Thursday, October 30, 2014

Denver Preview

Winners of three in a row, the #5 Boston College Eagles are set to travel 2,000 miles west to the Mile High city to take on the #11 Denver Pioneers, who will be hosting their homecoming weekend. It goes without saying that this will undoubtedly be BC's biggest test of the season up to this point but surprisingly, BC is 8-3-1 in 12 trips to Denver, that doesn't include the 2008 National Title which was also won in Broncoville.

For a variety of reasons, I think the Pioneers, who are also 3-1 on the season, present a challenge unlike BC has faced thus far. First off, the Eagles will be missing arguably their best defensive defenseman but I'm actually not as worried about Santini's absence as much as some others are. Don't get me wrong, I think "the sheriff" is one of the top blue liners in college hockey but his injury opens the door for Noah Hanifin to get more playing time and I'm no math guy but Noah+ more playing time should = positive results. Another reason why Denver is going to be firing on all cylinders is because we ended their season in a rather embarrassing form six months ago at the Northeast regional. It wasn't the fact that BC won as much as it was the Eagles flat out dominated to Pios for 60 minutes, mainly because Johnny G lit his former coach's team up like a jack-o-lantern.

So far, sophomore forward Trevor Moore leads the Pios with 5 points but he is only a point ahead of junior Quentin Shore and freshman Danton Heinen. Initially, I had planned to talk about how DU's defense was the backbone of their team but then I noticed that they gave up 6 goals and 48 shots @ Minnesota Duluth last Saturday. They did however hold the Bulldogs to one goal on Friday and allowed just a single mark to a horrible RPI squad on opening weekend. In fact, despite giving up those 6 tallys to UMD, the Pios have given up an average of just 2.00 goals per game, good for 8th in the country. The Denver blue line is led by Joey LaLeggia, a guy that has potted more than 25 points in each of his three seasons at DU and is 5th round pick of the Edmonton Oilers. The other leader on the defensive side of the puck for them is junior defenseman Nolan Zajac who tallied 5 goals and 18 assists for the garnet and gold last season. He is currently tied for fifth on the team with 4 points. In terms of special teams, Denver's power play ranks amongst the nation best with nearly a 29% conversion rate. Interestingly, they're towards the bottom half of college hockey in power play attempts with just 21. Shockingly (sarcastic), BC has been given the 44th most power plays in the country with 16. DU's penalty kill is 39th in the country, with a 78% kill rate.

Obviously, two wins this weekend would be  GIANT steps in the right direction, especially with you know who coming to Kelly Rink on Friday night. I think parts of Denver's game, especially their defense, pose problems for the Eagles but I'm not convinced that DU's offense is on par with that of BC's.  Vs CC, the Calnan-Gilmour-Tuch line was dominant each time they were on the ice so with the return of the much improved Calnan, I expect them to be the Eagles' best line again tomorrow night. BC's three wins this season have had one common theme; all of them featured a goal by one of the Eagles' bottom six forwards, something that is paramount to BC's success this season, especially against good clubs such as Denver. We will see what happens tomorrow night but if those guys can provide energy and scoring right off the bat, this team could have a lot of momentum heading back to Beantown.

Keys for BC- 

1. Not getting caught up in the post whistle theatrics. For the most part, they did a good job of this vs UMass but there was one occasion in which one of our guys reacted to something their guy did and was called for it. DU's crowd will be insane and giving them power play chances isn't going to help anyone.

2. Getting to DU's sophomore, first year starting, goaltender. Sure, his numbers to this point have been pretty solid but he gave up 6 genos last weekend to a "mediocre" UMD squad. Pressure him early and force him to make mistakes, much like they did to UMass' young starter last week.

3. Hopefully Travis Jeke can get somewhat accustomed to the speed early on. I expect that the staff will run five D for the majority of the game, especially in the final two periods but I also think that Jeke's skating ability and offensive awareness could surprise some people, maybe even the staff.

I have a long flight to catch tomorrow AM. That's all. See you in Denver.

Go Eagles !

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