Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wisconsin Preview

Boston College will play their first of fifteen regular season home games tomorrow night when they host the Wisconsin Badgers. Bucky enters the season with an unusual 0-0-2 record after two come from behind draws vs Northern Michigan last weekend. This will be the 23rd meeting all time between the two perennial powers, Boston College leads the series 13-9. Of course, the Badgers defeated BC in the 2006 national title game before the Eagles extracted some revenge in 2010, defeating the favored Badgers 5-0 in Detroit.

Mike Eaves' squad is looking to turn the page after a horrible 4-26-5 mark last season, by far the worst in the history of their storied program. Unfortunately for the Badgers, they lost perhaps the only bright spot from last season, goaltender Joel Rumpel. According to Wisconsin media reports, senior Adam Miller, who had never started a game before this season, will get the nod tomorrow night against the high powered Eagles. Up front, the Badgers will be led by Grant Besse, the leading returner from last season and the highly touted freshman duo of Luke Kunin and Seamus Malone. I was watching a couple of the highlights from UW's games last weekend and the biggest thing that jumped out to me was the Kunin/Besse duo on the power play point. Although both are forwards, perhaps Wisconsin's two forwards, both have deadly slap shots that certainly made an impact last weekend as Besse scored with an extra attacker on Friday night while Kunin capped off a 3 goal third period comeback with a 5 on 3 bomb. Although two ties against Northern Michigan will never be considered "good" by Badger standards, Bucky's power play was terrific, going 3 for 10 on the weekend. There isn't really a way for me to sugarcoat this game because we all know Wisconsin has struggled mightily the past few years, despite an NCAA berth in 2014 (as a #1 seed, I might add). For whatever reason, they have failed to consistently bring in top end recruiting classes year after year because there seems to be this cycle where they're good every three or four years. The slip in performance has caused many Badger fans to call for Eaves' ousting but to their surprise, AD Barry Alvarez gave the father of two of BC's finest another year at the helm. I'm not going to sit here and pretend I am a Wisconsin hockey expert but from an outsider's point of view, Eaves needs to salvage something out of this season, even if he doesn't make the tournament, he needs to show that his teams are ready to compete night in and night out. A win at Conte Forum against the top program in college hockey certainly wouldn't hurt his cause. There may be no bigger disparity in talent between BC and any other opponent they play the rest of the year but unlike a lot of those other teams, Wisconsin is fighting to save their coach and perhaps their program. In fact, I came across a stat this week which stated that Wisconsin has lost half of it's season ticket holders since the 2006-2007 season. Astonishing.

As for Boston College, they enter this contest fresh off a 2-1 upset loss to RPI. Despite the losing effort, the Eagles were able to muster 37 shots on goal, something they didn't do much of last season. We saw a lot of good things up in Troy, the second line of Colin White, Adam Gilmour, and Ryan Fitzgerald was all over the ice, Casey Fitzgerald continued to impress, and the Eagles' special teams  looked solid. The staff will not change the lineup up front as Joey Dudek will continue to play fourth line right wing in Silk's absence. Miles Wood missed the majority of practice this week due to illness but will be a full go tomorrow. Josh Couturier is expected to get the start as BC's 6th defenseman. It's the first home game vs one of the top programs in the country so I am expecting the maroon and gold to come out firing on all cylinders. They've been doing a good job of getting pucks to the net but hopefully instead of having shots from the point blocked every time, the defense can chip it down low to allow the forwards to cycle it. I think the biggest thing to look out for tomorrow night is the play of the first line. Jeremy Bracco and Zach Sanford have been two of BC's best forwards through two games but they, along with linemate Alex Tuch, need to start putting more points on the board. Sure, Sanford had a pair of power play goals last weekend but that line as a whole can certainly take their game up two or three levels. If they're able to do that, they could be the best trio in college hockey.

Scouting Wisconsin- 

Record- 0-0-2

Top scorers- Seamus Malone (0-3-3), Grant Besse (1-1-2), Adam Rockwood (0-2-2)

Team offense- 2.50 goals per game (T-27th)

Team defense- 2.50 goals per game (T-21)

Power play- 30% (T- 8th)

Penalty kill- 83.3% (T-25th)

Keys for the Eagles-

1. Get the crowd involved early and often. If BC jumps out to a lead in the first period, it will force UW to open up their game which could give the Eagles multiple chances at odd man rushes.

2. Stay out of the box. As of tonight, Boston College is 2nd in the nation with 24 penalty minutes per game. It's only been two games but a costly penalty came back to kill us at RPI. As I said in the beginning of the year, there are only two ways to beat this BC team- you need exceptional goaltending and you better pray the Eagles take some boneheaded penalties. Hopefully, that doesn't happen tomorrow.

3. Look for the first line to be dominant. I make it seem like they're struggling tremendously. That couldn't be further from the truth I just think they have the potential to be one of the top lines Coach York has ever had.

Injury notes- Silk out

That's all I got. Go Eagles

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