The first matchup of the season between the Boston College and Boston University men’s hockey teams is always a highly anticipated event in the college hockey season.
Not even a pandemic could dampen the enthusiasm for this year’s installment of the crosstown rivalry, with the two teams scheduled for a home-and-home series, beginning Friday night at Conte Forum before shifting to Walter Brown Saturday. If anything, there might be even more intrigue heading into this weekend.
BC is the No. 1-ranked team in the country with a 10-2-1 record, and has the nation’s longest unbeaten streak, 5-0-1 in its last six games. The Eagles’ depth has been on display throughout the season. In addition to playing without forwards Matt Boldy and Alex Newhook, goalie Spencer Knight, and defenseman Drew Helleson when the quartet was playing in the World Junior Championships, the team was also without senior forward Logan Hutsko for a pair of games due to injury. Newhook has been out with an injury, but is back on the ice for practice, wearing a non-contact jersey and inching closer to a return.
That depth came into focus again in BC’s most recent victory, a 6-2 win at Northeastern on Tuesday. Six Eagles scored goals and had multi-point performances in the win, including junior captain Marc McLaughlin, who leads the team with eight goals and six assists.
“He’s scoring goals, but he’s checking well,” BC coach Jerry York said of the defenseman from North Billerica. “There are some big strong guys on our club, as well as some shifty guys. There’s a good blend. Our depth is excellent.”
Senior defenseman Michael Karow, playing in his 120th game for the Eagles, scored his first collegiate goal in the third period and was swarmed by his teammates.
The sample size is not quite as large for BU, which has only played six games after delaying the start of the season until January. After dropping their opener, the Terriers responded by winning five straight, including a sweep of No. 10 UMass. The series with BC was supposed to be played last weekend, but the school paused all winter sports through the end of January before returning this week.
Senior defenseman David Farrance has made the most of the Terriers’ limited ice time, recording four goals and 10 assists to lead the NCAA in points per game at 2.3, and is a +4, earning player of the month honors both within the conference, as well as nationally.
“I think that anyone that sees what David does on the ice, they understand that he has the ability to beat guys one on one. and he’s got the ability to thread the needle,” said coach Albie O’Connell. “He’s an elite player. I think he’s one of the best players in the country, and it’s luxury to have him this year.”
In any other year, both teams would be playing at TD Garden in the first week of February as part of the Beanpot tournament, but that was ruled out when Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League canceled their winter sports. While there will not be fans in attendance for either game this weekend, O’Connell does not think that will diminish the excitement.
“It sounds like it would be strange, but once the games get going, the intensity is there. You don’t really notice,” said O’Connell. “Guys are competitive and passionate. At the end of the day, points are on the line, and it’s an exciting opportunity for us.”
NU women ranked third in nation
The Northeastern women’s team moved up one spot to No. 3 in the country with last weekend’s sweep of Merrimack, improving to 11-1-1 on the season. The Huskies have posted four straight shutouts, with senior goalie Aerin Frankel in net for three of them. Sophomore Gwyneth Philips got the win on Saturday.
Frankel has six shutouts in her nine starts this season and has not allowed a goal in more than 200 minutes. She has a school record 25 career shutouts, and is just one away from tying the Hockey East record for career shutouts in league play behind Boston College’s Katie Burt (24.) After going 8-0-1 with a 0.48 goals against average, Frankel was named the national goaltender of the month for January.
Junior forward Alina Mueller, a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award last season, had five goals and 11 assists in January to edge out teammate Skylar Fontaine for Hockey East player of the month.
Junior Maureen Murphy, a transfer from Providence, recorded a hat trick in Friday’s win over Merrimack and was named the conference’s player of the week. The Huskies are scheduled to play Holy Cross (3-10) in a home-and-home series this weekend.
UMass, NU men to drop puck Tuesday
The UMass men’s team will have this weekend off before heading to Matthews Arena to face Northeastern on Tuesday. The Minutemen swept UMass Lowell last weekend to improve to 11-5-3 on the season and maintain their No. 10 ranking. Goalie Filip Linberg stopped 44 of 45 shots over the two games to earn the wins, and was named Hockey East’s goaltender of the month … Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist recorded his 250th win in last week’s 6-3 victory over Air Force. The Falcons are 2-1 since returning from a five-week hiatus … Northeastern freshman Dylan Jackson took Hockey East’s rookie of the month honors after tallying three goals in five games, including a pair of game-winners.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.