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Patrick Donnelly | | December 9, 2022

The Battle of Comm. Ave leads this week's men's college hockey slate

2009 Frozen Four classic: Boston U. scores twice after pulling goalie

The storied rivalry between Boston University and Boston College is the headliner atop this week's men's college hockey schedule, which also features the historic battle between Michigan and Michigan State.

Here's what you need to know and how to keep up with this weekend's action.

Battle of Comm. Ave: No. 7 Boston University visits rival Boston College

For the first time since Feb. 26, 1964, neither Jack Parker nor Jerry York will be involved in this rivalry, following York's retirement after last season. Now, it's first-year head coaches — and legends at their programs — Jay Pandolfo and Greg Brown leading the BU and BC, respectively. 

The Terriers and the Eagles may be at different points in their success cycles (at least at the moment), but the matchups in this rivalry are almost always close. 

BU (10-4-0, 7-3-0 HEA) enters Friday's action in the midst of a four-game winning streak, prevailing in seven of their last eight. The Terriers swept New Hampshire last time out after enduring one of the strongest stretches of a schedule in college hockey, facing ranked opponents in 11-straight contests. In that span, Jay Pandolfo's squad went 8-4-0. 

A number of skaters had multi-point weekends against UNH, but senior captain Dom Fensore had the hot hand as the offensive blue-liner posted three goals and an assist. On the whole, senior forward Matt Brown has led the Terriers with 7-11--18 through 14 games. Behind him is freshman defenseman Lane Hutson (6g, 11a), who was named to Team USA's preliminary roster for the upcoming World Junior Championship. 

In net, junior Drew Commesso has a .915 save percentage and 2.41 goals-against average in eight appearances, although he was unavailable last weekend. In his absence this year, junior Vinny Duplessis has put up a .909 save percentage, 2.44 GAA and one shutout in seven games. 

LATEST RANKINGS: Click or tap here for the latest USCHO poll

BU will be without freshman forward Ryan Greene, who is also scoring at a point per game (6g, 8a), as he was invited to Canada's national junior team selection camp, which begins Friday. 

Meanwhile, the Greg Brown's Eagles (5-5-4, 4-3-3 HEA) are coming off two ties with No. 10 Providence. BC has struggled to string wins together this season, winning no more than two in a row at any point so far. They've averaged 2.5 goals per game this season, while giving up 2.9. 

Mitch Benson was stellar in net in the series against Providence, making 39 saves in Friday's 1-1 draw before stopping 33 in Saturday's 2-2 rematch. On the season, the graduate has a .909 save percentage, a 2.69 GAA and one shutout.

Offensively, freshman forward Cutter Gauthier has been as advertised with eight goals and four assists for 12 points in 12 games. He was also named to USA's preliminary roster. Three skaters — Colby Ambrosio, Trevor Kuntar and Nikita Nesterenko — trail him with 11 points. 

In 287 meetings between these historic programs, BU holds a 137-129-21 edge. The series has never been tighter, sitting at 7-7-3 since the start of the 2016-17 season. 

Michigan Melee: No. 6 Michigan faces No. 12 Michigan State

From one heated rivalry to another, this statewide battle has more juice than recent years as both teams are ranked for the first time in a decade.

The Wolverines and Spartans have had identical campaigns so far, each going 11-6-1. Each program is now led by new head coaches as well in Brandon Naurato (Michigan – interim) and Adam Nightingale (Michigan State). 

Michigan (3-5-0 Big Ten) is undoubtedly one of the most talented squads in the nation this year, but it hasn't quite translated in conference play over the last few weeks. After a split with unranked Wisconsin last weekend, Naurato's Wolverines have not won multiple games in a row since sweeping Western Michigan on Oct. 29. 

Nevertheless, Michigan has one of the best offenses in Division I, scoring 4.1 goals per game, although they're giving up 3.1. In the split with the Badgers, the Wolverine offense still produced with seven goals on the weekend. Freshman forward Rutger McGroarty (Team USA) had a big series with three goals and an assist. Junior goaltender Erik Portillo had an up-and-down series, giving up five goals on 27 shots in the 6-3 loss before giving up two on 21 in the 4-2 win. 

