Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lowell Preview

For the 92nd time in the history of the school, Boston College will field a men's ice hockey team starting tomorrow night when the #2/3 Eagles travel up to Tsongas Center and take on the #18 Lowell River Hawks. For the fifth straight season, BC will start it's conquest on the road. Their last opening game at home was in 2009, a banner night win over the Wisconsin Badgers. Obviously, a new season brings a great deal of excitement for the players, staff, fans, and blogger. For the first time in a long time, we are flying a bit under the radar not only nationally, but in Hockey East. Personally, I love how everyone is talking about Providence being the next 1993 Maine team and how Jack Eichel could beat out Sidney Crosby for the NHL MVP right now. Sure, we're still #3 in the rankings but there are a lot of guys on this club that have a chance to prove a lot of people, including myself, wrong.

Of course, Lowell is going to be out for revenge after we ended their season last year in the NCAA Northeast regional final which was certainly one of the best games I have witnessed in a long time. Norm Bazin has done a tremendous job rebuilding what was a defunct program but now his club is full off "his guys". No team, perhaps maybe UMass or UNH, loses more than Lowell does from a season ago. Top scorers Joe Pendenza, Josh Holmstrom, and Derek Arnold graduated while forward Scott Wilson, defenseman Christian Folin, and All American goaltender Connor Hellebuyck all bolted for the pros. That's a lot of players. To deal with the massive exodus, Bazin and his staff brought in a whopping 14 man freshmen class, plus former UMass goalie, Kevin Boyle who transferred. This is what I love about this game. Their guys get thrown right into the fire vs the #1 program in the country, at home, in front of sold out crowd, with a lot on the line. As inexperienced as we are at some positions, we look like a group of veterans compared to these guys (not counting age, of course).

With all the losses, I expect Lowell to amp up their defensive style. In last weekends exhibition against St.Thomas, a game which they won 7-3, four of their goals were scored on the man advantage .  When it comes to five on five, especially the first two lines, BC has a big advantage but if Lowell gets 6 power play chances like they did vs St.Thomas, odds are they're going to find a way to score. I don't expect BC to blow anyone out of the water this year, especially a Lowell team that rarely gives up a large amount of goals, but if they can ware these guys down early with a strong forecheck, zero penalties, and minimal defensive lapses, it could be a good night. Today's practice was all breakouts, something that having a star-studded defense can't hurt in the least bit. The tough part isn't going to be breaking the puck out of the defensive zone because the River Hawks rarely send a forechecker in, it's going to be in the neutral zone. BC is going to have a hard time making plays in between the blue lines so the best option might just be to get the puck deep, send two guys in hard with a high forechecker, and force a turnover or hope for a penalty.

So, who's going to score the goals? The two most impressive guys in the exhibition and at practice were Adam Gilmour and Alex Tuch. They will be joined by Chris Calnan on the left wing. All I'm going to say is this, find a way to get Tuch the puck because the kid can shoot it better than anyone forward I've ever seen around here, including Steven Whitney. Calnan can do the work down low, Gilmour is a good facilitator of the biscuit, and Tuch can flat out finish. I have high expectations for that line. Another guy I really like tomorrow is Cam Spiro. For some reason, the staff didn't play him much, if at all, a season ago but he brings a unique combination of speed and skill that no bottom six forward possesses. Look for him to be a pleasant surprise.

Sure, there are lots of questions and very few will be answered tomorrow night but for me, tomorrow is better than Christmas morning. Other programs may do it differently but around here, the expectations never change. 1. Always beat BU. 2. Win a National Championship.  This team has the talent and leadership to win a lot of hockey games but tomorrow night is chance to show the college hockey world that this is still our conference. Big game.

Scouting Lowell- 

Leading returning scorer- Adam Chapie (12-11-23) He didn't play last weekend so not sure what the deal is.

Best returning defenseman- Zach Kamrass (4-16-20)

Leading returning goaltender- All new guys

NHL Draft picks- One (Evan Campbell, 5th round Edmonton)

Projected top line- AJ White- Evan Campbell- Terence Wallin

# of Freshmen- 14, plus one transfer

# of departures from last year- 9

Keys for BC- 

1. Avoid turnovers in the neutral zone

2. Stay out of the box. Like always.

3. Move the puck on the power play. Get it to Tuch on the half wall. they play him in front of net, I don't like him there. What do I know.

Injury Report- Brendan Silk is OUT. Upper body injury.

7:15 start. Go Eagles.

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