When the BU men’s ice hockey team began the 2017–2018 season, expectations were high: the Terriers were ranked second in both national preseason polls and were favorites to win Hockey East. Back-to-back wins against two ranked opponents solidified the expectations. However, after two upsets at home against an unranked Minnesota State team—a 6-3 loss and a 3-0 shutout—fans began to worry.
Starting conference play last weekend, the Terriers rebounded with a 2-2 tie at home and a 6-3 win on the road against Hockey East rival UConn, but with a 3-2-1 record (1-0-1 Hockey East), they need to play more consistently. Tonight the Terriers face what could be the season’s most formidable foe: the reigning NCAA national champion Denver Pioneers.
“They’re kind of a rival now,” says captain Brandon Hickey (CGS’16, Questrom’18). “We’ve played against them a ton in the last couple of years. We always have really good hard-fought games against them.”
In the past two seasons, BU and Denver have gone head-to-head four times, with Denver holding a 3-1 lead. Last season, the Pioneers hosted the Terriers on back-to-back nights, pulling a series sweep.
“They’ve always given us some trouble since I’ve been here,” says assistant tri-captain Jordan Greenway (CGS’17, CAS’19).
The Terriers see tonight’s contest as a chance to prove themselves legitimate competitors for the national championship. Denver “accomplished something last year that we’d like to accomplish this year,” Hickey says. “You’ve got to come in there and play your best game because they’re definitely going to do that exact same thing. They did it all last year, and we’re trying to prove to ourselves that we belong in that kind of company.”
The game promises to be one of the most exciting of the season. Denver is not only the reigning champion, but the only team in the country ranked ahead of BU at the beginning of the season. The Pioneers remain the country’s top team, with an undefeated record of 2-0-2.
“They’re the benchmark for how good your team is,” says head coach David Quinn (CAS’89). “They return an awful lot of firepower. They brought in a lot of good players. They’re well coached.”
Central to the Denver team is a trio of players who each recorded at least 40 points last season: Henrik Borgström (43), Troy Terry (45), and Dylan Gambrell (42). They currently lead the Pioneers with five points each and are expected to be a major threat to the Terriers.
BU boasts its own impressive roster. Among those to watch tonight are Shane Bowers (CGS’19), who has four goals and an assist so far, Patrick Harper (CGS’18), with four goals and four assists, and assistant tri-captain Bobo Carpenter (CGS’17, COM’19), who completed a six-point weekend with a hat trick against UConn last Saturday, earning the Hockey East Player of the Week spot.
Players say they are keenly aware of the stakes in tonight’s game. A win would send a message that they are serious contenders for the Frozen Four.
“We want to come out with a win and show everyone that we’re going to be the better team this year,” Greenway says. “It’s a game where we need to prove that we’re a team that’s going to win championships this year, and if we want to do that, we need to beat bigger teams like Denver.”
The BU men’s ice hockey team hosts Denver tonight, Friday, October 27, at 7:30 p.m., at Agganis Arena, 925 Commonwealth Ave. Tickets are free for students with a sports pass, $17 for BU students, faculty, and staff without a sports pass, and $22 for the general public. Purchase tickets at the Agganis Arena ticket office. The Patriot League Network will broadcast the game live.
In celebration of this year’s Scarlet Fever, BU’s annual spirit day, BU Athletics has dubbed tonight’s game “Red the Rink” and are encouraging all students to wear red to the game.
Jonathan Chang can be reached at email@example.com.