This afternoon, the Holy War on ice will resume as the #1 Boston College Eagles will battle their rival, #14 Notre Dame @ Kelley Rink. The Irish are unbeaten in their past four games which included a sweep of Boston University last weekend in South Bend. This will be the second meeting of the year between Boston College and Notre Dame as the Eagles came out on top @ Fenway Park in January by a 4-3 score.
In terms of the pairwise standings, this undoubtedly BC's biggest game of the season. Assuming Minnesota beats lowly Penn State at home this evening, BC can only retain the #1 overall seed by beating Notre Dame or else Minnesota would win the comparison vs BC and thus, move up to #1. I don't know about you but I'd much rather play the Atlantic Hockey winner than a team like Colgate or Cornell. The good news is that BC pretty much has the #1 seed in Worcester locked up and we all know how well they play out there but winning today is an absolute must for the #1 overall seed.
Notre Dame's first season in Hockey East has been a bit of a downer but they're starting to play some good hockey. After a last second win vs Maine three weeks ago, the Irish played very well @ Providence (taking three of four points), and as mentioned above, swept BU last weekend. Going into the last day of the regular season, ND sits in a tie for seventh place with UVM. A loss tomorrow and Notre Dame ends up in 8th place, setting up a rematch with Boston University next weekend for a one game playoff in South Bend. The biggest issue right now for ND however isn't their Hockey East playoff place, it's their pairwise standing. As of now, Notre Dame is 14th in the system used to determine the NCAA tournament but with the Atlantic Hockey winner getting an automatic bid and a potential underdog winning in another league, Notre Dame would probably be either out of the tournament right now or the last team in. Basically, a win for them tonight pretty much assures a spot in the National tournament but a loss puts them on the outside looking in.
Heading into todays matchup, Notre Dame's leading scorer is senior TJ Tynan who has recorded 8 goals and 23 assist. Helping Tynan are underclassmen Mario Lucia (27 points) and Vince Hinostroza (27 points). Expect Notre Dame to put Lucia and Hinostorza with Jr Austin Wuthrich while Tynan will be with classmate Bryan Rust and Sam Heer. Although they don't score a ton of goals, I would consider Notre Dame to have one of the deeper lineups in Hockey East. In total, the Irish boast 11 NHL draft picks with three of those guys being defensemen and eight being forwards. I think the best part of playing two tough games vs UMass-Lowell last weekend was BC is now prepared to face a team that plays a very defensive style of hockey. Like the River Hawks, Notre Dame tries to make the game very neutral zone oriented. At times tomorrow, this game is probably going to be a boring, whistle infested contest. Notre Dame is 4th in the country in terms of goals allowed per game, giving up just 2.04 goals per contest.
I mean, there isn't much to say other than it's a big time game. All games in March are big time hockey games and this is the first big test. Notre Dame knows they have to win this game in order to solidify their NCAA tournament spot as well as the 7th position in Hockey East. While the Eagles have the #1 position in Hockey East all locked up, a win vs Notre Dame would go a long way in making BC the #1 overall seed.
Lastly, let's make this a special game for a special senior class. Yes, they will have at least two more home games for the playoffs but the best honor the team can give them is picking up this win vs the school's second arch rival. Pat Brown, Kevin Hayes, Billy Arnold, and Isaac Macleod have all played huge roles in the success over the past three and a half years and they did it with nothing but class and for that, every fan should be thankful for all they've done for Boston College Hockey.
Scouting Notre Dame-
Pairwise rank- 14th (19-12-2)
Leading scorers- TJ Tynan (31 points), Mario Lucia (27 points), Vincent Hinostroza (27 points)
Best win- vs Minnesota
Worst loss- vs UMass
Team defense- 2.04 goals allowed per game (4th)
Team offense- 3.00 goals scored per game (21st)
Power play-18.7 % (26th)
Penalty kill- 87 % (5th)
Penalty minutes per game- 12.5 minutes per game (32nd)
Keys for BC-
1. Win the battle of the neutral zone. For the first two periods of Saturday's game @ Lowell, the Eagles won the neutral zone battle, avoided turnovers, and generated a bunch of scoring chances. In the third, Lowell won that battle and eventually tied the game. This is a huge factor today.
2. I am interested to see what the staff does with the lines. Matheson is expected to be back in the lineup so either Scotty Savage or Danny Linell will be off the blue line. I would think they'd move Linell up to forward (preferably 3rd line) but I am not sure yet.
3. Stay out of the box. Cost us a point on Saturday. Can't happen again tonight.
1. BC is 18-13-2 all time vs Notre Dame. The Eagles are 8-7-1 all time vs ND in Chestnut Hill. BC defeated the Irish last November @ Kelley Rink (loudest crowd I can remember)
2. Johnny G's point streak now sits at 27 games. The Hockey East record is held by Paul Kariya (31 games). Not bad company.
Go Eagles !!