The last time Boston University and Boston College met, on Nov. 13, the Terriers had a week to savor their 5-0 victory, while the Eagles had seven days to stew about a humiliating home loss. This weekend, the two archrivals gear up for at least two more hours of playoff-style hockey, as the season series rests in the balance of a home-and-home doubleheader between the two squads.
On Friday, No. 13 BU (7-4-1; 5-3-1 Hockey East) returns to the scene of the crime -- Kelly Rink at BC's Conte Forum -- where Jack Parker's team roughed up the No. 3 Eagles (10-4-0; 7-2-0 HE) on their way to their first shutout victory over Boston College in 28 years. And that's exactly why Parker isn't taking the game lightly, despite the Terriers' modest four-game win streak.
"My biggest concern is that we handled them pretty easily the last we played them," said the BU bench boss, who holds a 35-33-8 edge over BC coach Jerry York in the rivalry. "It was a 5-0 game that looked like it was a huge gap, when in reality, if you looked at the chances in the first two periods, it could have easily been a 4-3 game or a 3-3 game.
"I don't think they got great goaltending, and I don't think they played hard after they got down 4-love," said Parker. "I know they're a much better team than we saw that night.
"I think we can still play better than we did too, but I don't want my guys thinking it'll be the same effort from BC. They'll be hell-bent for leather against us, instead of the way they played us last time, which was a little bit of a cruise control effort."
The two biggest questions facing Boston College coming into Friday's tilt were (1) who would start in goal -- coach Jerry York said on Wednesday that he hadn't decided between junior Parker Milner and freshman Brian Billett -- and (2) whether the Eagles' vaunted power play would make an appearance. Milner was victimized not only in the BU rout, but also on a last-second goal that allowed the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to steal an 3-2 overtime win on Nov. 18. A week later, York gave Billet the nod, and the freshman from Maine responded by backstopping BC's 3-2 victory over Yale in New Haven, Conn.
"We certainly feel better about the depth with our goaltending," said York on Wednesday, without tipping his hand on who would start on Friday.
However, the BC coach was much more direct about the team's inept offense. After scoring 41 goals in their first nine games (while building an 8-1 record), the Eagles have lit the lamp only nine times in their past five contests (resulting in a 2-3-0 mark).
"Our mindset has to be more shots on goal," said York. "They create rebounds, they create scrambles, they create good offensive situations. Against BU last time out, we over-passed the puck, and we never took advantage of some outnumbered situations, so that's one of the reasons we were shut out. Our thought process has to be that we have to shoot the puck when it's available."
Particularly glaring has been BC's lack of production with the man advantage.
"We're not playing well on the power play, and we've made a lot of changes personnel-wise, and set-wise," said York. "We've always thought, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. But if it is broke, you've got to get the right personnel in there. We've worked upon rectifying that problem."
York didn't pull any punches when it came to assessing his team's shortcomings the last time out against the Terriers.
"We certainly need to play better in all facets of the game if we want to come out on the right side of Friday night," he said. "Just a few short weeks ago, we were beaten soundly in every phase of the game. That was a real good lesson for us."
York said on Wednesday that he likes the intensity his team brought to practice this week, which bodes well for a team that plays four games in the next eight days. Parker, conversely, said he hopes that BC doesn't find its Midas touch on Friday. He said BU senior Kieran Millan will start between the pipes, adding that he expects his defense to deliver another stalwart effort, typified by the 21 shots that the Terriers blocked in a 2-1 overtime win against Cornell at Madison Square Garden last Saturday.
"Special teams are always important," said Parker. "We did a good job, and Kieran did a great job, keeping (Boston College) off the board during their power plays last time we played them. That's a hard thing to do, because they've got one of the best power plays in the nation. And they just came off a game when they were 0-for-7 on the power play against Yale. So they haven't been going as well of late as they were earlier in the season.
"We're not rooting for them to figure it out. But they could figure it out any second. It's a real big part of their game. Penalty kills and power plays will be real important."
To guard against an Eagles outburst, Parker wants to see his troops skating hard, and disciplined, from the opening faceoff to the final buzzer.
"We have to understand that it's got to be a 60-minute effort. You're not going to play a perfect 60 minutes, but you've got to make the effort for 60 minutes," said Parker. "And we haven't put a lot of those types of games together. We certainly did against BC. We didn't do that against Vermont (a tough 4-3 win). We started to get cute, and thinking about 'my goal,' instead of playing the right way.
"We fade in and out of that a lot this year, and we did that last year," he said. "We've got four wins in a row, and generally we've played well in all four of those games, but some of them we've reverted back to not being consistent in our effort and our focus."
If the Terriers need any further motivation, they should keep in mind that a win on Friday gives them the league series for the season. If BC prevails, it all comes down to Saturday's rematch at BU's Agganis Arena.
Weekend games of note
In other action, the No. 1-ranked Merrimack Warriors (9-0-1; 6-0-1 HE), who garnered 82 of a possible 84 first-place votes while taking the top spots in both national polls, put their undefeated record on the line against a rejuvenated Providence Friars squad (6-6-01; 4-3-0 HE) for a home-and-home series.
Likewise, the New Hampshire Wildcats (6-6-2; 4-4-1 HE), sitting in fourth place in the Hockey East standings, take on the surprising Lowell River Hawks (7-4-0; 4-3-0 HE) twice, the first game at Lowell's Tsongas Center on Friday, and the return match at UNH's Whittemore Center.
The Northeastern Huskies (4-7-2; 3-7-2 HE), fresh off their 4-1 win over No. 19 Michigan, travel to South Bend, Ind., for a pair against Notre Dame (10-3-3; 7-2-3 CCHA), while the Maine Black Bears (4-6-2; 3-5-1 HE) take a cross-region bus ride to Burlington, Vt., to play two against the struggling UVM Catamounts (3-8-1; 1-6-1 HE).
In interleague action, the Harvard Crimson (3-3-2; 2-32 ECAC), following a crazy 7-6 win over UNH on Nov. 22 and a hard-fought 3-3 tie against Dartmouth last Friday, travel across the Commonwealth to face the UMass Minutemen (4-7-3; 2-6-3 HE) in Amherst on Friday.