Saturday, November 21, 2015

UNH Preview

Tonight will mark the 146th time Boston College and New Hampshire meet on the ice, with the Eagles leading the all time series 68-63-14. BC is 10-1-1 in the last twelve matchups. After years of not being able to win anything at UNH, Boston College is 8-1-1 in the past ten meetings on Lake Whitt.

UNH is off to an up and down start, going 3-4-3 in their first eight games. They blew a late lead last night at home vs UMass, a team they allowed to comeback from a 6-1 deficit just over a month ago. UNH lost a good amount of scoring from last season as seniors Gryason Downing, Matt Willows, and Casey Thrush all graduated. On top of that, junior defenseman Brett Pesce signed with Carolina last spring and sophomore forward Warren Foegele signed with Kingston (OHL) just two days after Bracco left BC. While they may be struggling to defend, an issue that could be exposed against the high powered Eagles, UNH boast the top two scorers in the league, Tyler Kelleher and Andrew Poturalski. The dynamic duo has combined for thirty eight points thus far while the next guy on the list has just eight points. The defensive side of things is where Dick Umile's squad has had the majority of it's problems. They're a young group on the backend with just one senior and three underclassmen who are surely to have never faced the type of speed they will see come seven o'clock. Their best defenseman is junior Matias Cleland who will give BC fits with his skating ability and tendency to rush the puck up the ice. On the big sheet, decision making from defenseman becomes critical because odd man rushes are more common with the increase in turnovers. Throughout the season, Umile has placed Kelleher and Poturalski on the same line which doesn't do much in terms of overall depth but they do carry a pair of NHL draft picks in Shane Eiserman (Ottawa) and Marcus Vella (San Jose) on their third and fourth lines. In net, expect to see sophomore Daniel Tirone who has a .876 save percentage and 3.88 goals against average to begin the season.

The #2 Eagles are fresh off a five game home stand in which they outscored their opponents by a 22-7 margin. We all know how well they have been playing as of late but there were certainly some glaring issue in the final two periods of that Michigan State game, a squad that swept UNH two weeks ago. In August, we talked about how there are only two ways this team is going to lose a hockey game- taking dumb penalties and turning pucks over. For a good chunk of that MSU game, they played sound defensive hockey but then gift-wrapped a couple of goals that allowed Sparty back into it. They can't turn pucks over tonight, especially when Kelleher and Poturalski are on the ice. It will be difficult for the staff to get the matchups they want vs that line because they don't have last change but I expect McCoshen and Fitzgerald to be out there as much as possible versus those two playmakers. They could pit Santini and Doherty vs them but that pairing struggled a bit versus MSU so I'm not sure if they will continue to see minutes vs opponents' top line. This will be BC's third game on an olympic surface (Colorado College twice) so hopefully they can make the proper adjustments. In theory, the wider sheet should help them because it creates more room to skate and make plays. When you're fast, such as BC is, you can use that to your advantage.

This should be a fun matchup to watch because both teams play at a high pace and create lots of offense. It will be a reunion of sorts for Coach Ayers as he returns to the school he led to the Frozen Four in 2002 and 2003. I don't anticipate any lineup changes. Ryan Fitzgerald and Scott Savage missed some practice time earlier this week but they should be good to go.

Scouting UNH

Record- 3-4-3, 25th in pairwise.

Leading scorers- Tyler Kelleher (5-15-20), Andrew Poturalski (8-10-18), Dan Correale (6-2-8)

Team offense- 3.60 goals scored per game (10th)

Team defense- 3.70 goals allowed per game (T-53rd)

Power play- 24% (T-13th)

Penalty kill- 81% (31st)

Shots on goal per game- 28.22 per game (43rd)

Keys for BC- 

1. Try to shut down UNH's first line. Poturalski and Kelleher will get tons of ice time, especially if it is a close game. BC might not be able to completely shut these two down but if the staff is able to throw McCoshen and Fitzgerald out there along with the Wood line, it should wear them down.

2. Pucks to the net. Tirone has had a rough start to the season with a sub .900 save percentage. Even if they're from bad angles, BC should do everything they can to get pucks on net.

3. Stay out of the box. Guess who has the most penalty minutes per game in the country? Yup.

Go Eagles !

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