Sunday, February 9, 2014

Previewing the Beanpot Championship


It's not everyday when you wake up and you've got a chance to do something that no one, for as long as college hockey is played in this city, will ever forget. It's not everyday where you've got a chance to change the course and outlook on the sport's most popular regional tournament. It's not everyday where you have a chance to win five straight Beanpot championships. But tomorrow night, nineteen guys will take the ice with an opportunity of a lifetime in front of them. Every news station, website, blog, twitter account, etc has been talking about how much the Beanpot means to Northeastern because they haven't won it since 1988. Well, it means everything to this school as well. I don't care if we haven't won the thing in forty years or we are the four time defending champions, tomorrow night is an opportunity for each and every guy wearing maroon and gold to make history. 

Of course, I don't need to sit here and lecture you about the circumstances surrounding tomorrow night's game. Northeastern is going to play their absolute hearts out for a full 60 minutes. Whether it's the fact they haven't won the Beanpot in 26 years, the fact their underdogs, or the fact that a lot of them were not recruited by BC, that team has a lot to be motivated about so we know they are going to play their best hockey. From a pure talent perspective, this is without a doubt the best team Jim Madigan has had since his arrival on Huntington Ave in the summer of 2011. Up front, they're quick, skilled, and can score a lot of goals. We all know about Kevin Roy and what he did in last year's tournament but his supporting cast is much improved thanks to a star recruiting class headed by former Dubuque Fighting Saints Mike Szmatula and John Stevens. 

Although they were the first two Hockey East games of the season, I think both clubs can take a lot out of the series BC ended up sweeping in early October. First of all, we saw that Northeastern can really capitalize on their scoring chances mainly because of their young skill up front, although they do not generate a lot of shots on goal. So far this season, the Huskies rank 9th in Hockey East in terms of shots on goal with 842, averaging 30.07 shots per game. Boston College is 5th in Hockey East, averaging 32.18 shots per game. The biggest issue for NU has been the amount of shots they're allowing. On Friday night vs Massachusetts, the Huskies allowed a whopping 48 shots. That performance was preceded by performances in which they allowed 27 and 33 shots to Harvard and Notre Dame, respectively. The main point of all these numbers is that BC should have a lot of opportunities to get the puck to the net. Supposedly, Northeastern goalie Clay Witt is a potential Hobey Baker candidate and is the main reason for the teams success this season but our offense is a different monster. I'll tell you what, there is no way NU can allow the Eagles to garner more than 38 shots and expect to win the hockey game. 

Over the course of this winning streak, the single component that is separating the Eagles from their opponents is their ability to limit opportunities in the prime scoring areas. With the exception of a few breakdowns last week vs Boston University, the Eagles have cut down on their opponents' chances between the dots and their odd man rushes. BC's coverages in the defensive zone have vastly improved since the Maine and Holy Cross games, both of which were full of horrible defensive breakdowns and blown coverages. If guys stick to the system in place, keep the black jerseys away from the slot area, and don't allow too many odd man rushes, the Beanpot could very well be making it's way down Commonwealth Ave once again. 

When it's all said and done, tomorrow night will be another one of those hockey games that we all remember for a long time. Sure, remembering games for a long time is fine but over time you forget the games that you lost in the Beanpot. You never forget the games in which you won a Beanpot championship. It's the biggest event in college sports and each and every guy that takes the ice tomorrow with the words "Boston College" etched on their jerseys will have an opportunity to do something no BC team has ever done, 

Win a fifth straight Beanpot. 

Scouting Northeastern- 

Pairwise rank- 12th (16-9-3) 

Best win- @ UMass Lowell 

Worst loss- vs UMass 

Leading scorers- Kevin Roy (15-18-33), Michael Szmatula (11-20-31), Braden Pimm (16-11-27) 

Team defense- 2.50 goals allowed per game (19th)

Team offense- 3.25 goals scored per game (12th) 

Power play- 18 % (33rd) 

Penalty kill- 83 % (25th) 

Shots on goal margin per game- -5.39 (49th) 

Keys for BC- 

1. Test this goalie. See if he really is what they say he is. 

2. Be extremely aggressive in the early going. All the pressure in the world is on Northeastern. They haven't won the tournament since 1988 and they're going to have the whole building on their side. A bad start can really deflate a young team. 

3. Attack these defensemen. Northeastern is kind of like BU in the sense they have a very fragile defensive core although the Huskies have some very skilled forwards, unlike the Terriers. Get puck deep, force them to be uncomfortable in their own end, and capitalize on turnovers. 

Notes- 

1. BC is 33-9 all time in the Beanpot vs NU, 3-1 in the finals. 

2. 7:30 PM on NESN. 

Injury report- 

1. Ian McCoshen is OUT 

Go Eagles !









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