Monday, November 23, 2015

UConn Preview

I've been following BC Hockey for a long time and have experienced a few excruciating losses. The Beanpots pre-2008 were always difficult to swallow, the 2006 Hockey East Championship was painful (the week after wasn't bad though), Colorado College was shocking, and of course the 2006 and 2007 National Championships top them all. Last November's loss at UConn ranks right up there as the most agonizing regular season loss I have ever seen. I don't know what it was. BC played well and dominated the majority of the game but for one reason or another, the Huskies came out on top, winning the inaugural meeting between the two schools.

Fast forward a year and things are drastically different. BC has a pretty good team this season (we're working on understatements in my English class) while the Fighting Cavanaughs are off to a rough start. I know some BC fans despise UConn because of issues surrounding the basketball and football programs but, I don't. Mike Cavanaugh is an awesome guy who gave a lot to this program. Without his hard work, you would not see four of those five banners hanging over Conte Forum. For that, BC fans should be thankful.

Despite all that, hockey is hockey and when the puck drops tomorrow, old friendships will be put aside. You know Cav will have those guys ready to run through a brick wall in front of what is sure to be a packed crowd. On the other end of the spectrum, Coach York probably has not forgotten the way the Huskies celebrated that victory last season- you would have thought they won the national title. Connecticut enters the contest on a seven game losing streak, highlighted by a stunning upset at the hands of Army two weeks ago. UConn started the season off well, sweeping Alabama-Huntsville on the road before pulling off an upset of Boston University. However, it's been all downhill after that win over the scarlet and white. They have been outscored by a 29-13 margin during this losing streak, which includes an 8-2 drubbing versus Notre Dame. The Huskies are led by former Terrier recruit Max Letunov who was forced to withdraw from BU over the summer due to an issue with his application. The freshman out of Russia has fourteen points this season which is six more than the second guy on this list, fellow freshman Tage Thompson. UConn will be one of the most inexperienced teams BC plays all season as five of their top six leading scorers are underclassmen. They have had a week to prepare for the Eagles after falling to Quinnipiac last Tuesday but as good as the Bobcats are, their team speed is nowhere near the level UConn will face tomorrow night. A year ago, the Huskies, a slick team in their own right, were able to play an uptempo game versus BC and with the Eagles being slow (for BC's standards) UConn was able to generate a lot of chances off the rush. If they try to play that north-south style tomorrow, it won't be pretty. On the defensive side of things, the home team will be without one of it's top defenders- Penguins draft pick Ryan Segalla was suspended one game by Hockey East which means the Huskies will likely be going with two freshmen, three sophomores, and a senior on the backend. BC fans will remember goaltender Rob Nichols who turned in one of the best performances I have ever seen last fall when they beat the Eagles. The junior netminder has posted a .898 save percentage to go along with a 3.17 goals against average thus far.

As for the visitors, they will be without senior Brendan Silk (separated shoulder) and junior Chris Calnan (upper body). The staff will go with the same lineup as Saturday night with the only exception being Peter McMullen taking Chris Brown's spot on the fourth line. Brown will play with Miles Wood and Austin Cangelosi. I think BC's going to be fired up to play tomorrow; nearly every guy in that locker room was there to witness that loss last season and they know it wasn't your typical Hockey East road letdown. UConn tends to play an aggressive style, their defensemen often jump in to try and make plays in the offensive end, and their forwards are, for the most part, small but quick. Another familiar name in their lineup will be Evan Richardson who played his freshman year at the Heights before transferring to Connecticut. I bet this sounds repetitive because I say it every week but the key for this Eagle squad continues to be staying out of the box. They remain the national leader in penalty minutes and gave UNH ample opportunities to tie the game on Saturday due to their inability to avoid dumb infractions. I love the physical brand of hockey they bring to the table each night. I don't think anybody would refute that their style of play is at a higher level than perhaps we've ever seen it. But, in saying that, they keep giving their opponents chances to win hockey games by spending twenty five minutes in the box per game. It doesn't hurt much when you have a terrific penalty kill but let's face it, Calnan was arguably their top killer and now, for the time being, he's not there. I think Brown is perfectly capable of taking that spot but if they give the Fighting Cavs the same amount of chances they gave UNH, the Huskies could certainly take advantage.

Scouting UConn- 

Record- 3-9-0 (52nd in pairwise)

Top scorers- Max Letunov (6-8-14), Tage Thompson (4-4-8), Joe Masonius (3-4-7)

Team offense- 2.50 goals scored per game (38th)

Team defense- 3.68 goals allowed per game (52nd)

Power play- 17.6% (34th)

Penalty kill- 77.6% (47th)

Shots on goal per game- 26.50 shots per game (53rd)

Keys for BC

1. Stay out of the box. They will not win if they continue to take penalties at this rate. Doesn't matter how good you are, you can't kill penalties all day.

2. Score the first goal. Boston College is 9-0 when scoring before opponents. The crowd is going to be rowdy tomorrow night. Hopefully, BC is ready to go early on.

Notes- Calnan and Silk are out.

Go Eagles

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