In many respects, this Thanksgiving was to serve as a return to normal times. After eschewing big gatherings in 2020, people were more than ready to get together with loved ones and resume their holiday traditions.
In men’s college hockey, that means taking a break from conference play, and in some cases, squaring off with old rivals. The Boston College men’s hockey team was scheduled to do just that, traveling to South Bend, Ind. to face Notre Dame on Friday, then returning to campus to host Harvard on Tuesday.
But Monday’s announcement BC would have to postpone those games due to COVID-19 protocols and “out of an abundance of caution” serves as a stark reminder that we’re not quite out of the woods with regard to the pandemic.
Even with the Fighting Irish leaving Hockey East for the Big Ten after the 2016-17 season, the two schools have continued the rivalry, meeting at least once a year before the pandemic limited schools to conference games last season. The game against Harvard would have been the first meeting between the teams since the 2020 Beanpot.
“Obviously the health and safety of the student athletes is most important,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “For us, and I’m sure for their players as well, it’s disappointing. We love the Beanpot matchups and non-conference games. Hopefully, we’ll be able to find a spot that we’ll be able to get that game rescheduled.”
Efforts are being made to reschedule both games. The proximity between Harvard and BC would seem to make that matchup more likely to happen, although it may not be easy. A mid-week game would seem to be the most feasible solution.
“It is a challenge. As much as the college hockey season at some points seems like a long season, it’s also super-condensed,” said Donato. “It’s something I think we’re both determined to make happen if we can, but we’ll see if we’re successful.”
While the BC game has been postponed, the Crimson (5-2-1) will be in action Friday night against another Hockey East foe when they host UNH (5-7-1). It’s a busy week for Harvard, which defeated Brown, 5-2 on Tuesday, with forward Nick Abruzzese recording a goal and three assists in the win. The junior captain talked about playing over the holiday weekend.
“Not being at home with our families is tough, but I think most of us are going to be spending Thanksgiving with our teammates,” said Abruzzese, a native of Slate Hill, New York. “Any time you can spend a little time outside the rink, a little different environment with your teammates is pretty fun. You still definitely enjoy it.”
The Wildcats have proven to be a difficult foe, coming off of a 2-1 victory over UMass and having defeated Providence earlier this season. Goalie Mike Robinson recorded 32 saves in the win and was named the conference’s goalie of the week.
Devon Levi named rookie of week
Robinson wasn’t the only Hockey East netminder coming away with honors last week. Northeastern’s Devon Levi was named rookie of the week after going 1-0-1 against Boston University, including his fifth shutout of the season with 38 saves in a 1-0 overtime win. That was followed by a 33-save performance that saw the Huskies prevail in a shootout after a 2-2 tie.
The Huskies (9-4-1) will have a home-and-home series with RPI, spending Thanksgiving in Troy, N.Y. before facing the Engineers on Friday. The series will conclude Sunday afternoon at Matthews Arena.
BU ready for Red Hot Hockey game
BU (4-8-2) is head to New York to take on Cornell at Madison Square Garden in the latest edition of the Red Hot Hockey game.
“It’s a great opportunity for our guys and our fans,” said coach Albie O’Connell. “The only tough part is traffic during Black Friday getting down there, so we’re leaving a little earlier this time. That sort of venue, and that game, and that stage, the guys will be ready for that.”
Minutemen stick close to home
UMass (7-4-1) is off this weekend, but the Minutemen will not be straying far from Amherst. The team practiced early Wednesday, then had Thanksgiving off before returning to practice Friday afternoon as coach Greg Carvel sought to give his banged-up bunch some time off. UMass was missing four of its top six forwards for the UNH series.
“We’re going to put them all in bubble wrap and pray the hell that none of them get hurt,” said Carvel. “We don’t play, but we can’t give extended breaks to these guys. They’re not going home, but it will be good for them to catch their breath. We’ll try to get a couple of guys back.”
The Minutemen will next be in action on Dec. 3 to begin a home-and-home series with a surging UMass Lowell squad. The River Hawks (7-2-2) had a nine-game unbeaten streak snapped with a 2-1 loss at UConn on Saturday.
Tickets available for Frozen Four
If you want to check out the Frozen Four at TD Garden in April, better act fast. Hockey East Commissioner Steve Metcalf said there are less than 2,000 tickets left for the event. If you missed out but still want to see college hockey at TD Garden, the Hockey East semifinals and championship will be returning in March, with tickets expected to go on sale in December.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.