This weekend the Wolverines take on the Boston University Terriers, who have struggled out of the gate. BU has an impressive group of young defensemen, and a very talented goalie in Brett Bennett, who previously played for the NTDP.
Tonight's game will be on CSTV (they offer a PPV online for $7.95 if you're not getting the game). Tomorrow's game will be aired in live the Boston market on CN8 and on tape-delay in Ann Arbor at 11:00 pm. CN8 streams live on the web.
Since BU isn't a team that we typically get to see, I contacted The Terrier Hockey Fan Blog about answering some questions, and despite the late notice, Terrier Blogger from the site graciously agreed.
1) Obviously BU hasn't gotten off to the start that they would have liked. What's the biggest reason or two for the early struggles of the team? Can you pinpoint a couple of things or are they simply just not playing the kind of hockey that they're capable of playing? Distracted by the Sox & Patriots maybe? What were the preseason thoughts on the team; Is this supposed to be a rebuilding year, or should we still expect to see the Terriers in the tournament come the end of the season?
This is supposed to be a rebounding year, rather than a rebuilding one. Two years ago, BU was sixth in the nation in scoring and won the Hockey East championship. Last year, the offense fizzled, primarily due to injuries and to the loss of the previous year's senior line with no new impact forwards to replace them. This year, with only one forward of consequence to replace, there are three very talented newcomers, Colin Wilson, Nick Bonino and Joe Pereira, all of whom will be in the lineup. Wilson centers the top line.
I'd attribute the slow start to a few things: the forwards are trying too hard to make pretty plays and have passed up good shooting opportunities; some bad puck luck—like BC had against Michigan—when BU shot a puck of one of its own players into the Terrier net, against RMU; the absence of two starting defensemen (Eric Gryba and Dan McGoff); and failure to hold a lead. Of the nine periods played, BU held leads in all but one.
2) You guys are typically a pretty defensive-oriented team (Ed Note: Or maybe not, based on what he said about the goal scoring from a couple years ago). With three senior defensemen graduating, how have the youngsters looked, particularly Kevin Shattenkirk, who I know Michigan was high on? I really liked Brian Strait when he was with USA as well. How is he doing? Who can we expect to see get matched up against the Pacioretty-Porter-Kolarik line?
Brian Strait is playing very well for BU. Very sound and thorough in his own end, Brian has displayed more offensive assertiveness this season and has looked good on the powerplay, teamed with our other rookie blueliner, Colby Cohen. I can't offer an opinion about matchups, especially since as the home team, Michigan gets the last change. But I will point out that Jack Parker insists on getting the same effort from forwards defensively as they produced in the offensive zone—or else they sit.
3) Losing John Curry was obviously a killer, but I saw Brett Bennett play for the NTDP and I was really impressed with him. I'm surprised he didn't make more of an impact last year, but I guess when you have a Hobey candidate goalie, you're not taking him out to play a freshman. Gillespie has gotten two of the three starts this year, however. Does it appear that BU will rotate goalies for the time being--will we likely see both this weekend? Are they similar style goalies?
Curry was indeed a rock, ever since entering the BU-Michigan game in the McFadden tournament three years ago. He had well above average skills but was an ultimate competitor. Gillespie has impressed in his limited opportunities. Two years ago he shut out then-defending NCAA champion Denver and he authored a few gems last year, too. My sources tell me the players are very confident in both goalies. Bennett has a bit of a hybrid style, while Gillespie is a very good positional style. Bennett gets the start tonight and Gillespie tomorrow.
4) Michigan's power play got it going (finally) against NMU last weekend. I would assume that a defensive team like BU has a pretty good penalty kill. How are the special teams? Is BU the type of team that will give us some chances to have a man advantage or are they a pretty disciplined bunch?
BU's ability to stay out of the box and, when they don't, to keep Porter and Kolarik in check will be the critical aspect of the game, IMO. BU has some very good penalty killers up front.—Chris Higgins, Bryan Ewing, Luke Popko, John McCarthy. Having to use some less game-experienced defensemen on the PK certainly hurt against RMU and UAA.
5) What forwards should our fans know about? What player on the team is the most fun to watch?
Peter MacArthur, Bryan Ewing, Chris Higgins and Brandon Yip are the top returnees. Mac has led BU in scoring the past two seasons and Dave Starman says he has the best slapper of any NCAA forward. Higgins has produced a number of highlight reel goals in his two year career. He's fully recovered from an injury that slowed him a bit last season.
Colin Wilson is a projected top 10 draft choice this spring. In comparing him to his U18 linemate James Van Riemsdyk, it's generally agreed that he's less explosive and a shade slower, but a stronger player physically and exceptionally thorough in all three zones. Nick Bonino, according to one respected observer, has "first-round hands, but fourth round wheels." He and Wilson have already improved BU's face-off win percentage.
6) Awhile back there were rumors that Michigan and Michigan State might come out to Boston to play you guys and BC at Fenway. I haven't heard anything about it since the rumor was published. Have you guys heard anything about that--or about a potential Michigan series out there? Red Berenson at least hinted that we might be making an appearance in Boston in the near future since you guys and BC have both come out here.
There hasn't been much written recently about outdoor games at Fenway. IMO, they're a novelty and have been done. I'll just watch reruns of "Mystery Alaska," which was written by David Kelley, whose dad, Jack, coached BU for ten years including back-to-back NCAA titles. [David also is married to this pretty actress :--) ] (Ed Note: I love Mystery, Alaska and I love Boston Legal. Never realized that David E Kelley wrote the former. And I also didn't know that he was related to BU's old coach. I think that's pretty cool)
7) When BC keeps having games fogged out, do you just laugh while sitting in the confines of your gorgeous new arena? I know I'd make fun of MSU all the time if it kept happening to them.
Terrier fans have a cheer [The Song (Ed Note: The music part of "The Song" will be familiar to Michigan fans as MSU plays it as well)] that pretty much covers all matters BC. Hopefully they'll use it a few times this weekend. If not, you can google it.
8) Any parting thoughts on the weekend?
I previously mentioned Brian Strait and Colby Cohen and you noted that BU and Michigan fought tooth and nail over Kevin Shattenkirk. But the best Terrier dman and, right now, the most talented player is 2nd team All-American Matt Gilroy, a Cinderella story if there ever was one. A late bloomer who played a few years of junior after high school, he was recommended to Parker by the father of now graduated defensemen Kevin Schaeffer. Matt had been a forward in juniors, but agreed to walk on as a defenseman. The late-bloomer quickly blossomed and a few games into his freshman year moved into the starting lineup and thrived. He's a strong puck carrier, jumps up into the play well and is very solid in the defensive zone. BU fans can thank their lucky stars that Gilroy, undrafted, told many NHL teams "no, thanks" and returned for another year in Scarlet.
Thanks again to Terrier Blogger from The Terrier Hockey Fan Blog for his thoughts on the weekend. I hope everyone on our team realizes that BU is better than their record indicates and they've definitely got one very good goalie (and another who apparently is good as well).
It's been over 30 years since BU has started a season off winless in their first five games, so a split this weekend wouldn't shock me. I'm hoping for more, maybe expecting more, but the Terriers have too many good players to keep dropping games. And we're due for a stinker of a game at some point.
Matt Gilroy, the defenseman mentioned in Terrier Blogger's thoughts on the weekend, did an interview with CSTV this past week. Here's what he had to say. He sounds like a great story.
I have my own hockey game tonight, so I'll be watching the game on my DVR once I get home. Provided that my laptop will turn on, I'll be doing a tape-delayed live blog of the game, which I will put up after I'm done watching.