#4 Boston College Eagles 13-7-1 (9-4-1) Hockey East 1st
Massachusetts Minutemen 7-8-5 (3-6-4) Hockey East T-8th
I’d like to think that Boston College will come into the Mullins Center tomorrow for their game with Massachusetts as the top team in the league willing to overlook the Minutemen who are barely clinging onto a playoff spot. I’d like to think that BC players will already have their minds on the spectacle and excitement that awaits them the following day when they get their turn on the Fenway infield to take on Northeastern. I’d like to think that the BC bus gets stuck behind someone going 15 MPH on Rt 181 through Belchertown and arrive in a panic only seconds before gametime. Those things probably are not happening though (well, that last one will, but to me as usual). No, this is a Jerry York coached team. He’ll make sure his Eagles are focused on the game at hand and not looking a day ahead. He’ll make sure they take every opponent seriously, no matter the record. And he’ll make sure they remember that they last time they walked into the building they were the top ranked team in the country and walked out 4-2 losers to the Minutemen. If UMass is going to repeat that result they’ll likely have to fight for every minute of play and every inch of ice.
That win for the Minutemen was certainly their best and most unexpected of the season. In the night prior to that early November matchup UNH put up 7 on the Minutemen in Durham. But they shut down the high flying Eagles, limiting them to just a half dozen shots in each of the first two periods. When BC cranked up the offense in the 3rd and unleashed 14 shots on Kevin Boyle he remained poised and turned back most of them and has for all accounts and purposes looked like the best Minuteman goaltender ever since. It was UMass’ best and most complete effort all season. Though, as they have for the entire season, they struggled on special teams, giving up two power play goals on five opportunities, they were stellar at even strength. In addition to the game that solidified Boyle as a legit DI netminder, it was also a bit of a coming out party for Steven Guzzo who scored his second goal of the season and would continue to score regularly right up to the New Year.
BC came into that game with an 8-1-0 record and winner of six straight. That game seemed to put them out of sorts however and they’ve had a tough time getting back on track. While they’re still one of the best teams in the country, as evidenced by their ranking, they actually have a losing record beginning with that loss at the Mullins, going 5-6-1 in that time. This past Sunday saw Merrimack come back from a 2-0 hole to gain a 2-2 tie in Chestnut Hill.
While the Eagles may look a little more vulnerable, they’re still dangerous. Junior forward Chris Kreider is still considered one of the best players in the league and sophomore Billy Arnold is become one of the more exciting younger players. They’re both tops on the team in goals with 13 and 11 respectively. Not too far behind is Barry Almeida with 10. Tomorrow’s game will mark the last collegiate homecoming for the Springfield native and maybe the last time he’ll play against his cousin T.J. Syner. Freshman Johnny Gaudreau who was on fire when he played UMass earlier in the season has cooled off, scoring just two goals since Halloween.
Since the beginning of December Jerry York has settled into a rotation with his two goaltenders Parker Milner and Brian Billett. No doubt he’ll use them both this weekend as well since they have a quick turnaround between tomorrow game in Amherst and Saturday’s 4pm puck-drop at the Fens. If he sticks with the rotation Milner will get the start tomorrow. He also has the most familiarity with the Minutemen, playing in the first two matchups this season. One difference on the defensive side of the puck for BC is that Patrick Wey, who did not play against UMass in November, is back from injury. That’ll make it a little tougher for UMass to get shots on whoever is in net for the Eagles.
For the Minutemen obviously they have to build off of what worked last time. Primarily that centers around the the defensive effort. The defensemen and forwards did a great job last time of disrupting BC’s offense and getting in front of shots. Rocco Carzo and Eddie Olczyk especially had good games defensively. Boyle did his part with a strong effort, especially as desperation hit the Eagles and they threw everything they could at him in the final period. If UMass can do all that and perhaps knock in a power play goal to prevent the same on the other end they’ll have another big win under their belts and another couple points for the standings. This is the only game of the weekend for the Minutemen so they can give all their focus to the Eagles and rest sore muscles Saturday and Sunday. But Friday night, they’ll have to leave it all on the ice.
Beer The Triangle
It seems like forever since I’ve been to the Hangar, so I have no idea what I might find there! Cannot wait! Over at ABC, their ESB is on tap. Extra Special Bitter is perhaps my favorite beer style.
The UMass hockey program officially has it’s first NHL All-Star to its name as Jon Quick was named to the squad today. Remember when the Kings had Quick playing in the ECHL because they didn’t think he was taking things seriously enough? Remember when he was only in LA as a stopgap measure until Jonathan Bernier, who was judged to be far superior to Quick, was seasoned enough to take over? Well Quick has proved his doubters wrong and Bernier is accumulating splinters on the bench as his backup. Congrats to Quickie, he’s an excellent representative of UMass hockey.
CHN takes a look at the week ahead for Hockey East.
NHL.com has a recap of the Fenway festivities.
When this year’s Frozen Fenway was announced many in the media said that outdoor games were becoming too commonplace and would struggle to draw interest. Not so fast says USCHO’s Dave Hendrickson.
So in the course of a week I’ll go from watching the Minutemen a few hundred feet from the ice to just arm lengths away. Tomorrow night I get to experience the game up close and personal while sitting with Matty Goldstein in the scorer’s box, an opportunity I won at a Pond Club fundraiser last Spring (I keep telling you people, you have to join the Pond Club!). I’m really looking forward to it since it’s a perspective of hockey I’ve never experienced before. I’m also looking forward to getting to know Tommy Cross better, since the I’ll likely be seeing a lot of the much penalized BC Eagle.