Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Previewing the Merrimack College Warriors

Tonight, the #2 Boston College Eagles will travel up to North Andover to take on Hockey East rival Merrimack for the first time this season. Before we dive into the game, let's assess where the Eagles currently stand in the league picture and national picture. As of right now, BC is first in Hockey East by a comfortable six points over second place Northeastern and eight points ahead of third place Providence. A win tonight would give BC a huge eight point lead (or four game) cushion over any other team in the conference. In terms of the pairwise standings, BC is currently sitting nicely in the second position behind #1 Minnesota but a loss tonight would be considered a "bad loss" because Merrimack has struggled mightily this season, especially in Hockey East. However, the Warriors have been playing some exceptional hockey as of late, upsetting #12 Clarkson last weekend in Potsdam before stunning #3 Qunnipiac Saturday night @ Lawler Arena.

I always consider the road game @ Merrimack to be one of the toughest games of the Hockey East slate. The almost miniature rink doesn't really fit BC's north-south skating style. Rather, it favors a Merrimack squad that plays a very defensive oriented style of hockey that can be hard to avoid being frustrated from, especially on the road. The biggest thing BC has to do in order to take home two more points is get Merrimack playing away from their style of hockey. Make this a skating contest, a high paced, very few whistle game that isn't infested with penalties. Because, that's what Merrimack does, they frustrate you so much with their neutral zone "trap" that BC sometimes takes the "dumb" penalties that have been all to common this season.

The bottom line is that BC's isn't going to win this game with their "B" game. It never seems to happen at this rink. Last year, we played two average hockey games in that building and came away with an overtime win and an overtime loss. Both are games which Merrimack probably should have won. Well, if the Holy Cross and Brown games were any indications, it's clear that BC sometimes doesn't show up for opponents they know they are superior to. If that happens tonight, it won't just cost them a win, it will cost them an opportunity to begin running away with the Hockey East regular season title. If they show up and play like they did in the second period vs BU, and the final two periods vs Maine, no one in the country can beat this team. Let's hope it continues.

Scouting Merrimack- 

Pairwise rank-41st (6-11-3)

Best win- vs Qunnipiac

Worst loss- vs Mercyhurst

Leading scorers- Mike Collins (7-10-17), Brian Christie (4-6-10), Quinn Gould (5-3-8)

Team offense- 2.00 goals per game (54th)

Team defense- 2.50 goals allowed per game (22nd)

Power play- 15 % (47th)

Penalty kill- 84% (15th)

Projected starter- Rasmus Tirronen (2.09 GAA, .923 save %)

Keys for BC- 

1. Get Merrimack playing away from their tempo. It's going to be a battle of styles tonight. One team likes to skate and play an extremely up tempo, high scoring style of hockey. The other is the exact opposite.

2.  Goaltending. Demko was sensational on Saturday vs Maine. He will go tonight.

3. Staying out of the box. Last season in this building, penalties were a killer on both nights. In the first game (OT loss), BC gave Merrimack eight power plays. In the second game (OT win) the Warriors had five chances on the man advantage.


1. The game is not on TV but hopefully the weather will hold up and I'll be able to make the trip so you can follow along on twitter.

2. 7 PM puck drop

3. Demko in net.

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