Friday, March 28, 2014

Denver Preview

I remember walking out of the Dunkin Donuts Center in the state of shock. My phone was lighting up with all the BC haters I know ready to explode. The Eagles had just been blown out of the water by Union College in the first round of the NCAA tournament and I was ready to take my cell and fire it right to the ground. To this day, kids still love to remind me about that loss and how embarrassing it was. I didn't know what to say, I was like someone who had just seen a ghost. It had been 8 years since that horrifying loss to North Dakota in the Northeast regional final. I couldn't believe it. Yes, the Beanpot and regular season wins make you feel great and all but all the work this team has put in all season is for (hopefully) these next couple of games. As much as I love to glorify the Beanpot and BU rivalry, the trophy that matters to this program more than any other is that NCAA tournament one. If you watched practice for a week in February and then came back and watched practice this week, you would notice two totally different teams. There was no playing around these past five days. There wasn't much laughing and smiling and joking around. These guys remember what happened last year and if they weren't on the team, they've certainly been told about it. This team knows what they've got to do in order to expunge the memories of that game.

The first step towards Philadelphia is trying to get by the red hot Pioneers of Denver University, coached by Maine legend Jim Montgomery.  The Pios won the inaugural National Colligate Hockey Conference championship last weekend by defeating Miami, 4-3. Denver's last loss came March 13th when they lost game one in a best of three playoff series with Nebraska-Omaha. The Pioneers came back and won games two and three in Omaha. I think one thing we've noticed in this tournament over the course of the past few years is that the hot team, not necessarily the better team, plays awfully well. That's certainly the case with Denver tomorrow night. This DU team may not be as talented as some of the clubs George Gwozdecky had (particularly the one that beat us in Oct 2011)  but they are playing some exceptional hockey.

The Pioneers are undoubtedly led by start goaltender Sam Brittan who is fourth in the country in save percentage, first in saves, eleventh in GAA, and sixth in shutouts. Up front, Denver is carried by freshman Trevor Moore who has recorded a team high 31 points. Helping Moore are sophomore Quinn Shore (25 points) and standout defenseman Joey LaLeggia (23 points) and David Makowski (24 points). Don't look at that #4 seed next to Denver's name. They've got an excellent club, are extremely well coached, and are playing as good as anyone in the country right now. Compared to Denver teams in the past, this one might not have one "super star" but they're probably one of the deepest clubs in this tournament. They have 11 guys with 16 or more points with four of those being defensemen. He may not have as many points as he did a season ago (mainly because of injury) but watch out for LaLeggia. The guy is without a doubt one of the top offensive defensemen in the country. He is an excellent skater, has great vision, and can make plays, a combination quiet uncanny for a defenseman these days.

Look, we learned our lesson last year. You can't just show up to these games and coast to victory. We know Denver is going to be fired up to play one of the top teams in the country after barely sneaking into the tournament. Two things need to happen in order for BC to move on to Sunday. First of all, the second line has got to score a goal. When that line is average, BC is just a three man show. Pat Brown, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Austin Cangelosi have to find a way to score one or two tomorrow night. They were so good in the Beanpot, vs Lowell, and other games but they didn't create much offense in three of the four games vs Notre Dame. The other thing BC has got to do is stay out of the box and somehow get to the power play four or five times (ideally). I hate to say it but I don't see BC winning this thing without a fair amount of power plays. I don't care what the stats say. We've got the best #1 power play unit in the country. They just have to get some time. On the other hand, Denver's power play ranks 15th in the country (20%) while their penalty kill is 5th (86.5%)

This has the makings to be a fantastic hockey game. We saw what penalties, turnovers, and the inability to convert on power play chances can do to you in this tournament a season ago. Those are the three things the 2012 team did so well. They had a tremendous PK, they rarely turned the puck over, and had an automatic power play. To me, those are the three key ingredients. I'm not worried one bit about Thatcher Demko. Sure, he struggled at times vs ND but if theres one thing that I'm confident about going into this game, it's that he is going to be tremendous between the pipes.

I don't think much of all the "Worcester luck" and "BC is unbeatable in Worcester"  talk because you never know what can happen. I mean, in 2006 there wasn't a chance BU didn't win that game. And then they got blown out of the water. Anything can happen in this tournament and in this venue. Heck, when they asked Coach York about it today he replied with "They have a Dunkin Donuts around here and that makes me feel a lot better". It's all about the coffee.

Scouting Denver- 

Record- 20-15-6, NCHC champions. Winners of four in a row.

Leading scorers- Trevor Moore (13 goals, 28 assists), Ty Loney (11 goals, 14 assists), Quinn Shore (8 goals, 17 assists)

Best player- goalie Sam Brittan

Notable wins- They won their conference championship. That's good enough.

Notable losses- Canisius...but that was a long time ago.

Quick note- These guys have traveled a lot. Their last home game was on March 8th and since then they've had to travel to Minnesota, Nebraska, and obviously Massachusetts. Fatigue could play a factor.

Keys for BC- 

1. Scoring from the second line. They have to play well tomorrow in order for BC to win. Heck, they've got to play well from here on out for BC to keep advancing.

2. Staff has to be careful playing the fourth line too much. We saw what happened vs Notre Dame. Sure, they made some corrections but that line shouldn't play much in the second half of a close game, especially with the season on the line. I expect G jr- Gilmour-Calnan to be pretty strong.

3. Must get on the power play. Obviously, this is a bit out of their control but the more time spent in the offensive zone, they more power plays BC should get.


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