Previewing BC Hockey 2016-17: What to Expect from UConn

Fresh off Friday night’s 6-1 win against University of Massachusett, No. 13 Boston College men’s hockey (15-9-2, 10-3-1 Hockey East) will be looking to carry its offensive momentum into its Tuesday night tilt against University of Connecticut (9-9-6, 5-5-2 Hockey East). The Huskies, however, could cause some trouble for the Eagles. 

In the new year, the Eagles have had a 2-2-0 record, winning against unranked UMass and No. 19 Providence, but dropped two to No. 1 Boston University in the yearly home-and-home series. In addition to BC’s losses against BU, it has also fallen in key matchups against No. 12 North Dakota and No. 15 Notre Dame, causing the Eagles to slowly drop to No. 13 in USCHO.com’s most recent national poll.

But there has been some improvement in the Eagles’ play recently—keeping out of the penalty box. Penalties are something head coach Jerry York has addressed as a problem spot for the Eagles, so improvement in this area is worth noting. In BC’s last three games, it has either had an equal or less amount of penalties than its opponent, and time not spent in the penalty box is certainly helpful in keeping offensive energy.

UConn has started off the new year in less-than-stellar shape, with only one win its last four games. The Eagles, however, should not take the game against the Huskies for granted. While UConn has had losses against teams such as Sacred Heart and Maine, the Huskies shut out BU on the road, 4-0, and tied No. 8 Ohio State back in November. UConn’s wild-card quality has kept them in the middle of the national PairWise rankings at No. 30, showing UConn has an ability to defeat teams like BC. The Huskies’ recent two-game slide will have the them fighting for a win, potentially behind key offensive players like sophomore Tage Thompson and junior Spencer Naas. Thompson is fifth in the nation in scoring with 16 goals, and also packs a punch in the UConn power play, with five such goals. Naas also has 12 goals for the Huskies this season.

Last Time They Played: The Huskies fell to the Eagles 5-2 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. back in November, thanks to a hat trick from J.D. Dudek. Due to the Eagles’ high energy and fast skating, the Eagles overwhelmed the Huskies’ defense and freshman goalie Adam Huska, outshooting the Huskies 6-1 only nine minutes into the first period. UConn, however, struck first with a goal from Max Kalter in the last 30 seconds of the first. The Huskies could not keep up in the third, though, as the Eagles netted three goals to ice the game. Two of Dudek’s goals came in the third period, to go along with one from Julius Mattila.

Three Keys to the Game:

  1. Defensive play: The difference between BC’s play in the games against BU and UMass is largely due to its defense. The Eagles have young and relatively small defensemen, and they could not keep up with the Terriers’ offensive talent in either games in their series. The BC defense proved as effective against UMass as it was ineffective against BU. The hard-hitting Eagles kept the Minutemen away from scoring chances close to the net and prevented them from scoring. The one UMass goal proved to be because of a defensive breakdown by the Eagles, when Ray Pigozzi got past Jesper Mattila and sent the puck past Ryan Edquist. Against UConn, the Eagles defense will need to keep an eye on forwards Thompson and Naas and prevent them from getting Grade-A scoring opportunities.
  2. Who’s in between the pipes? Ryan Edquist played in the Eagles’ last game, and York has mentioned that Edquist will get more opportunities for playing time. The fact still stands, though, that Joe Woll has more game experience with the Eagles, and is No. 14 in the country for save percentage, at .922. If York has confidence in BC’s ability to win against the Huskies, but is more worried about Saturday’s matchup with Notre Dame, he is likely to put Edquist in net. If he is worried about BC’s chances for both, he’ll put Woll in. For UConn, goalies Rob Nichols and Huska usually split time in the net, but Huska has started in net the last four games. Considering the Huskies’ recent record and how Huska fared last against the Eagles, don’t be too surprised if Nichols starts between the pipes.
  3. Executing on the power play: The Eagles have been considerably lacking in their power plays recently, with no power-play goals in their last three games. Despite the their dominating play against UMass, they could not deliver any goals in eight power plays. In fact, BC is ranked behind UConn in power-play goals, scoring on only 16 percent of power plays versus UConn’s 18 percent. This is in part due to Thompson’s effectiveness with a man advantage. Also, the Huskies kill 85.2 percent of their penalties, so the Eagles need to make some big changes on the power play if they want to get the puck in the UConn net.

    Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor