Thursday, January 24, 2013

Previewing the University of Maine Black Bears

After a shocking upset at the hands of UMass-Amherst but a nice beatdown of rival Northeastern, BC will look to sweep the season series away from Hockey East foe, Maine this weekend at Conte Forum. BC and Maine have met just once this season @ Alfond Arena in Orono, a game in which BC won but it wasn't without a valiant effort from a very young Black Bear squad. Unfortunately for Maine and their fans, there haven't been too many positives so far this season as they sit in dead last place in the Hockey East standings and currently place at 54th out of 59 teams in the college hockey RPI ratings. It's certainly an understatement to say that things are not going well up there in Orono. Surprisingly however, the Black Bears do have a couple of impressive victories over teams like Cornell, @ Lowell, and Minnesota Duluth. The first meeting of the year between BC and Maine was supposed to be a cakewalk for the Defending Champs but I thought Maine played a very hard hockey game. They've got some talented guys like freshman Devin Shore (someone that really stood out to me), Joey Diamond, and Conor Leen that can certainly play. It was around this time of year last season where the Black Bears swept BC and BU back to back and were ranked in the top 10 in the country. But, guys like Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn, and Will O'Neil are long gone and it's been a struggle to replace them. Maine's defense isn't too bad as they rank in the middle of the pack in terms of Hockey East as they currently allow 2.74 goals per game, good for 6th in the league. The problem for Tim Whitehead and his team has been their absolutely atrocious offensive production as Maine ranks dead last in Hockey East, scoring just 1.52 goals per game. They're currently the only team in the league averaging below two goals a game. I would tell you who is playing goalie tomorrow for the blue and white but right now, it's anyone's guess as time has been split up between Jr's Martin Ouellette and Dan Sullivan while freshman Matt Morris has also seen some game time here and there. Ouellette has played the last four games and was in net when BC came to town earlier in November so if I had to take a wild guess, I would think he will be in there tomorrow night.

Remember when I told you last week that UMass hadn't won @ Conte since 2007 and then they went right out and dominated BC ? Well, the same thing goes for the Black Bears as they have not beaten Boston College in Chestnut Hill since October of 2005 (!). That's kind of amazing considering the fact that Maine has had some pretty darn good teams in that time span. In their only trip down here last season, Maine got shellacked 6-1 and the year before that they were ranked #3 in the country, only to be swept by the Eagles. If you look at Maine's schedule this season, you'd noticed they have yet to win a game in the previously hostile confines of Alfond Arena and have all three of their W's coming on the road. Is Maine a great hockey team ? No, but BC learned it's lesson last weekend. Winning in this league is tough because everybody has some talented players on their roster. Maine is not different and BC can be sure that Maine knows they need some points this weekend in order to stay in the playoff race. I expect the Black Bears to come out with everything they have tomorrow night and I hope BC doesn't treat this like a pushover game such as they did vs UMass. When you're caught sleeping in this league, it's going to come back to hurt you. BC cannot, under any circumstances, let that happen this weekend.

As for BC, they will be without defenseman Mike Matheson who continues to recover from the upper body injury he suffered vs Northeastern last Saturday. The staff expects that Matheson will be ready to go vs Vermont next Friday night. In Matheson's absence, I look at guys like Isaac Macleod and Travis Jeke who really stepped up and played great the last 40 minutes vs Northeastern. Losing Matheson will hurt an already thin defensive corps but I think guys like Jeke and Colin Sullivan are going to build off the games they had vs Northeastern because, really, that was the first time in a while in which I thought BC played some really solid defense. I don't know if BC can play any better than they did in the second and third periods of Saturday's game vs the Huskies but if they could continue to build some momentum and dominate the play this weekend, it would be a big positive heading into the Beanpot. Anything less than 4 points this weekend would be looked at as disappointing but if the Eagles can continue to do what they did last weekend, then they should be able to come away with a couple victories.

Taking a look at Maine

Record- 5-14-4, last place in Hockey East.

Pairwise Rank- Not ranked.

Leading Scorers- Conor Leen (6-5-11), Joey Diamond (5-4-9), Devin Shore (2-7-9)

Best Wins- @ Lowell, vs Cornell

Worst Losses- vs Merychurst, vs St. Lawerence (x2), vs Vermont

All Time Series- BC leads 61-42-9.

Keys for BC

1. Score early and score often. Some early goals would pretty much kill any inspiration Maine has coming in. BC has got to find a way to build off what they did vs Northeastern.

2. Score some power play goals. The Eagles power play has not looked good. Well, it looks fine but BC has too much talent on the PP not to be scoring. They haven't had a PP goal in 4 games now. Simple key for PP- Get the puck to #13.

3. Make life easier for Parker Milner. Keep shots to the outside and avoid giving up 3 on 2's and 2 on 1's.

Go Eagles.

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