Freshman forward Adam Fantilli has been among the best in the nation with the second-most points (11-15--26 in 16 games), but will likely be unavailable due to Canada's World Juniors camp.. Behind him, Mackie Samoskevich (12g, 9a) has also been on a torrid pace. The Wolverines have gotten inconsistent goaltending from Portillo, who holds a .902 save percentage and a 2.94 GAA. 

Looking at Michigan State (5-4-1 Big Ten), they've been among the biggest surprises in college hockey after being picked to finish last in the Big Ten coming into the season. The Spartans struggled in a sweep at then-No. 4 Minnesota last weekend, losing 5-0 before falling 6-3. Going into that series, Adam Nightingale's group had won seven of eight. 

LATEST SCORES: Click or tap here for the latest scores around Division I men's hockey

In the Game 2 loss to the Gophers, MSU's offense found life late as Jeremy Davison found the back of the net twice and Christian Krygier added two assists. Graduate goaltender Dylan St. Cyr was busy for the Spartans, but wasn't his best, stopping 34 of 39 shots in Game 1 before making 35 saves on 41 shots the following night. 

Freshman forward Daniel Russell (6-12--18) has been dynamic for State, while freshman forward Karsen Dorwart and senior Nicolas Müller each have 14 points. Between the pipes, St. Cyr has been strong in goal with .924 save percentage, a 2.53 GAA and two blank sheets, continuing a good body of work from his days at Quinnipiac.

These two sides are no strangers to each other, facing off 333 total times. The Wolverines hold the advantage in the series (173-137-24), winning 11 of their last 12 meetings. 

This weekend's series offer Michigan State another proving ground against a major opponent, as well as a chance to bounce back. Meanwhile, Michigan looks to continue its positive momentum from Saturday's win at Wisconsin as the Wolverines try to find more consistency. 

Big Ten Battle: No. 5 Penn State visits No. 19 Notre Dame

Speaking of surprises in the Big Ten, how about Penn State? MSU may have been picked to finish last in the preseason poll, but the Nittany Lions were right there with them in second-to-last. 

PSU (14-4-0, 6-4-0 Big Ten) comes into the week off a tight split with then-No. 17 Ohio State in a series that saw each game decided by one goal. In fact, the Nittany Lions have had four-straight games come down to one goal. In the two games against the Buckeyes, senior forward Kevin Wall had two goals and an assist, while junior goaltender Liam Souliere combined to stop 55 of 60 shots.

Penn State has averaged 3.6 goals per game, allowing 2.4, although they've been getting it done with pedestrian special teams with the power play at 16.4 percent and the penalty kill at 80.9.

Individually, Wall (8g, 6a), senior forward Ture Linden (5g, 9a) and sophomore forward Ben Schoen (3g, 11a) are each tied for the team lead with 14 points. In goal, Souliere boasts a .923 save percentage, 2.12 GAA and two shutouts.

Notre Dame (7-7-2, 3-4-1 Big Ten) has also had one of the more difficult schedules in Division I. Going into the 5-2 win at BC (receiving votes) in their latest action, the Irish dealt with 11-straight games against programs currently ranked inside the top-20. In those games, ND went 4-6-1. 

HISTORY: Every Division I men's hockey champion since 1948

In the bounce back against the Eagles, forwards Tyler Carpenter (2g, 1a) and Jesse Lansdell (1g, 1a) had big games for Notre Dame, while Ryan Bischel was solid with 22 saves. 

The Irish offense has struggled to find consistency over this difficult stretch. On the year, they're averaging 2.4 goals per game and surrendering 2.9. The power play has been challenged too, scoring on 12.5 percent of its opportunities.

Junior forward Ryder Rolston (4-7--11) and graduate Chayse Primeau (3-7--10) are the main sources of production for ND this season. In goal, Bischel has been strong, overall, with a .924 save percentage, a 2.59 GAA and three shutouts. 

While Notre Dame has struggled against ranked opponents, Penn State has split each of its four series with top-20 teams, going 4-4-0. Both sides will look to strengthen their resumes this weekend. 

Also on the radar: No. 7 BU at No. 8 UConn (2:05 p.m. ET Sunday, ESPN+ – subscription required); No. 10 Providence vs. No. 11 Merrimack (7 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN+ – subscription required); No. 1 Denver at Minnesota Duluth (8 p.m. ET Friday and Saturday, – subscription required), No. 17 Western Michigan vs. North Dakota (7 p.m. ET Friday and 6 p.m. ET Saturday, – subscription required)

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