Massachusetts Minutemen 4-1-1 (0-0-1) Hockey East T-8th
Boston College Eagles 5-1-0 (0-0-0) Hockey East T-10th
The Massachusetts hockey team is looking to get back on track after picking up their first loss of the season to #13 Yale over the weekend at the Capital City Classic. But the specific challenges they faced against the Bulldogs could prove to be even tougher against the #3 Boston College Eagles on Tuesday. Yale came into their game with UMass carrying over a strong defensive team from last season, but playing in their first game of the year. BC through six games this season has already proven that they’re just as good defensively as Yale and maybe even better.
The Eagles come into Tuesday’s game with a 5-1-0 record on the season, all against non-conference foes. Their only loss was a narrow 2-1 defeat to RPI played in New York. Like UMass the Eagles also travelled out to Colorado Springs to play two games against Colorado College but had much more dominant wins over the Tigers, grabbing 3-0 and 5-0 decisions out there. The Eagles will have one additional day of rest than the Minutemen as their last game was a thrilling 4-3 victory at home on Friday over #5 Denver with Matt Gaudreau scoring the game-winner with just 36 seconds left in regulation.
It is extremely tough to score on this Eagle squad. They’re allowing just a single goal per game and goaltender Thatcher Demko already has three shutouts on the season. Demko has been nothing short of spectacular so far. He has allowed just six goals all season and four of those have come on the power play. His save percentage at even strength is just .983. To make matters even more difficult, the players in front of Demko have done an excellent job at keeping shots from even getting to him. The Eagles are allowing opponents just 23.5 shots on goal per game, 6th fewest in the country.
Offensively BC is generating 34.83 shots on net per game and is averaging 4 goals per game. Their +3.00 goal differential is 4th best in the country. The biggest news around Chestnut Hill this past week was the departure of high profile freshman Jeremy Bracco to the OHL after just a few weeks with the Eagle hockey program. But they’ll do just fine without him as Bracco had only accumulated 3 assists before bolting to major junior. It’s another freshman, Miles Wood, who is actually leading the Eagles in points right now with 8 (2G, 6A). Junior Austin Cangelosi and sophomore Zach Sanford lead the team in goals with 4 each.
UMass will have to do a better job in net and on defense to keep the talented BC forwards off the scoreboard. The team has let in twice as many goals in the last three games (16) as they did in their first three (8). Two of those games were started by sophomore Henry Dill who ended up being relieved by Nic Renyard each time after allowing goals on 70% of the opponent’s shots. It’s unknown if Dill’s recent struggles means that Renyard will get the starts for the forseeable future or if coach John Micheletto will go back to the sophomore again, perhaps as early as Tuesday.
The Minutemen have had success against a couple of top notch goaltenders so far this season. Sacred Heart’s Rob Magnus and Maine’s Rob McGovern are both among the top 20 goaltenders in the country in terms of save percentage and the Minutemen scored 5 goals against both of them. When facing against one of the country’s elite netminders in Yale’s Alex Lyon though UMass was unable to find the back of the net until the game was already decided. They’ll need to do better against another of the country’s best goaltenders with a talented defense in front of him. They have to do a better job generating shots, something they didn’t do through the first two periods against Yale and something none of BC’s opponents have done well so far.
The Minutemen will also have to play to their strengths. That means taking advantage of their power play which is currently 6th best in the country. As mentioned above Demko has only let in a handful of goals, but two thirds of them have come when BC has been on the penalty kill. And the Eagles are averaging over 6 penalties taken per game, so there may be an advantage to had there.
UMass is entering a key 7 game stretch of Hockey East matches and they probably want to avoid heading into those on a down note. Saturday’s loss to Yale was disappointing, but the team is still 4-1-1 and is still well ahead of where most people around college hockey thought they’d be after October. They need a good showing against BC to bring some momentum into this weekend’s series against a pesky UConn team. I don’t think that necessarily means a win, though that would be the easiest way to build momentum, but they definitely need to play much better than they did on Saturday. BC’s loss to RPI should show that they’re not unbeatable and even unheralded teams can take down the Eagles if they give them their best shot. Hopefully that’s what we get out of the Minutemen tomorrow.
Beer The Triangle
Tuesday games are annoying. Tuesday games at BC are really annoying. Because it’s going to be extremely tough to make it to the Publick House and drink a Port Brewing Older Viscosity.
Matt Vautour previews the game in the Gazette.
UMass continues to get points in the weekly USCHO poll.
Dennis Kravchenko was named a Hockey East Top Performer for his 2 goal effort against Maine on Friday.
Kirk Luedeke has a good profile of Frank Vatrano on his Scouting Post blog.