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Scouting Report: Merrimack vs. Boston University

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Merrimack College and Boston University will meet on Saturday night at Lawler Arena, opening the Hockey East portion of the schedule for both teams. Exclusively for TMR VIP Members, here’s our scouting report …

Storylines

(1) BU defenseman Chad Krys, a second-round pick in 2016, will be out of the lineup for BU with a lower-body injury.

(2) Merrimack could be without Derek Petti and Tyler Drevitch, who were both banged up in a game at Army last Saturday; their status won’t be known until game time.

(3) The matchup will feature a pair of new head coaches, with Scott Borek going up against BU’s Albie O’Connell.

(4) BU associate head coach Paul Pearl was a finalist for the Merrimack head coaching job that went to Borek; Pearl was then the associate head coach at Harvard but joined O’Connell’s staff after he got the BU job this summer.

Boston University’s Offense

Guess what? BU can score goals.

Shocker, I know.

The Terriers will roll into Lawler Arena tomorrow night with six drafted forwards, including two who were taken in the first round (Shane Bowers and Joel Farabee).

Bobo Carpenter is a top scorer for the Terriers (2 goals, 1 assist last weekend) and will be a central figure in the top-six all season. With so much name value on this roster, people overlook Patrick Harper, who has been a point-per-game player since joining BU two years ago. He had 37 points in 38 games as a freshman and then had 21 points in 20 games last season.

Let’s see … who else?

Ty Amonte didn’t score much as a freshman but he’s dripping with skill. Junior Patrick Curry is also in line for some bigger minutes now that he’s a junior, and he scored last weekend against Minnesota State.

Now, the BU offense struggled, to a certain extent, against a stronger, older Minnesota State team last weekend. Over the last couple of seasons, it’s taken BU — typically one of the youngest teams in the nation — a while to get going. BU started last season 2-4-1 in October (they finished 22-14-4) and in 2015-16, the Terriers started 3-2 (finished 24-12-3). In 2015-16, after appearing in the national championship game, BU started the season 3-3, and that doesn’t include a loss to the U.S. U-18 team (it was an exhibition); that 2015-16 season included an October loss at Merrimack, 4-3.

BU has a young team again, and against an older and physically stronger Minnesota State team last week, the Terriers struggled with puck possession. MSU out-attempted BU 76-47 on Friday night and 71-63 on Saturday night. Now BU has to come to Lawler and play in a rink that lends itself to more physicality, with tighter corners and not much room. But, the Terriers are facing a Merrimack program that is on the younger side itself, especially by its standards.

The Matchup: There’s no question that BU has more skill. The Terriers annually average more goals than Merrimack and BU has more forwards drafted in the first round than Merrimack has drafted altogether (not that being drafted is the be-all, end-all). The Terriers can score in bunches, and BU wins the matchup here.

Boston University’s Defense

Even with Krys out, BU’s defense will feature four drafted defensemen on Saturday night. David Farrance had four assists last weekend, and he might not even be the best of this bunch. Krys is very good — he might be BU’s top defensemen — but other drafted defensemen include Dante Fabbro (he’s a first-round pick), Cam Crotty and Kasper Kotkansalo.

Oh! And we haven’t mentioned BU’s first-round drafted goaltender yet … Jake Oettinger.

Oddly enough, Oettinger has struggled since he popped as a freshman and was selected No. 26 overall by the Dallas Stars. He had a .927 save percentage (2.11 GAA) two years ago but struggled last season. His overall numbers (.915/2.45) don’t look bad, but he was fluttering around .900 (and even below) for long stretches of last season.

The Matchup: Craig Pantano came to Merrimack as a third-string goalie and Oettinger came to BU as a first-round talent, but Pantano has been the most consistent goalie between the two of them over the last 1-1/2 seasons. Oettinger’s ceiling is obviously higher, but if you were to chart performance on a line chart, Pantano has been the most consistent. Given Oettinger’s performance over the last 40 games (going back to last year), I think the goalies in this game will be fairly even. BU’s defense is much more skilled, however, and much deeper. Johnathan Kovacevic is Merrimack’s best player, and he’s probably a top-two or top-three defenseman on BU’s roster, but BU just has so much more depth on the blue line.

The Final Word

BU has too many weapons for Merrimack to handle right now. The Warriors have a chance, because they always have a chance at home, but it’s going to require a very good effort from whoever gets the start in net, and it might require some luck along the way as well.

I think we’ll see Merrimack try to make it a rough night for the Terriers, who play an exhibition tonight against the NTDP. Scott Borek has said over and over that he wants the Warriors to be the hardest-working team in the ring and to be tough to play against. Merrimack can make life a living hell for BU if they up their physicality.

BU is the odds-on favorite to get the win, but Merrimack can’t make it easy.

About Mike McMahon

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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