Saturday, October 25, 2014

Penalty Kill Leads Eagles By Tigers


Photo from BC Athletics 


Yesterday, we discussed the importance of special teams and how BC's penalty killing unit had to step it up a few notches after rough games vs Lowell and RIT. Not only was the PK improved from the previous games, it was one of the central reasons why the Eagles were able to record their second consecutive victory. Overall, I was quiet pleased at the way BC played. We know this team can't survive with scoring from the senior class and so far, those guys have proven they can deliver goals at necessary junctures. Unheralded Cam Spiro recorded his first two goals in over a year and a half while Quinn Smith hooked up with linemates Danny Linell and Destry Straight for his first tally of the season. 

The only negative for BC was their first period. They didn't create much offense, they gave up multiple grade A chances, and could not keep CC off the power play. Two of the penalties were the results of a poor job keeping the puck down low for a long period of time and forcing CC into mistakes in their own end. In both the RIT game and the second and third periods last night, BC proved that they're most effective offensively when they penetrate with an aggressive forecheck. I didn't think they did a tremendous job of keeping CC on their heels in the first stanza. Anytime you give an opponent three power plays in a 20 minute span and keep them off the board, it's a huge positive. BC did a better job of keeping the puck to outside and not allowing the Tiger's many scoring chances between the dots but when CC did get those occasional tight area chances, Thatcher Demko was there to make the stops. Although he misplayed the puck on CC's goal (perhaps his biggest weakness is puck handling), he played phenomenal all night long. When he is playing at that level, I believe he's the best goalie in college hockey. 

For the second straight outing, BC's best period was the middle stanza. They dictated the play in all three ends and were rewarded with four goals, one of which was on the power play. Perhaps the most recognizable goal of the evening was Noah Hanifin's first collegiate tally in front of 20 NHL scouts, four of which were from Winnipeg. It is quite clear to me after watching three games that he is the best skating defenseman on this team, perhaps in a tie with Matheson. The most nerve racking portion of the period was when Teddy Doherty went down with what appeared to be a hand or wrist injury. Thankfully, he stayed on the bench and played the remaining 30 minutes. BC was given a minute of 5 on 3 time midway through the period and even though they didn't capitalize on the two man advantage, Ryan Fitzgerald dangled his way around a couple defenders in Johnny G style towards the end of the second penalty, giving the Eagles their second PP goal in as many goals. It's fair to say that Fitz has been without a doubt BC's most prolific forward through three games, in fact he has a goal in all three games. For some reason, maybe it's the increased playing time, he looks so much more comfortable with the puck on his stick and is really starting to create some big time plays at critical points. If CC gets out of that 5 on 3 only down a goal, they've got a ton of momentum, thanks to #19, that didn't happen. 

Third period was a tad sloppy and included a couple of bad turnovers but all in all, not a bad effort from the maroon and gold. The three biggest things they need to improve for tonight’s game vs UMass, a team that picked up a big win @ NU last night, is staying out of the box (UMA has a potent power play), avoiding turnovers, as they were lucky not to fall victim to a couple of really bad defensive lapses, and lastly, I'd like to see them move the puck better on the power play. Sure, they had a goal last night but that was a result of some great individual play. There was too much passing at the blue line and not enough of getting the puck deep and the zone and creating good chances from the "inside out". 

Anyways, solid win but two huge league points are on the line tonight. Preview later. 

Why BC won- 

1. Penalty kill was terrific. CC was 0 for 5 on the man up, much better execution from the Eagles. 

2. Sanford, Tuch, and Hanifin seem to be improving each and every game. Noah looks like a pro out there sometimes while Tuch and Sanford are clearly two of the best forwards on this team at the moment. They combined for 4 points.

3. Spiro was sensational. I don't know how this kid didn't get any playing time in his first three seasons but he has argaubly been BC's best forward besides Fitzgerald. 

4. Demko was fantastic. 

Negatives- 

1. Penalties. Five power plays is too many. 

2. BC turned it over a lot more than they did vs RIT. Teams like CC don't always capitalize on chances, other opponents down the road certainly will. 

Player of the game- Cam Spiro 

Next up- UMass tonight 


Go Eagles

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Previewing the Colorado College Tigers


The last time I wrote the five words you see above, BC Hockey world was filled with optimism as many inside the program felt the 2011 version of the Eagles was the best of the Coach York era. While they may have been true, the walls came tumbling down on March 26th, 2011 as #4 Colorado College ended #1 BC's season, 8-4 in the semifinals of the NCAA West regional in St. Louis. Obviously, a lot has changed since that dreadful day but it will no doubt stay in the minds of coaches, players, and fans for a very long time.

Anyways, tomorrow presents a fantastic opportunity for this Eagle club. They open up at home against a "weak" Tiger squad, fresh off a perfect performance vs RIT. Colorado College is in it's first season under head coach Mike Haviland, who took over after Scott Owens ran the program for 15 years and engineered that historic upset of BC four years ago. I think it's quiet fair to say that CC is in a bit of a rebuilding year but they have a large senior class (six guys) and six NHL draft picks to their credit. So far this season, the Tigers are 2-2, with both wins coming at home vs Alabama-Huntsville and both losses coming at home vs the University of North Dakota. In fact, UND demolished their NCHC rivals by a cumulative score of 10-3 last weekend. While CC did pick up two wins vs UAH, those weren't the usual power conference team vs UAH blowouts, the scores were 3-2 and 4-3.

Leading the way for the black and gold is their top returning scorer and Carolina draft pick, defenseman Jaccob Slavin who posted 5 goals and 25 assists as a freshman. Unfortunately for CC, he was the only blue liner to record more than 9 points a season ago. Slavin is joined by talented freshman Teemu Kivihalme, who is currently second on the team is scoring. It appears that while CC may have a hard time putting the puck in the net (33rd in goals scored so far), they have some young, talented defenseman that have a good mixture of size and speed. Jr forward Peter Maric currently leads their club in points with three, already 3/4 of the amount he recorded a season ago.

Let's make this very clear. BC should win this game. I'm not going to try and sugarcoat it for you, a loss tomorrow night would be three or four steps in the wrong direction. Not only should the Eagles win this game, they should run these guys out of the building. If they play within their system, break the puck out smoothly, forecheck aggressively, avoid dumb penalties and stupid turnovers, they should be able to take home the win. The two biggest areas they need to improve in are the power play (only one goal in six tries), and the penalty kill (42nd in the country, 75%). I'd like to see them switch up the penalty killing pairs. While I think Straight could possibly get some time on the kill, I don't understand why he is above Smith, Sit, Linell, Spiro (who they don't put out there much), and Cangelosi. In fact, Straight has been out there for both PP goals BC has given up this season. Odds are, BC is going to take a couple of penalties. They're going to be amped up to play in front of a home crowd for the first time this season, so they may come out with a little "too much" intensity from the start. Let's hope the PK is ready to go.

Scouting CC-

Leading scorers- Pete Maric (3 points), Cody Bradley (2 points), Garrett Cecere (2 points)

Record- 2-2 (Wins vs UAH, losses vs UND)

Projected starter- Tyler Marble (.892 save percentage)

Through four games, CC is the most penalized team in college hockey. 16.5 penalty minutes per game. They have given up 2 power play goals per game. 11 for 19 on the kill.

Notes- 

Last meeting- Next.

All time series- 12-5-1 BC leads

BC is 12-7-1 in home openers under Coach York. 5-1-1 since 2008

Keys for BC- (Same as always) 

1. No stupid penalties.

2. No turnovers in the defensive or neutral zone that will lead to odd man rushes.

3. Convert on the power play!! This team will be able to produce offensively if they can develop a potent power play.

No injuries.

It's been 1,309 days.

Go Eagles.







Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Day That Will Live In Infamy



As a die hard BC Hockey fan, I've had the unbelievable chance to experience some wins that I will always remember for the rest of my life, particularly the 2006 NCAA Northeast regional final and the 2012 Beanpot championship. While I haven't lived through the hard years such as many fans did all throughout the 90's, there are certainly two games that automatically jump out to me as the worst days in BC Hockey history. One was the 2007 NCAA championship vs Michigan State, a game in which we were certainly the better team but they just found a way to put the puck in the net. The other took place on March 25th, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri vs Colorado College.  Just minutes after the NCAA tournament brackets came out, I had ten people call me and ask about how good Michigan was because they were the #2 seed in the West regional and they assumed we would just blow by CC. Admittedly, I thought it was going to be a cake walk as well.

Since there were so many questions as to where BC would play, I was not able to catch a flight out to the Gateway to the West but I sat (ok, stood), in front of my grandfather's TV for an hour before the game started, just chomping away at my finger nails. The whole time, my grandfather just sat there and said "Mike, don't worry, we're going to kill them", "They have nobody". I kind of laughed at it nervously but since I didn't know much about any teams out West, particularly a four seed, I was very confident in BC's ability to advance.

Just 19 seconds into the game, Jimmy Hayes potted home his 21st goal of the season and we went crazy, high giving each other, pumping fist, screaming in joy, and already doing our research on Michigan.

And then it happened.

CC ended the period with 4 goals in a 15 minute span, with the fourth tally coming in the final two minutes of the period, while BC was on the power play. I refused to lose hope but deep down, I knew the run was over. A regular season title, a Beanpot, a Hockey East tournament trophy, a four game sweep of BU, the best line in BC history, I thought to myself, how in the world is this possible? Think about this. That team's fourth line was Paul Carey (plays in NHL)- Pat Brown (plays in NHL)- Kevin Hayes (Plays in NHL). I am not sure that will ever be replicated here, maybe the 2015-16 team has a chance to be as deep but they won't have the top end speed that the 2011 team had in Whitney (x2), Atkinson, Gibbons, Kreider, and Almeida.

A win on Friday won't heal any sort of "wounds" from that game but it would certainly put a smile on each coach, player, fan, and blogger that had to go though that horrible game. Colorado College may not be a very highly ranked squad with a number of future NHL players, but as my grandfather and I learned four years ago, never say never.

Go Eagles.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Recruiting Update

While the Eagles were out in Rochester, a couple future birds made their first trip to the Jack Parker Rink. The USNTDP lost to BU 6-4, but Jeremy Bracco recorded a goal and two assists while Casey Fitzgerald registered a +2 rating. Top target, Auston Matthews, centered Bracco's line and recorded two goals and one assist. Needless to say, he is the staff's top target for next season but the opposition is strong as BU, Denver, and Michigan, plus the WHL are all in on the Arizona native. Obviously, I have no clue what the kid is going to do but if he does commit to BC, they might have to think about handing the Eagles the 2016 National Title already. Think about this. Matthews would be the best forward of a group that includes Colin White, Jeremy Bracco (hopefully), and Miles Wood. On top of all that, Calnan, Gilmour, Fitzgerald, Cangelosi, and hopefully Tuch will all be back. LOADED !

Yesterday, defenseman Jacob Bryson of Loomis and Chaffee committed to Providence College. While the Eagles were one of several Hockey East teams in on the Neponset River Rats Dman, they offered less money than the Friars did. Right now, the staff only has one defenseman (Fitzgerald) slated to come in next season which means one of two things. First, they expect everyone except Matheson to return or second, they have some other names in mind. While they have some targets such as Dante Fabbro and Chad Krys, both those guys are 1998 birthdays and would certainly be too young to come next season. I expect them to pick up at least one more guy before Christmas. One guy to look for is NTDP defenseman Caleb Jones, brother Seth Jones (Nashville). He isn't the physical specimen that his brother is but he would certainly come in and play some minutes as a freshman and sophomore.

Anyways, that's all I got for now.

Go Eagles


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Win #1


In what was a dominating defensive performance, the Boston College Eagles picked up their victory of the season last night, defeating RIT 6-2 in front of 10,556 rowdy Tiger fans @ Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. First of all, I thought the atmosphere was absolutely tremendous, credit RIT for going out and scheduling games like that for their homecoming. Rochester is certainly a hockey hotbed where Coach York has had a lot of success on the recruiting trail (two Giontas, Reasoner) so hopefully that game last night can help enhance not only RIT's hockey program, but hockey in Rochester as a whole. As for the game, I thought BC was as good as they could be in their own end for large portions of the contest, particularly in the first period in which it seemed like the Tigers couldn't get a shot on goal to save their lives. They came out and tried to set the tone early with a lot of big hits but BC countered with a super aggressive forecheck that had the opponent running around their own end like chickens with their heads cut off. The breakouts, the forecheck, the turnovers, and the execution was leaps and bounds better than it was @ Lowell.

We said at the beginning of the year that BC had no shot to a win a National Title if they didn't get production from their stellar group of defensemen. Well, last night they combined from six points and had four goals from Matheson, Doherty, Santini, and McCoshen. Not only were they contributing to the offense in a big way, they started to look somewhat comfortable in their own end. Last weekend, they moved the puck like it was a hot potato and it led to countless turnovers and eventually a couple of River Hawks goals. That wasn't the case last night. For all the talk about Matheson, Hanifin, and McCoshen, it's the undrafted, 5'9 Teddy Doherty who leads all blue liners in points thus far. It doesn't hurt when his partner, Ian McCoshen, plays about 15 times better than he did vs Lowell. It's tough for Ian because he's such a big, physical guy and the tight rules of college hockey really affect him and the team sometimes. Overall, that's the exact type of game the staff wants the defense to play like, no turnovers, no stupid penalties (iffy call on Hanifin in first), and joining the rush when they can. Perfect night. 

Up front, it was Zach Sanford and Ryan Fitzgerald who led the way. The other prediction I had at the beginning of the year along with the one stated in the second paragraph is that BC couldn't survive without points from Sanford and Alex Tuch, the two highly touted freshmen forwards. Maybe it was the first game jitters or the effectiveness of Lowell's forecheck but whatever the case, Sanford, Cangelosi, and Fitzgerald generated a lot more scoring chances in game two than they did in game one. Quietly, Brendan Silk, Cam Spiro, and Mike Sit combined for four points and the bottom six forwards combined for six shots. They had just one a week ago. From my point of view, Chris Calnan has been the most improved forward through two games. He didn't have any points but he did have  three shots on goal and barely missed out on scoring in back to back games on multiple occasions. He doesn't really need to be a multiple point per game guy like Fitzgerald, Gilmour, and Tuch need to be but he does need to be one of, if not the best, forecheck on this team. He certainly was last night. 

Overall, I'm really excited about the way the team played as a whole. My only two concerns are the power play and penalty kill, both of which seem a little out of synch. The departures of G, Arnold, and Hayes hurt this team on the power play more than anywhere else because last year's second unit, this year's first unit, really hasn't gelled yet. They always figure special teams out at one point or another. I'm not too concerned. 

Why BC Won- 

1. Defense leads to offense. When the guys on the blue line are playing like that, beating BC is going to be very, very tough. Not only are they skilled on their feet when controlling the puck, they've got a little bit of a nasty side to them. Super skilled but also tough to play against. 

2. Sanford and Fitzgerald were on fire. They combined for five points. 

3. They turnovers were cut substantially. Small amount of turnovers=win. 

Negatives- 

1. Power play and penalty kill are a tad off. McCoshen had a nice bomb from the point with under two minutes to play, giving BC their first PP goal of the year.

Player of the game- Teddy Doherty 

Next Up- Colorado College on Friday. UMass on Saturday. Both at home. 

Go Eagles. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

RIT Preview


After an extremely disappointing start to the season last weekend @ Lowell, the Eagles will look to right the ship as they face off vs the RIT Tigers. Interestingly, RIT is coached by Wayne Wilson who was a member of Coach York's 1984 NCAA Championship team @ Bowling Green. Associate head coach Brian Hills also played for Coach @ Bowling Green. Obviously, this is a huge game but for a lot of varying reasons. First of all, the first win is always one of the toughest to get, especially in front of what is sure to be a raucous crowd of 10,000 screaming Tiger fans. Secondly, BC has got to show their ability to play solid in their own end because that is supposed be the strength of this team. Some of the breakdowns vs Lowell were atrocious. A loss is a loss but last weekend wasn't just a loss, it was a game in which the Eagles looked totally out of sorts for forty minutes. Hopefully a good week of practice and a full squad will help enhance both the defensive zone breakouts and offensive productivity.

RIT is 1-1 on the season with a win over St.Lawrence and a loss vs Clarkson under their belts. This will be their fifth straight season hosting the "Brick City Homecoming", last year they faced off vs Michigan and almost beat a Wolverine squad that was fresh off a victory vs BC. There are certain games you just have to find a way to win, no matter how good the opponents plays or how tough the environment is, you just have to find a way. Tomorrow is one of those games. Five of the last eight seasons, BC has lost their opening game, in fact they've done that the past three years. Lost @ NU in 2013, @ Michigan in 2014, and @ Lowell last weekend. One of the reason Coach York and the staff decided to schedule this game and so many other non-conference road games is because a win on the road is added points to the pairwise standings. The Eagles are currently 46th....it's early.

There are a lot of things that need to get better and I'm not expecting a perfect game tomorrow but if dumb penalties and turnovers are prevalent, it isn't going to be pretty. This team is simply not explosive enough to make up for three or four really bad give aways in their own end. Towards the end of the second and certainly in the third period vs UML, the Eagles were able to generate a lot more pressure but unfortunately, it was all from the first two lines. BC's bottom six forwards combined for just one shot and freshman defenseman Noah Hanifin led the team with four shots on goal. I love Noah but a freshman defenseman isn't supposed to be the best player on the ice with a team full of future NHLers in his first game, even it's Noah Hanifin. 

When it's all said and done, we're going to learn a lot about this team's ability to rebound from adversity. Once the crowd got going after UML's first goal last week, BC couldn't do anything about it. Even if RIT scores the first goal or two tomorrow, the Eagles can't just pack it in like they did last weekend. It's a 60 minute game! We played about fifteen minutes at a high level a week ago. 

Keys for BC- 

1. Can't turn the puck over. Hockey isn't too different from football in the sense that whichever team turns the puck/ball over more, usually loses the game. BC has got to find a way to clean up in their own end.

2. Special teams. Neither the power play nor penalty kill was very effective last week. They still don't have a set top power play unit, they just do it by lines. Tuch, Gilmour, Fitzgerald, Matheson, and Hanifin would be a potent first unit. Also, they could possibly move Savage into the second unit. 

3. Scoring from the bottom two lines. Believe it or not, the return of Brendan Silk should help substantially. He was without a doubt the most improved forward from 2013 to 2014. Spiro, Sit, Linell, and Smith need to find a way to muster more than one shot on goal. 




Go Eagles. 




Thursday, October 16, 2014

Couple Updates

First off, I want to say thank you for all the messages of support I got this week. It is certainly a tough situation for me but hopefully all wounds heal over time. I'm looking forward to writing about some actual hockey over the next couple of days.

The Eagles will make the trip out to Rochester tomorrow and take on RIT Saturday night @ a sold out Blue Cross Arena. Here is the projected lineup.

Calnan-Gilmour-Tuch

Sanford-Fitzgerald-Cangelosi

Spiro-Sit-Silk (First game)

Smith-Straight-Linell

Matheson-Savage

Santini-Hanifin

McCoshen-Doherty

Out- Matty G, Peter McMullen, Travis Jeke


The USNTDP U18 team played @ Providence tonight and they will take on the Terriers tomorrow @ the Jack Parker Rink. BC recruit Jeremy Bracco notched NTDP's third goal this evening in a game they ended up tying 3-3. Casey Fitzgerald recorded their second goal. The big uncommitted name on this year's roster is forward Auston Matthews, an Arizona native. According to Mark Divver of the Providence Journal, Matthews is 50-50 on whether he will go college or WHL. The schools he is considering are BC, Denver, Michigan, and BU. 

I will have an RIT preview up wither later tonight or on Friday. 

Go Eagles.