Friday, March 25, 2016

Denver-BU Square Off In Opening Round Of NCAA's

The break is over. Now, let's just see how they come out of it.

As you know, BU did not make it past Lowell in the Hockey East Quarterfinals and thus did not play last weekend at the Garden. BU was off for the first time since the holiday break. That brings us to Saturday.
The Terriers will be headed west to St. Paul, Minnesota and play Denver in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This is the second straight year BU has qualified for the tournament and that's as far as I will go in reference to last year's appearance. It marks the first time since 2007 that BU has made the dance in two consecutive years. The Terriers were in the NCAA's from 2002-2007 with the exception of 2004.

BU and Denver have already met this year. That was back on Halloween at Agganis. BU was coming off their first two game losing streak since 2014 with back to back losses to UConn and Merrimack. Denver on the other hand, played Boston College the night before and lost by a goal.

The Terriers jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on a Ryan Cloonan goal just 1:58 in. A quick start will be critical for BU. Denver accumulates the majority of their offense from their top line and if BU can get up early, that line is going to be gassed. Easier said than done, as BU's offense has been almost non existent recently.

DU did find an impressive way to come back on BU in that Halloween tilt. With BU leading 4-2 entering the third, things were looking pretty good. That was until Denver out shot BU 18-5 and outscored them 2-0 to tie the game in the final frame. It was not to be for the Pioneers, though. Ahti Oksanen scored his second goal of the game just 21 seconds into overtime to give BU the win.

Fast forward to this weekend, both teams are in very similar spots. At the time, BU was ranked 8th in nation, Denver was 5. This weekend, BU is the 9 seed, DU the 6. Also, BU is on a two game losing streak.

“Maybe the break did us good,” said Quinn. “We’ve had some great practices; I love our attitude right now. One of the things we’ve talked about over the last 10 days is keep building on feeling good, and the best way to feel good is to work hard, and they’ve worked hard.”

As for the rest of the season, Denver lost only six games after coming to Boston in October. They went winless in December, with a pair of losses to North Dakota and St. Cloud. DU all but made up for that tough stretch by reeling off 11 wins in a row from January 30th to March 12th. In that span, they beat North Dakota twice, Colorado College twice, Western Michigan twice and Omaha four times… in a row. Last weekend, DU fell to St. Cloud 4-2 in the NCHC semis.

Speaking of St. Cloud, they will most likely be the team the winner of the BU-DU game faces. The Cloud plays Ferris State, who made an impressive run at the WCHA title, in the early game on Saturday.

Scouting The Pioneers
Like I said earlier, Denver is led by mostly one line. Freshman Dylan Grambrell leads the Pios in points with 43 (15g, 28a) in 38 games played. Right behind him is Trevor Moore and Danton Heinen. Heinon could potentially be on the Bruins third line next week if DU doesn't go to Tampa. He has a team high 19 goals and 22 assists for 42 points. Moore is the set up man on the line. He comes in with 33 assists and 9 goals for 42 points. Other players to watch: Will Butcher (scored vs BU last time, former US WJC Member), Quentin Shore and Troy Terry.

In goal, BU saw Tanner Jaillet back in October. On the year, he has a .925 save percentage and a 2.23 goals against average and three shutouts.

Common Opponents
Boston College
Denver 3, @ BC 4 (October 30)
BU 3 @ BC 5 (January 15)
BC 1, @ BU 1 (January 16)
BC 1, vs BU 0 (OT) (Beanpot Final)

Wisco 1, @ BU 4 (October 17)
Denver 3, @ Wisco 3 (November 20)
Denver 6, @ Wisco 2 (November 21)

Notre Dame
BU 3, @ Notre Dame 2 (Febuary 26)
BU 0, @ Note Dame 1 (February 27)
ND 1, @ Denver 1 (January 1)
ND 2, @ Denver 2 (January 2)

BU and Denver have met four times in the NCAA tournament that dates back to 1948. The first meeting was in 1960. Denver won the third place game in that year's tournament. Until 1976, the field was just four teams in a one game playoff format. The teams met again in '66, with Denver winning again, 4-3. BU picked up their first win in playoff action vs the Pioneers in 1971. They won the opening round of the final four 4-2 against Denver, before beating Minnesota by the same score in the final. Finally, in 1997 the two teams met in the second round of the east regional in Worcester. BU won the game 4-3 in overtime off a Chris Drury goal. That sent BU to the frozen four in Milwaukee where they upset Michigan before losing to North Dakota in the championship game.

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