Thursday, November 5, 2015

Maine Preview

BC continues it's five game home stand tomorrow night when the Maine Black Bears visit town for a Friday-Sunday series. The two teams enter the game from polar opposite ends of the spectrum as Maine is 0-4-3 while Boston College, winners of five in a row, is 6-1. It's been a rough go in Orono as Maine has failed to make it back to the NCAA's since 2012. To their credit however, they have recorded victories over the Eagles in each of the past five seasons. They're 2-2 vs BC under second year head coach Red Gendron.

Maine's latest setback was a 3-1 loss at the hands of Princeton in the consolation game of the Capital City Classic in Trenton, New Jersey. In the first round of the tournament, Maine fell to Massachusetts 5-4 in overtime. Their two best players from a season ago, Ben Hutton and Devin Shore, are both in the NHL right now and Maine has certainly felt the impact of their departures. If you take out the game against the defensively inept Minutemen, Maine has scored just six goals in six games, an absolutely astounding number. Their leading scorer is junior Cam Brown but he hasn't exactly blown away the competition with his four points on the year. For comparisons sake, Boston College has twelve guys with four or more points. Up front, the Black Bears are heavily reliant on upperclassmen as they have just two underclassmen in the top ten of their scoring chart. Their best player is probably Pittsburgh draft pick Blaine Byron who has recorded three points so far this season. The first line will likely consist of Byron, Brown, and Will Merchant, all of whom have produced team highs in goals and assists. Maine is one of the few teams BC will play this season that is bigger than they are as the Black Bears are currently the third tallest team in college hockey (average height of 6 feet' 0.8 inches). Ever since Gendron took over, he has made a concentrated effort to bring a lot of size to Alfond Arena and there is no doubt they will attempt to use their physicality to try and throw off the high powered Eagles. Freshman Rob McGovern, a Thayer Academy alum, will likely get the nod in net. He is 0-2-2 on the year with a 2.15 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.

The home team will be without forward Ryan Fitzgerald who was handed an automatic one game suspension after cross-checking a UMass player in the second period of Tuesday's game. Expect Peter McMullen to make his first start of the season. With Fitzgerald out, the Eagles will need some production from Alex Tuch as the sophomore has not recorded a goal yet this season after leading the team in that category just a season ago. Unlike last year, they don't need Tuch to be their best player every night but in order for them to have success, they need him to be playing at a high level. He is the best pure goal scorer on this team so there is no reason as to why he shouldn't have at least two or three goals seven games into the season. I am interested to see how they rearrange the lines, if it all. They will most likely plug Wood into Fitzgerald's power play spot but I'm not sure they will throw McMullen right onto the White's line and have him play top minutes right off the bat. Maybe they will try and mix up combinations as the night goes on but that rarely happens. When you're playing a big, physical team like Maine, the best way to counter is by using your speed and skill in space. The more BC plays a north-south game, the more Maine will have to try and keep with them, and thus, the more goals BC will probably score because not many teams can keep up with these guys. I expect the Eagles to implement a very aggressive forecheck that will hopefully lead to a handful of turnovers, much like we saw on Tuesday night. They did a much better job of staying out of the box vs UMass, something they have not done much of this season. Maine is going to come in here and play their hearts out but they're not going to get many even strength chances. If the Eagles keep the penalties to a minimum, they should be fine.

Scouting Maine- 

Record- 0-4-3

Top scorers- Cam Brown (1-3-4), Blaine Byron (1-2-3), Will Merchant (3-0-3)

Team offense- 1.43 goals per game (58th)

Team defense- 2.71 goals allowed per game (27th)

Power play- 7.4% (53rd)

Penalty kill- 75.8% (48th)

Shots on goal per game- 29.14 (35th)

Projected starter- Rob McGovern (2.15 GAA and .913 save percentage)

Keys for BC- 

1. The Eagles need to use their speed and get to open ice in order to counter Maine's size and strength. That being said, this isn't like the BC of old, they will go right back and punch Maine right in the mouth if necessary.

2. Test this freshman goaltender from all angles. It's his first Hockey East road game so he will certainly be feeling some butterflies early on. Hopefully BC can take advantage.

3. No penalties. I think they're the best team in the country when it's their five guys vs anybody else's five guys. They have to stay out of the box.

Notes- Fitzgerald out, Gilmour should be okay to go.

Go Eagles

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