Nov. 11, 2010

By Jen Gunnels

NCAA

The last time the Boston University Terriers were unbeaten through the first eight games of the season, the year was 1977. Head coach Jack Parker was in his fifth year behind the bench and watched his Terriers win their first 21 games that season en route to the national championship. This years Terriers are off to a nation-leading 6-0-2 undefeated start and recently recaptured the USA TODAY/USA Hockey No. 1 ranking for the first time since winning the national championship in 2009.

I think there have been two major factors here,” Parker said. Weve had great goaltending so far this season, especially from Kieran Millan. And the other thing is our attitude. We dont get down when were behind and we keep fighting. We say that attitude is everything around here, and our attitude has been terrific.”

Junior goaltender Kieran Millan has been between the pipes in six contests so far this season and has amassed a .936 save percentage, good enough for seventh in the nation. The Terriers also boast the best penalty kill squad in the nation, allowing opponents to convert on just three of 40 opportunities so far. Pacing a balanced Terrier offense that has seen 20 men score at least one point so far this season is junior forward Chris Connolly, who has collected 10 points on the year.

With sixteen underclassmen and just one senior, the Terriers are leaning heavily on a talented freshmen class that has so far stepped up to fill key holes in the roster. Freshmen forwards Charlie Coyle and Sahir Gill each have eight points on the year and a share of 10th place nationally for points per game among rookies.

Ive been coaching for 38 years and never had a group of freshmen play this many important roles on the ice,” Parker said. Were getting quite a lot of important ice time from this class. Theres youthful enthusiasm, but there are youthful mistakes as well. I think we have the talent to compete, but were facing teams that are much more experienced than we are.”

But Parkers young squad is gaining experience quickly. Having already faced two ranked opponents, the now No. 1 Terriers look to continue their unbeaten streak this weekend in a home-and-home series with Hockey East foe Merrimack.

Its been business as usual this week, which is enthusiastic practices and a lot of focus,” Parker said. What will be more interesting is how we react and how Merrimack reacts to the number one ranking this weekend. I told my guys this week, ‘Ive got good news and bad news. The good news is, were ranked number one. The bad news is, were ranked number one. Merrimack doesnt need any more rationale for bringing their sky high effort to the ice.”

The Terriers will put the No. 1 ranking to the test in the coming weeks, facing a tough Hockey East schedule before the holiday break. Merrimack took a game from the Terriers in the Hockey East quarterfinals last year and has already defeated then-No. 2 Boston College earlier this season. After this weekends clash with the Warriors, the Terriers will go on to face No. 8 New Hampshire and No. 6 Boston College in the coming weeks.

I picked those three teams, along with Maine who we just faced, to be the top four teams in the league in the coaches preseason poll. If we can keep our heads above water in these next few weeks, then when we have to face these teams again later in the season we will have closed that experience gap because we will have played a lot of games by then. I think the next few weeks will tell us who we are, and who we can become.”

Looking Ahead to Other Weekend Action

Another Hockey East team to watch is No. 8 New Hampshire, unbeaten in its last six games and hosting Massachusetts in a pair of weekend contests. The Wildcats unbeaten streak included five road games and three nationally-ranked opponents, including most recently the No. 6 Boston College Eagles, who travel to Vermont for a weekend series. The Eagles and Catamounts were 2-2 in four contests last season and meet for the first time this season on Friday night. Vermont was one of only two teams to beat the eventual national champions twice last season.

First place in the CCHA is up for grabs in a weekend series between No. 11 Notre Dame and No. 9 Michigan, currently sitting at the number one and two spots in the league. The matchup will feature a sibling rivalry—Wolverine senior forward Matt Rust will face off against his younger brother, Irish freshman forward Brian Rust. The Fighting Irish have faced Michigan more than any other opponent, 122 times, and trail in the all-time series 49-68-5. It will be a defensive battle in Ohio as No. 13 Alaska travels to No. 3 Miami for a weekend series. Miami junior goaltender Connor Knapp has shut out the Nanooks both times he has faced them in his career, while Alaska junior goalie Scott Greenham tied the schools program record for career shutouts (seven) on Friday with a 3-0 win over Michigan.

No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth hosts Michigan Tech for a weekend series in an attempt to retain the top spot in the WCHA, while No. 10 North Dakota and No. 14 Wisconsin, who each have a share of second place in the league, will square off in a pair of weekend games in Madison. The Badgers lead the all-time series with the Fighting Sioux 43-24-3 when hosting. Locked in a three-way tie with the Badgers and Fighting Sioux for second place in the WCHA are the Mavericks of Nebraska-Omaha, who are off to their best start in program history at 7-1. The No. 6 Mavs will look to stay unbeaten in league action when they travel to St. Cloud State for a weekend series.

Unbeaten through four games, No. 4 Yale is heading west for a pair of nonconference road games, facing Colorado College on Saturday and the Air Force Academy on Sunday. The Bulldogs are averaging a nation-leading six goals per game through four contests. In other ECAC Hockey action, No. 12 Union clashes with RPI in a weekend series. Senior forward Adam Presizniuk is one point shy of becoming Unions all-time leading scorer in the programs Division I history and one assist shy of becoming the all-time assist leader during the same period.

In Atlantic Hockey action, league-leading Robert Morris opens its home schedule with a weekend series against Sacred Heart after opening the season with an impressive 6-2 record. The Colonials only two losses so far this season both came in overtime, and the squad has not allowed an opponent to score more than three goals in a game so far this season.