The last time that Boston College and the University of Maine faced each other on the rink, the Eagles demolished the Black Bears. Since that meeting nearly a year ago, BC has gone on to finish the season strong and make an appearance in the Frozen Four, while the Black Bears finished their season at a disappointing 8-24-6. Maine and BC are two hockey programs moving in very different directions. Their meeting this weekend should thus prove to be easy work for the Eagles.
The Black Bears (3-3-2, 0-0-0 Hockey East) have had little consistency so far this season. The excitement for head coach Red Gendron of finally coaching a team fully self-recruited provided an initial spark for the season. The Black Bears used this spark to heat up the ice, winning three straight games—one against No. 6 Quinnipiac—early in the season. Maine’s momentum began to cool with the weather as the Black Bears have failed to win their last five games. The initial excitement that comes alongside a predominantly freshman class has faded with the season, as core leaders of the team appear to have been drowned by the surging wave of 10 new freshmen.
This is not BC’s (6-2-1, 2-0-1) first rodeo. The Eagles and their experienced coaching staff know to cope with change. Losing players is a byproduct of being good. As such, the loss of Thatcher Demko, Ian McCoshen, and Miles Wood initially provided BC with a slower than desired start to the season. Time, coaching, and patience has proved valuable as the Eagles’ chemistry has started to develop as they continue to tally up victories on their current six-game unbeaten streak.
Looking toward its doubleheader, BC will be playing to continue its upward swing while Maine will be hoping for a momentum-changer. This weekend’s matchup will be Maine’s first taste of the delights that the Hockey East has to offer. BC has been forced to learn and grow this season against formidable opponents. Though this did result in some early defeats, it has forced the Eagles to quickly adapt to strong opponents. Maine has remained relatively untouched by hockey’s best. While this provided a nice place for the team to grow, it could prove fatal against the Eagles. Look for Maine freshman Mitchell Fossier to make an impact in this game. Much like Maine as a whole, he shined early in the season, scoring a hat trick against RPI and one against Quinnipiac. He has since fallen out of the spotlight but is poised for a comeback against BC.
The Achilles’ heel for BC is the team’s persistent problems with penalties. The Eagles have committed 70 penalties and faced 62 power plays. No team, no matter its greatness, can overcome being constantly down a player. The Eagles have been down a player frequently, as they average 21.89 penalty minutes a game, which ranks sixth among all teams. They have given up 11 goals during these power plays, putting them in the bottom third of the country in penalty-kill efficiency. The Black Bears must capitalize on this for Maine to come away with the upset.
For the Black Bears to exploit BC’s power play weakness, they will need to minimize the number of penalties they give up and subsequent power plays they allow. This is easier said than done. Both the Eagles and the Black Bears have struggled with converting power plays into points this season as BC ranks 44th and Maine 53th. Maine too has struggled with penalties so far in this young season. Maine has given up 66 penalties this season and has surrendered 10 points while down during a power play.
Penalties are bred by a fruitful combination of inexperience, nerves, and general excitement, and as such are common among young teams. This sentiment can be clearly seen in the early seasons of BC and Maine. BC, however, appears to have found a stride that Maine is clearly lacking. If the Black Bears can rein themselves in and take advantage of BC’s penalty issues, this game may well prove interesting. Conversely, if both teams play how they have so far this season, BC looks ready to take advantage and make quick work of its opponent from the North.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Staff