Head coach Jerry York could win his 1,000th career victory on Friday night. The first game of the weekend for No. 4 Boston College (15-4-3, 8-1-3 Hockey East) will be against the University of Massachusetts (7-12-4, 2-7-4), away from Conte Forum and the banner that is counting York up to his next milestone. The Eagles, however, should not take a win against UMass for granted.
After falling to unranked Ohio State in the Florida College Hockey Classic, 3-2, and slipping behind Providence 2-1 in that same tournament, BC has come back to its winning form. The Eagles have most recently won and tied against Providence, and did the same with Boston University. These points have been crucial in both the Hockey East and PairWise Rankings, pushing BC to No. 4 in USCHO.com’s most recent national poll. While the end of the first half of BC’s season was defined by its third-period losses, the start of its second half has shown third-period comebacks. The Eagles swung four points in their favor with goals in the last 20 minutes over the last two weeks, preserving ties in the away Providence and BU games, and notching a win in the home slate of the Battle of Comm. Ave.
The Minutemen have had a more difficult time than the Eagles. Coming into Friday, they have lost 10 of their last 11 games. There is more to UMass’s story than losses, though. The first half of the Minutemen’s season was anything but easy. Of those 10 losses, eight of them were against ranked teams—No. 1 Quinnipiac, No. 13 Notre Dame, No. 12 Yale, and No. 8 UMass Lowell. If anything, UMass will be looking to redeem itself against ranked teams, like Boston College, and to win some points against unranked teams. The Minutemen are not at a loss for offensive talent, with skilled Shane Walsh notching 20 points this season and freshman Austin Plevy with six goals and nine assists. UMass’s bout with Yale in the beginning of December went into overtime, proving it can hold its own against higher-ranked teams.
Last time they played: The Minutemen will want to seek revenge for their shutout in the last game against the Eagles, in which seven goals went unanswered. The Eagles did not score until the second period, but scored six within that 20 minutes. UMass’s defense was unable to stymie BC’s offense that delivered many shots on goalies Nic Reynard and Alex Wakaluk. The Minutemen could not deliver with the increase in energy, despite a large brawl that occurred in the middle of the second. This shutout was one of six in seven games for the Eagles.
Three Keys to the Game:
- Defensive matchup: Where the Eagles excel and the Minutemen falter is defense. The UMass defense is fifth to last in the nation, allowing an average of 3.61 goals per game—BC is sixth, with an average of 1.91 goals allowed. While BC can gain possession and cycle the puck up the ice, UMass has trouble keeping players out of the crease and blocking rebounds. Here is where the Eagles can run away with the game, depending on if the Minutemen step up to the plate against some of the best goal-scorers in the country.
- Who will get the Hobey? BC has three 2016 Hobey Baker Award nominees—Thatcher Demko, Colin White, and Ryan Fitzgerald. UMass has just one—Walsh. But this will not matter if the players do not perform well under pressure. The Minutemen will look for an early goal, with help from Walsh, so they at least cannot let the Eagles get too far away from them. UMass, however, has the ability to lessen deficits, bring games to a tie, and win in the third period. Of games in which the Minutemen have scored in the third period, the record is 2-4-3, but two of those losses were in overtime. Within those third-period goals, Walsh scored seven out of 19. The Eagles will have to watch out, should they lapse back into their third-period deficits.
- Is Demko a definite anymore? After an upper-body injury in the tournament game against Ohio State in December, Demko has played two out of four games—meaning Jerry York and the Eagles cannot rely on him to always start in the net. Newcomer Ian Milosz proved his worth in the win and the tie against Providence, but if Jerry York wants some security, he will play Demko. It is most likely not worth putting him in for the game at Amherst because of Milosz’s play, but we will have to wait and see what York decides.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor