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College hockey notebook

Eagle making name for himself

Samuelsson goes on the offensive

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / February 11, 2011

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If you’re a Bruins fan, “Samuelsson’’ doesn’t elicit cheers. Former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson was considered a Boston nemesis, particularly during his years playing with the Hartford Whalers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Rangers.

If you’re a Boston College fan, however, the name represents the next generation of blue liners. Sophomore Philip Samuelsson, Ulf’s son, has been an offensive force lately for the Eagles. He’s scored three goals in the last two games, and had a goal and an assist against Boston University in Monday’s 3-2 overtime victory in the opening round of the Beanpot.

Samuelsson came close to deciding it in regulation when he had a breakaway, but goalie Kieran Millan stopped his backhand bid with 51.4 seconds remaining.

“He’s on fire right now,’’ said BC captain Joe Whitney. “He’s really contributing offensively for us and he’s also doing it defensively. He’s really brought his game up another notch.’’

Prior to the last two games, Samuelsson had one goal this season and two in his college career. Although he wasn’t putting up the numbers he is now, Whitney said it was obvious he had the skills.

“I think he’s been offensive ever since he came to BC,’’ said Whitney. “He moves the puck extremely well with breakout passes. He sees the whole ice very well, so that helps him offensively, but when he’s jumping up in the play, he’s that much more of a threat to score and to make plays. He’s got that offensive ability that helps us win.

“[He has] character,’’ Whitney added. “He’s a fun guy in the locker room. He’s always joking around and having fun. He works hard in practice and in the weight room. He takes it very seriously and he just seems like he’s motivated. He wants to get better every day to help the team win and it’s showing.’’

One of the key aspects of the top-ranked Eagles’ depth is behind the blue line. Because the team has so many defensemen with offensive upside, Samuelsson could take his time gaining confidence.

“They can all move the puck and jump up in the play,’’ said Whitney. “Maybe last year he was a little hesitant and maybe wanted to stay back just to make sure and not give up an odd-man rush. But he’s picking his spots this year and he’s picking them at the right time. He knows when to jump up and when to stay back. He complements [regular defense partner] Edwin Shea really well. They work well together. I can say that with all the defensive pairings. They all kind of have a chemistry where if one guy goes, the other stays back. It’s working for us and Phil’s been playing great as of late.’’

Road Warriors Boston may be in the midst of Beanpot mania, but there is plenty of other important action between the tournament semifinals and Monday’s final between Northeastern and BC.

The hottest weekend matchup is a home-and-home series between No. 6 New Hampshire and No. 11 Merrimack. Tonight’s contest is at the Whittemore Center. The Warriors are in the midst of a hot road streak, having won seven straight away from Lawler Arena, something the program hadn’t been able to do since 1987, when it was in Division 2.

On the line this weekend? Clinching a home-ice Hockey East slot for the Wildcats and clinching a playoff spot for the Warriors. UNH won the only other meeting this season, 2-1 at home.

UNH forward Phil DeSimone needs one point to reach the 100-point plateau.

NU on a roll As well as things are going for Northeastern, the Huskies can’t afford to take UMass-Lowell for granted. Even though the River Hawks are in last place in Hockey East (3-17-0, 4-21-2), they’re playing on home ice tonight.

The Huskies (9-11-6, 7-8-5) are 6-2-2 in their last 10. As happy as NU coach Greg Cronin was with the 4-0 win over Harvard in Monday’s Beanpot semifinal, he wasn’t thrilled with how they performed.

“I don’t think we played very well,’’ said Cronin, whose team is in sixth place in the league. “I thought that was pathetic. I was kind of [ticked]. I thought we had a very vanilla game. There were moments when we were really good and we pushed the pace and we attacked them and sustained a cycle. We just let the game evolve the way it was going to evolve. We never took control of it. That really bothers me because it’s two games in a row where we’ve done that.’’

The schedule is about to get much more difficult. The Beanpot final marks the first of three straight games against BC. The Huskies close with two games each against UNH and BU.

“We’ve got to step up here,’’ said Cronin.

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

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