Sunday, February 17, 2013

Previewing the #5 New Hampshire Wildcats

This afternoon, Boston College will look to claim what would be one of it's biggest wins of the season over the 5th ranked UNH Wildcats @ Conte Forum. BC and UNH have met twice already this season with BC winning the first meeting and UNH winning the second. BC rolled over UNH in the first meeting but was snake bitten by penalties throughout the second contest, resulting in a tough 2-1 loss up at the Whittemore Center. The Wildcats, a team that spent some time atop the USCHO poll earlier this year, have been in a bit of a slump as they're coming off a loss and a tie vs Providence and a blowout loss at home vs Merrimack. As for BC, they will once again be without suspended forward Kevin Hayes, who will be replaced with Destry Straight on BC's second line with Billy Arnold and Steven Whitney.

Leading UNH this season has been forwards Kevin Goumas and Grayson Downing, both of whom have recorded 10 or more goals. UNH, not unlike Merrimack, wins with their defense though as they lead Hockey East in penalty kill, goals given up per game, and rank last in penalties taken per game. Goalie Casey DeSmith, who was bad in the first BC game but terrific in the second, has been hot as of late, giving up just a goal Wednesday night @ PC, making a total of 36 stops. I think DeSmith is one of those guys that can be one of the top goalies in the league at some points but can also be one of the worst. Such as we saw a month ago vs the Eagles. He gave up 5 goals on 19 shots in the first game @ BC but then responded with 22 saves on 23 BC shots up in Durham the very next night.

So, what was the difference between BC beating UNH and BC losing to them the next night ? Penalties. I mean, think of how many games BC has lost because they have taken so many penalties. There's got to be 3 or 4 games that the Eagles have lost in large part because they took so many penalties. In the last UNH game, Mike Matheson was thrown out midway through the second period, leaving BC without their best defenseman for much of the contest. The Eagles gave the Wildcats a full two minute 5 on 3 along with a 5 minute power play on that night. Hard to win games with numbers like those.

Anyways, this is a huge game for the Eagles. The top four teams in the league are separated by just three points and with Merrimack going to Providence this afternoon, the standings could look totally different by nights end. The real reason why this game is big though is because if BC were to lose, they would drop 4 or 5 spots in the pairwise. A win would move them back into the conversation for a #1 seed. More often than not, we see BC Hockey teams play their best in big games. Hopefully, that continues tonight.

Keys for the Eagles

1. Stay out of the box. BC was the better team in both games between these two earlier this year. They lost the second one because they just couldn't avoid the penalty box.

2. Secondary scoring. With Hayes out, guys like Quinn Smith and Destry Straight are going to need to score some goals tonight. Both played real well vs MC (Smith had a goal) so hopefully, that continues.

3. The power play. BC is doing everything but scoring on their man advantages. They move it well, get good shots, and have good entries but they're just not scoring. Need to start putting the puck in the back of the net.

Scouting UNH

Pairwise rank- 4th

Hockey East standings- 3rd

Season series- 1 to 1

Best Wins- vs BC, @ Denver, vs St Cloud St (x2)

Worst Loss-  @ UMass

Leading Scorer- Kevin Goumas (10-22-32)

Go Eagles !

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