Massachusetts Minutemen 7-11-2 (4-8-1) 8th Hockey East
#2 Boston College Eagles 13-4-2 (10-3-1) 1st Hockey East
The Massachusetts hockey team looked like they were going to turn over a new leaf at New Years as they won the Ledyard Classic against stiff competition. But last week they got swept in a weekend series at the hands of Providence, a team they need to beat if they have any hopes of accomplishing something of significance this season. Now, if they want to jumpstart their season they’ll have to face a wounded Boston College team in Chestnut Hill tomorrow night.
BC is struggling as of late. Well, struggling for them. Since the last day of November the Eagles are 3-3-2. One of those losses came to rival Boston University. One was an absolutely drubbing at the hands of Minnesota by the score of 8-1. And then last weekend they ended up splitting a weekend series with New Hampshire. Of course for the most recent games they were without coach Jerry York who is recovering from eye surgery, as he will be tomorrow. As said, this is a wounded Eagle team. They’re not playing up to the level they’re used to as they’re without their legendary coach and they’ve had to deal with some injuries (Patch Alber) and absence (Johnny Gaudreau). However, BC struggling at this time of year is nothing new. The scary part is this is usually right when they turn it all around and start a streak that carries them to the NCAA title.
Despite recent struggles the Eagles are still quite formidable on offense. Their 3.42 goals per game is tops in the league, with Gaudreau the leader in both goals (12) and total points (26) despite missing a few games representing Team USA. Not too far behind him in terms of goal scoring are seniors Pat Mullane and Steven Whitney, who has half of his 10 goals on the power play. BC is far and away the best power play unit in the league at 25%. UMass is second best converting 19.8% of their chances.
On defense the Eagles have been, well, mediocre. Their 2.58 goals given up per game puts them in the middle of Hockey East. Some of that is due to the youth of their defense. Some has to do with losing guys like Alber to a soccer injury (no seriously). Senior Parker Milner is still putting up solid numbers however with a 2.43 goals against and a .921 save percentage. Though their blueliners can be young, Mike Matheson is certainly one to keep an eye on as he has four goals to go with 10 assists and is a +14 on the season.
UMass has already lost two games to BC this season but they did play the Eagles tough in both. In fact they absolutely should have won the first, bringing a 3-0 lead into the third before ultimately falling 5-4 in overtime in just the second game of the season. In early November at Chestnut Hill the Minutemen would again play well and again have a third period lead until losing when Patrick Brown scored with under four minutes left. Between this season’s efforts and the fact that UMass took the regular season series from BC last season shows that the Minutemen are capable of playing with this team. The question is if they can put it all together, play mistake fee, and play well on both sides of the puck to win.
Last weekend they did well offensively on Friday but played pretty horrible defense and ultimately could not complete a valiant effort at a comeback. On Saturday they did well on defense, limiting Providence to minimal opportunities, but could not finish offensively despite over 40 shots on net. The Eagles are young defensively but they’re not without talent. With a veteran goaltender to back them up UMass will have to find a way to make the most of their offensive opportunities. They’ll also have to play damn good defense. If Gaudreau was jetlagged from the tip back from Russia he didn’t show it, scoring a goal to go with a couple assists in his first game back. This team is extremely dangerous on offense but the Minutemen did find a way to hold this team to just three goals through five periods earlier this season. They’ll need some of that tomorrow.
Beer The Triangle
I suspect that pre-game will find me at Cityside, which has a solid beer selection but probably is better known for their food and locale. However no trip to BC is complete without a stop in at the Publick House. Best beer bar in Boston? Yeah, I’ll say so. For some reason the Publick House has decided to give up on this crazy invention called the interwebs and no longer have a web page. So I guess we’ll all be pleasantly surprised when we get there and find what they have on draft.
I want to send along some get well soon wishes to BC coach Jerry York. I’m actually disappointed that I won’t be able to witness the celebration for his gaining of the win record. There’s a lot to dislike about Boston College. Jerry York is not one of those things.
The Republican preview centers on the on the fact that the senior Minutemen have never won at Chestnut Hill.
The boys over at BC Interruption are glad to start a soft spot of their schedule this weekend against the Minutemen.
Here’s the Hockey East weekend preview from College Hockey News.
I was ecstatic to hear the news tonight that the WCHA accepted Alabama-Huntsville to join their league next season. UAH may be geographically challenged but they have a lot of tradition and certainly were worthy of a lifeline to keep their program going. College hockey needs more teams not less and so glad that it appears the Chargers will be sticking around.
Lastly, I think it’s apparent that I have a soft spot for Minutemen players who hail from Western Mass. I was neither born there nor live there currently but I consider Western Mass home and love to see the local hockey talent end up playing in the Mullins Center. There have been a bunch to do so from Rob Bonneau to T.J. Syner. But in the vein of celebrating the WMass players and WMass locales I somehow got into calling Kevin Czepiel “Holyoke” after his hometown during his freshman year. I thought it was a fun way to celebrate the gritty, blue collar nature of the town with the gritty, blue collar nature of Czepiel’s play. It has stuck, at least for me and the Section U crew, and so I wanted to make sure to share this video the athletic department put together of “Holyoke” showing UMass fans Holyoke: