright 4-2, but fell behind by three goals before storming back in double overtime, 5-4, to clinch the series.
Boston University head coach Jack Parker knows that falling behind won't serve his team well this weekend, and has tried to get that message to his team. "We can’t have any lapses like we did in the first half of the third game or the entire first game against UNH," he said earlier this week. "We have to be focused and ready to play."
Goaltender Kieran Millan has been putting up stellar numbers - including a league record setting 68 save performance on Sunday evening - but he still needs to control his rebounds better if the Terriers are going to stop offenses like those of Maine and Boston College.
Millan also needs more assistance from his defensemen - an aspect of the roster that has fluctuated a bit. Down a defenseman since Max Nicastro left the team in February and being forced to play rookie Alexx Privetera, who has a broken wrist that was hit hard again during Sunday's game, the Terriers sometimes rely too heavily on sophomore Adam Clendening, leaving him on the ice for several shifts at a time. The First Team Hockey East defenseman's ice time has gone through the roof, and is a key part of a penalty kill unit that has seen too much ice lately.
"It would be nice if we could stay out of the box - we’ve done that a little bit better down the stretch here – and It would be nice if we could get our power play going again," remarked Parker.
The penalty kill is also a well rehearsed aspect of Maine's play. Maine played an old-school, Slap Shot movie worthy quarterfinal series against Merrimack last weekend. They won the first game, 2-1, lost the second, 5-2, and clinched the series with a 2-1 win. The Black Bears had 24 penalties during Saturday evening's loss, and the two teams combined for 87 in the three game series. Maine is second in the league in penalty minutes, with 708 over 37 games.
"Everyone wants to stay out of the box," said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. "We don’t want to get drawn into that type of game. But our games down the stretch have all been very tight defensive battles, hard fought and physical and we are very comfortable in that type of game."
The Maine first line features Hockey East's Player of the Year, Spencer Abbott, and Joey Diamond flanking center Brian Flynn. The line is one of the most dangerous in the nation, combining for 60 goals and 89 assists this season.
The Black Bears are chock filled with experience (only four freshmen or sophomores played on the four forward lines used last weekend), and with that comes a desire to finally reach the championship pinnacle. Maine's seniors and juniors have experienced only frustration the last three years - in 2009, they lost in a three game quarterfinal series to Boston University, in 2010, they lost the championship game in overtime to Boston College, and last year they couldn't make it out of the quarterfinals against Merrimack.