Boston College men’s hockey has had an extraordinarily different regular season than its last one. But one undeniable fact remains: this time last year, University of Vermont defeated BC in the Hockey East Quarterfinals and unceremoniously knocked the team out of the tournament. The Eagles have to prove their postseason will be different from last year’s to continue their pursuit of the Lamoriello Trophy.
One goal is what prevented BC (24-5-5, 15-2-5 Hockey East), this year’s top seed, from TD Garden in the 2015 Hockey East Tournament. The defense of No. 9-seed UVM (14-20-3, 6-13-3) stifled the Eagles’ offense, leading to a failure to convert on power plays. Goaltender Thatcher Demko put in an incredible effort to keep the score even. An injured Demko, however, was not enough. A breakaway by Jarrid Privitera brought the final score to 1-0. The Eagles were done.
But BC is different this year. Demko is healthy and proving it, with nine shutouts and a save percentage of .937. The BC offense also has depth, in part to a plethora of talented freshmen and lines with chemistry. Its offense and defense are both ranked at No. 4 in the country.
But BC’s most recent match against No. 12 UMass Lowell didn’t show it. The Eagles failed to generate energy on power plays and their offense was stopped by the River Hawks’ defense. Two UMass Lowell goals in the third period brought the final score to 3-1. The Eagles looked like last year’s team.
UVM has struggled in the 2015-16 season, with just six wins in the Hockey East. In its second series in the playoffs, it swept Connecticut with 2-1 and 4-3 wins. In the second game, the Catamounts put together two goals in the third period to sneak past the Huskies. Goalie Mike Santaguida solidly backstopped the UVM offense. The series win could jolt some energy into the Catamounts.
There’s no way to predict how the series between BC and UVM will go. The Eagles could play like they have all season, or fall like they did against the Riverhawks. The Catamounts could play like they have all season, or carry the momentum from the wins against the Huskies and pull out surprising wins.
Last Time They Played:
BC finished its away-game series in Burlington, Vt. with a 4-1 win against UVM. Mario Puskarich struck first on a power play, but the Eagles answered with a goal in the first and three in the third. The Eagles were riddled with penalties, but controlled the puck during even play and converted on their own one-man advantages. The Catamounts kept the score within reach in the first two periods, but goals from Austin Cangelosi and Ryan Fitzgerald were no match for goaltender Packy Munson, who replaced an injured Santaguida.
Keys to the Game:
- Special Teams: The Eagles’ penalty-killing unit is ranked fifth in the country, and needs to remain strong to keep them afloat during expected penalties. Their power-play unit is less consistent—ranked at 15th, below Northeastern and Boston University. The Eagles need to keep offensive energy throughout power plays, or they could get shut out of the offensive zone—not unlike their 2015 loss to the Catamounts or their most recent loss to the River Hawks.
- The Men in the Masks: If Demko can continue his stellar play, then goaltending is something the Eagles don’t have to worry about. The long gap between the UMass Lowell game and this series, however, could make any goalie a little rusty. As for UVM, Santaguida hasn’t faced BC this year, and he let in four goals from the Eagles last year. He factored into the wins against UConn, making a total of 56 saves in the series, but he’s most likely unprepared to face the Eagles—he has a .916 save percentage and 6-10-2 record.
- Injuries: All of the Eagles need to be healthy going into the playoffs, especially series one. As of late, Chris Calnan and Colin White aren’t. BC needs its full offensive line to prevent late-game laziness and fatigue, and it can’t get past the Quarterfinals without a complete roster. Hopefully Calnan and White have had time to rest in the almost two-week break for the Eagles, and can play closer to 100 percent than they have recently.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor