There haven’t been many blemishes for the Boston University men’s hockey team. At 17-6-0, the Terriers are just two shy of their victory total from last year, with 11 games to play. They are ranked No. 4 and are near the top of the Hockey East standings, 2 points behind first-place Northeastern with a game in hand.
But one of the rare lowlights came Dec. 9 when they dropped a 9-6 decision at Boston College. They have since won seven of eight, and will get another look at the Eagles in this weekend’s home-and-home series, which begins Friday at Agganis Arena.
Junior goalie Drew Commesso (12-4-0) struggled in the December matchup in his first game back after missing several with an illness, allowing seven goals through two periods. The Norwell native will be in net for this weekend’s opener.
“Any time you play BC, it’s circled on your calendar,” said Commesso. “This weekend, we’re going to be ready. We spent all week preparing. Our coaches have done a great job of preparing us, and we’ve put the work in. Now it’s just time to go have fun and put up our best effort for what should be two great crowds.”
Coach Jay Pandolfo cited turnovers and a lack of structure as the main culprits in the first matchup. Both have been a point of emphasis this week.
“We just gave them way too much time and space,” said Pandolfo. “We didn’t protect the middle of the ice and they took advantage of it. We just have to get back to our structure in the neutral zone, in the defensive zone. You can’t turn pucks over against that team. They’ve got some dangerous players and they’ll make you pay.”
While most of the league’s teams have struggled coming out of the holiday break, BU has flourished, going 6-1.
Senior Matt Brown is the leading scorer for the Terriers with 11 goals and 23 assists, while his teammates on the first line — senior Wilmer Skoog and freshman Devin Kaplan — have also found their scoring touch. Skoog has 15 points in 11 games since Thanksgiving to give him a line of 9-11—20 on the season. Kaplan, who was selected by the Flyers in the third round of the 2022 NHL Draft, checks in at 7-10—17.
“I just think he has his confidence back,” Pandolfo said of Skoog. “He’s really moving his feet well. I think that really helps him. He’s big and strong, really hard to contain when he’s moving his feet. He’s been excellent. He really has.
“I think that line’s found some chemistry, so I think he’s having some fun too. When the puck starts going in, you start feeling good about yourself, and it helps everyone.”
Schedule is a grind
While several Hockey East teams have had the post-holiday blues, Merrimack has been on a particularly steep downward trajectory, going 1-5-1 in its last seven to drop to 15-9-1. The Warriors entered the holiday break ranked in the top five in the national polls as well as the Pairwise. But their recent skid has dropped them to 18th in the system used to determine the field for the 16-team NCAA tournament.
Starting the weekend on time would be one way Merrimack could get back on track. Two weeks ago, Merrimack answered an 8-3 loss to Providence with a 3-0 win the next day. Last week, the Warriors dropped a 5-1 decision at home to Northeastern on Friday, then played much better but still fell, 1-0, at Matthews Arena on Saturday.
“The last two Fridays haven’t been our best games. We played really well on Saturdays both nights,” said coach Scott Borek. “I think we’re working back to the place where we were before the break.”
His squad will have to continue that work away from the North Andover campus. Saturday’s loss was the first of five consecutive games on the road, which will continue this weekend with a pair at Vermont, followed by trips to New Hampshire and Maine the following weekend.
“I’m not happy with the schedule at all,” said Borek. “No team should be getting into this part of the schedule and playing five games in a row, especially including in that Vermont and Maine.
“I’m frustrated with the league that it happened. But that’s our schedule, so we’re going to go play it. We’re going to go grind and try to get W’s. That’s what they presented to us, but I find it to be disrespectful to Merrimack, personally.”
Two at home
Harvard, which dipped slightly to 10th in the polls after a 3-2 loss at Brown, returns home to host Colgate and No. 11 Cornell. Saturday’s matchup of ranked teams has been sold out since October, with the Big Red coming off an impressive 4-0 win over then-No. 1 Quinnipiac … Speaking of the Bobcats, they will look to snap a two-game losing streak when they host Sacred Heart in the opening round of a four-team tournament Friday at 7 p.m. UConn will face Yale in the opener at 4 p.m., with the winners playing Saturday. All games will be played at M&T Bank Arena on the Quinnipiac campus.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.