No. 4 Boston College (16-4-3, 9-1-3 Hockey East) will host the University of Connecticut (8-14-2, 4-8-2) this Saturday evening, coming off head coach Jerry York’s 1,000th career win. The Eagles—who are playing at home for the first time since their coach’s record-breaking win—hope to achieve win number 1,001 and secure their second victory over the Huskies this season.
After experiencing three losses in a row, BC seems to be back on their game, following wins like last night’s against UMass and recent wins and ties against Providence and Boston University. These wins pushed the Eagles into first place in Hockey East, where many media pundits expected them to be—BC was the preseason No. 1, according to USCHO.com. Though York would prefer his players not admit it, the high from helping York win his 1,000th game may be enough to keep the momentum going.
Lately, BC has been able to hold their lead, and even come back from a deficit in the third period to win games. This is a shift from the beginning of the season, when the Eagles barely scraped by Michigan because of a letup in defensive momentum late in the game. In last week’s Battle of Comm. Ave., BC was able to come back from a late-game one-goal deficit and win within the final five minutes of this historic rivalry—an obvious change in third period atmosphere.
UConn has been having a different season than BC. Their most notable wins this season were upsets against No. 8 UMass Lowell and No. 11 BU. However, the Huskies’ other six wins have been over teams like Maine and Arizona State, who each have less-than-stellar win-loss records. UConn will be looking for another upset as they play the Eagles Saturday night, while BC will be looking to maintain their recent comeback after a period of losses. UConn’s weakness lies in their offense. With only one player in the top 80 Division-I scorers, UConn has been outshot in 17 of the 24 games they have played. BC, on the other hand, has five top Division-I scorers and has only been outshot 6 of their 23 games this season. This doesn’t mean you should count #icebus out. Even in games where UConn has been outshot, they have been able to pull away with ties—in games against Maine and Merrimack—and even a win, like against UMass Lowell.
Last time they played:
The Eagles came out hot at the XL Center, securing the win early in the game by scoring four goals in the first period alone. The Eagles were slower in the second period, and UConn capitalized on that, outshooting BC 13-9, but a stellar performance by goaltender Thatcher Demko didn’t allow the Huskies to score. In the third, however, they got their chance. BC’s sloppy stickhandling made them lose the puck and allowed UConn to score. But the solid defense the Eagles showed allowed them to keep their lead and win with a final score of 5-1.
Three keys to the game:
- No more penalties: BC leads the country in number of penalty minutes awarded this season—an average of 17 minutes per game. With UConn’s high success in taking advantage of power plays (listed at No. 21), BC cannot afford the number of penalties they usually receive. The Huskies are near the top of the list of teams who score when they have more men on the ice. A bright outlook for BC, however: they have been very good this season at scoring shorthanded goals (listed at No. 2).
- Take advantage of Rob Nichols: UConn’s goaltender is ranked No. 50 in a list of 50 goaltenders in DI hockey. Nichols also can’t seem to stop BC’s top scorers, Colin White and Miles Wood, as evidenced by the last time BC played the Huskies. Taking advantage of his inability to stop the Eagles’ offense can ensure that BC comes out of Saturday night with a win.
- Shut down the freshmen: UConn has only one notable scorer, Max Letunov, a freshman. He also comes in high on the list of number of assists. Shutting Letunov down and not allowing him any scoring opportunities will be key to keeping UConn’s number of goals down. Freshman Tage Thompson should not be overlooked either. As the division’s number-one power play goal scorer, keeping him under control during BC’s inevitably high number of penalties will be crucial.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor