It was just about six months ago when I walked out of the Dunkin Donuts in Providence feeling defeated and embarrassed. I remember wanting to crumble up my lineup chart and toss it at the nearest Union fan. It's been a long, eventful, offseason for the Boston College hockey program since then with lots of changes made in order to do one thing- Let last March never happen again. Tomorrow is just game one but it's as big a first game as you could ever imagine.
I probably said this in last year's opening preview but I have to be honest, I've never been more optimistic about a Boston College Hockey team than I am about this one. There is talent everywhere, defense, forwards, and in between the pipes. Tomorrow night is a chance for the guys to show the college hockey world that they're not just the most talented team in the country, but they are the best. This isn't a Michigan team loaded with NHL talent like former years, but it's a Michigan team that has bitter feelings about missing the NCAA's for the first time in 22 years last season. They're going to come out hungry in front of their always rowdy home fans, determined to send a message that Michigan hockey is still amongst the country's best.
As for the game itself, it's real simple for the Eagles. If they can get over their nerves early on, then they should win this game. Don't take any stupid penalties that will get the home crowd into it, do whatever you can to score first, and hope that Billett can make some early, confidence boosting saves in the first few minutes. It's not like Brian has never won a big game in his life, I mean he won games @ Yale and @ Boston University. That's big time. Unlike last season, BC will have a deep defensive group that can help support it's goaltender. The staff has created three solid parings that each have different strengths and weaknesses. Linell-Macleod are a solid defensive duo that will most likely be put out against Michigan's second line. Matheson-McCoshen are arguably the most talented tandem in the country so they will be going against the Wolverines' first line. Look for Doherty-Santini to also get some substantial playing time.
Michigan's biggest question marks are their defense and goaltending. Of the six defensemen that started for them on Sunday vs Waterloo, three are freshmen, two are seniors, and one is a junior. They're young and inexperienced. Hopefully BC is super aggressive tomorrow night. If they are, they will force turnovers, odd man rushes, and will compel the Wolverines into taking penalties, resulting in numerous scoring chances. When pucks are below the goal line, the Eagles have to use their speed to attack it, not just lay back and let them break the puck out. I watched some video of UM's game this weekend and the biggest thing that stuck out to me was their inability to create clean breakouts. Force these young defensemen to make tight passes in their own zone.
In goal for Red Berenson's crew will be Steve Racine who recorded a 2.65 GAA and a 5-4-3 record a season ago. It took Michigan a long time, almost three months, to decide on who would be playing goalie on a nightly basis which goes to show just how much confidence they have in this guy. A young D corps + an average goaltender should = lots of scoring chances/goals for the Eagles.
In terms of BC's lineup, there are two things I'm looking at. First, who will play right wing with Ryan Fitzgerald and Bill Arnold. On Sunday, the staff had Evan Richardson out there and I thought he looked pretty good. Yesterday in practice, they had Adam Gilmour out there with that line. Personally, I like Richardson in the spot because of his speed but having Gilmour fill the spot doesn't really make a huge difference as he is a solid two way player. The other question I have is who will be on the fourth line. Unlike last year, the staff has a lot of choices on what they can do. I think it will probably be Sit- Gilmour- Silk but it may be Richardson-Sit- Silk. Either way, it's a pretty good fourth line.
All in all, tomorrow night is going to be a learning experience for this team. It will be a great experience for the young guys but let's be honest, they're not there for the thrill of playing @ Michigan. They're there to win the game. It may be the ugliest sixty minutes of hockey we see all year but if they get the job done, all will be well in Eagle Hockey land.
Players to Watch-
Philip De Giuseppe- 9 goals, 19 assist a season ago. Leading returning scorer that is playing (Guptill is out)
Boo Nieves- 8 goals, 21 assist last season, has the most points of any returning Wolverine (besides Guptill)
Michael Downing- The highly touted freshman defenseman is solid, physical, puck moving type that will make life tough on BC's top line tomorrow night.
Boston College is 6-11-0 all time versus Michigan. The Eagles are 0-4 all time @ Yost Arena
Coach York is 4-4 versus Michigan while @ Boston College
UM won the last meeting in 2011 at the Great Lakes Invitational thanks to 3,000 BC penalties (it felt like it)
Johnny G- Kevin Hayes- Austin Cangelosi
Ryan Fitzgerald- Billy Arnold- Evan Richardson
Quinn Smith- Pat Brown- Chris Calnan
Mike Sit- Adam Gilmour- Brendan Silk
Mike Matheson- Ian McCoshen
Isaac Macleod- Danny Linell
Teddy Doherty- Steve Santini
GO EAGLES !!!