Previewing BC Hockey 2016-17: What to Expect From Notre Dame

Other than Boston University, Notre Dame is Boston College men’s hockey’s biggest rival. Coming out of a close 2-1 win over University of Connecticut on Tuesday night, the No. 13 Eagles (13-6-1, 8-1-1 Hockey East) are looking to add to their recent winning streak in their upcoming game against No. 15 Notre Dame (9-6-2, 5-3-1). After losing to the Irish at the beginning of December, BC may be headed into some trouble in one of the last games before the Beanpot.

With a preseason No. 5 in the nation, the Eagles have been all over the USCHO.com polls, before most recently settling to No. 13. But in order to salvage their reputation before the end of the season the Eagles need to start winning games against ranked opponents, starting with their matchup with the Fighting Irish.

BC is ranked higher than Notre Dame, but that doesn’t always mean anything. The Eagles have been considerably inconsistent since their loss to Harvard in November. The Irish have lost to teams such as UMass and UConn, and tied with teams like University of New Hampshire and Northeastern, all teams BC has beaten earlier in the season. Power players such as Anders Bjork and Andrew Oglevie could spell trouble for the Eagles defense, whose aggressive offense could be tough to ward off. Both Bjork and Oglevie are among the 25 best scorers in the country this season.

Notre Dame averages 10 more shots on goal than their opponent. Although freshman Joseph Woll has been deflecting more and more shots per game, including tallying 42 saves against UConn, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. With a team as inconsistent as BC has been in recent matchups, too many shots on the Eagles’ goal could prove fatal, especially in the latter half of the game where they tend to lose momentum.

Last time they played: BC fell to the Fighting Irish 3-2, ending the Eagles’ unbeaten streak in Hockey East play. Both goals BC received were during a power play and in the first period. The Fighting Irish came back strong with three goals in the second, two powerplay goals by Bjork, and one by Oglevie. The early momentum gained from the two goals was short lived, as the Irish began pummeling Woll with shots. Struggling to keep up the intensity in the third period, the Eagles pulled Woll in an attempt to tie in the last minute. The added player failed to give BC an advantage, and they headed into the locker room disappointed with another loss in the books to end the first half of the season.

Keys to the Game:

Fewer Penalties: In BC’s previous game against the Irish, two of the goals Notre Dame scored were during the power play, and the Eagles sent players into the box a total of six times. While the team is getting called much less than earlier in the season, with an aggressive team like Notre Dame, BC will want to be careful not to give the Irish too many advantages during the game. In the Eagles’ last game against BU, every single Terrier goal scored was on a power play. During BC’s last couple losses, it has given up an average of around one goal due to a disadvantage on the ice. Pair that less-than-stellar penalty killing with the amount of times the Eagles send a player into the box, and the result is often damaging.  

The Power Play: BC may have a hard time killing off its own penalties, but when given an extra-man advantage, the team will need to capitalize on the opportunity. Both of the Eagles’ goals in its last game against the Irish were scored during a power play, as Notre Dame’s defense is nearly impenetrable when at full strength. Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen is ninth in the country, but with an extra man and using their minutes wisely, the Eagles could do some damage to the Irish defense and put some points on the board.

Get Out of Their Heads: Three 20 minute periods is a lot of hockey, and the Eagles tend to take an early success or an early deficit and run with it for the rest of the game. In last Monday’s game against BU, the Eagles were unable to come back from an early Terrier lead in the second period, and in Tuesday’s game against UConn, the team risked a tie when the Huskies almost tied up the game in the third after an early Eagles lead. In the past couple of games the Eagles have begun to have a little bit of trouble in the latter part of the game, especially in the third period. The momentum BC builds early on doesn’t always carry through the second break and into the last period, and in a game like the one against Notre Dame, it’s imperative to carry the energy through the last minute of the game.

The Irish aren’t an unbeatable team, and sometimes the key to coming out with a victory is to remember the reason these players play this sport. If BC can kill off its penalties, capitalize on its power plays, and get out of its heads, it has a good chance at winning on Saturday and in the future. Winning against the Irish could help salvage the team’s ranking heading into the end of the season, but failing to connect on the ice could be disastrous for the Eagles.

Featured Image by Josh Mentzer / Heights Staff