Icemen Do or Die Tonight Against Maine
Victor advances to Hockey East championship game
They fought their way to this point, seizing a 3-0 win over Merrimack last Sunday in the penalty-rich finale of a three-game Hockey East quarterfinal series. The thumping of Merrimack gave goaltender Kieran Millan (CAS’12) his first shutout of the season, a fine way to enter the semifinals. But tonight, the Terrier men’s hockey team (18-16-3) must defeat the fourth-ranked Maine Black Bears in the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden. If they win, they live to play tomorrow night, skating against the winner of tonight’s other contest, between hometown rival Boston College and Vermont, at 5 p.m. Saturday’s championship game is at TD Garden at 7 p.m.
The matchup with Maine is the last chance for a team that has played so erratically that coach Jack Parker spent much of the season wondering which team would show up: Jekyll or Hyde. Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97) recently told the Boston Globe, “Friday night, yes, there’s the BU hockey team. Saturday night, oh my God. Sunday night, yes, there’s the BU hockey team.”
But even if the right team shows up tonight, skating against Maine will be no walk in the park.
“Maine is a really good hockey team,” says six-foot-four, 219-pound Terrier defenseman Eric Gryba (CAS’10). “They are very skilled. To beat them, we’re going to have to keep a really solid defense. We have to limit their opportunities and limit our turnovers.”
Gryba admits that the pressure is big time. But big-time pressure is something the team knows well. “Most of us have played in big games before,” he says, citing November’s Madison Square Garden contest against Cornell before a crowd of 38,000. “We know how to deal.”
One of Gryba’s newer teammates has been dealing with pressure particularly well. Fellow defenseman Max Nicastro (CGS’11) was named on Wednesday to the 2010 Hockey East All-Rookie Team. Nicastro, who played in the first 36 games of the season before a lacerated forearm in last Saturday’s game pulled him from the lineup, has tallied 15 points on 3 goals and 12 assists this season. It remains unclear if his injury will keep him off the ice tonight.
Gryba says that for the most part, his teammates have found different ways of taking the pressure off. “Some guys get nervous and talk a lot,” he says. “Some guys have their own ritual they do.” But the most important thing, he says, is practice. “We practice,” he says. “We practice and then we practice. Winning games like this is basically about coming prepared, and we are coming prepared. We all know what it’s going to take to win. We’ve done it before.”
The Terriers face off against Maine in the Hockey East semifinals tonight at 8 p.m. at the TD Garden. The victor advances to the championship game, against the winner of tonight’s Vermont-BC game, on Saturday, March 20, at 7 p.m., again at TD Garden. Ticket information is available here.+ Comments