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College hockey notebook

BC eager to get back at BU

Eagles have slumped since loss to Terriers

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / December 2, 2011
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When Boston College and Boston University meet in hockey, it is almost always great theater. The archrivals are perennial contenders in Hockey East, and between them, the programs have three national championships in the last four seasons.

The teams square off twice this weekend, with the first meeting at Conte Forum tonight and the second at Agganis Arena tomorrow.

In their only meeting this year, the Terriers shut out the Eagles’ potent offense by a 5-0 score Nov. 13 on BC’s home ice.

That started the Eagles’ slide after an 8-1-0 start. In its last five contests, BC is 2-3 and has scored nine goals while giving up 15.

BU, on the other hand, has been on the upswing. Starting with the BC game, the Terriers won four in a row after starting the season 3-4-1. In the four victories, which included knocking off league foes Vermont and New Hampshire and beating Cornell in overtime at Madison Square Garden, the Terriers have outscored opponents, 15-5.

The team’s top scorer is sophomore forward Matt Nieto, who has eight goals and seven assists in 12 contests, averaging 1.25 points per game.

BC’s top scorer is junior forward Chris Kreider, who has points in 12 of 14 games. He is averaging 1.29 points through 14 games, with a total of 10 goals and eight assists.

Kreider traditionally goes on a scoring tear during the second half of the season, but he already seems poised to blow by his career high of 24 points last year. He and linemates Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold have been the team’s most consistent combination.

“It’s really easy playing with Billy and Kev,’’ said Kreider. “They played together [at Noble and Greenough] and I was lucky enough to play against them when I was at [Phillips] Andover. They definitely have a lot of chemistry and that makes it a lot of fun.’’

After the 5-0 loss, Kreider said, the Eagles circled today’s date on the calendar.

“It definitely was shocking,’’ he said. “It definitely revealed a lot of stuff that we needed to work on.

“But at the same time, I don’t think the game itself was as lopsided as the score. We definitely could’ve shown up in a high-energy way in different facets of the game, but at the same time, we had chances to score and we were passing up shots.

“There’s little stuff we can definitely work on, and if anything, it proved to be a blessing in disguise, I guess.’’

During BC’s struggles, one area has stood out - and not in a good way. The Eagles were passing too much, and were unselfish to a fault.

“We have a lot of skilled guys on the team and they want to make plays,’’ said Kreider. “There are games where that works and games where that doesn’t.

“Coach [Jerry York] likes to say we have to get back to bread-and-butter hockey and play simple because that’s what allows us to win on a consistent basis. There is a time and place to make skilled plays.’’

Tonight it is all about BU.

“We have definitely been looking forward to this one,’’ said Kreider. “Any time you play BU, it’s going to be a special game.’’

‘Sioux’ are history

After a protracted battle between the NCAA and the University of North Dakota, senior associate athletics director Sean M. Johnson announced via email yesterday that as of Jan. 1 the school will cease using “Fighting Sioux’’ as its nickname - one it used for 81 years. The school will begin referring to its teams by the school name alone and will use the interlocking “ND’’ logo as its official logo. The uniforms depicting the Fighting Sioux are expected to be swapped out in February. Last month, the North Dakota legislature passed a law - signed by Governor Jack Dalrymple - that allowed the school to drop the name. The school won’t adopt a new nickname until January 2015 in order to let the controversy die down.

Looking ahead

No. 1-ranked Merrimack will take its 10-game unbeaten streak (9-0-1) into a weekend series against Providence. Even though the Warriors lost a lot of scoring from last year’s record-setting team, Kreider said he isn’t surprised to see them doing so well. “They’re a very disciplined team,’’ said the BC forward. “They’re an older team and they’ve got a great coach [Mark Dennehy] and a great coaching staff and a great group of players. When we face them [Jan. 8], that will definitely be a big test for us.’’ . . . One interesting aspect of BC’s recent bumps in the road is the impact on the goaltending situation. Junior Parker Milner had played every game until last weekend’s visit to Yale when freshman Brian Billett took over and earned a win. York believes the competition is a good thing and will help both Milner and Billett, who had 31 saves in his first collegiate action. Kreider said the team has faith in both. “[Billett] played well, he did what he had to do to get the win,’’ said Kreider. “That’s what you like to see. He’s definitely a gamer. It was very reassuring that he was able to come into that high-pressure environment and perform the way he did.’’ . . . After a slow start, Harvard has racked up three wins in five games (3-1-1). The Crimson, now 3-3-2 overall, have two road games heading into the holiday break, with visits to UMass and Princeton.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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