Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Notre Dame Preview

The Frozen Holy War will resume tomorrow night when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to Chestnut Hill. This will be the 40th meeting all time between BC and ND, a series in which the Eagles lead by a 20-17-2 margin but, Notre Dame has won four of the past six contests. The two teams split last season in South Bend after the Irish came in here and handed the Eagles a shocking Hockey East quarterfinal series loss in 2014.

Although they aren't quite BU, the Irish have quickly climbed the ladder in terms of BC's biggest rivals. Ever since Jeff Jackson was hired in 2005, Notre Dame has been a thorn in Boston College's side as they have handed the Eagles a couple of devastating losses. How could one forget the November 2011 meeting when Notre Dame scored with less than a second left in overtime in BC's first ever visit to Compton Family Ice Arena? Ugh, that was awful. Despite the offseason losses of Vince Hinostroza and Robbie Russo, ND is off to a solid start, sitting at 8-4-4 for the season and in the midst of a three game winning streak. Leading the way for the green and blue will be seniors Thomas DiPauli, Mario Lucia, and Steven Fogarty, all of whom have recorded eleven or more points to begin the season. Unlike last year, the Irish appear to be a deep squad with three scoring lines and a reliable defensive corps headed by senior Andy Ryan. Sophomore Cal Petersen will guard the net once again after a terrific freshman campaign that saw him land ND's rookie of the year award.

We all know how Notre Dame is going to play tomorrow- it's going to be the same old clog the neutral zone, send in one forechecker, and block a ton of shots, style of play. Is it fun to watch? No, but it has worked, especially against the Eagles. The best way for BC to counter this static approach will be to move the puck quickly, take advantage of the open wingers if ND decides to commit everyone to the middle of the ice, and avoid offensive zone turnovers. Jackson always says that the reason he wants to play this way is because it generates a lot of chances for ND off of opponent's miscues, which is exactly what seems to happen every time they play BC. When there isn't a play to be made, the Eagles have to get pucks low and attack because the longer they possess the puck, the more ND will have to run around its own end.

The three biggest keys are face-offs, getting off to a fast start, and obviously, penalties. Notre Dame's power play has not been firing on all cylinders to begin the season but they have a lot of talent which means they're always dangerous especially if they're given a man advantage every two minutes. For the majority of the season, BC has been terrific at the face-dot, ranking fourth in the country with a 56% conversion rate. However, they tied on Saturday because of not being able to win a couple of crucial defensive zone draws and NU's first goal on Sunday was scored directly after a clean win. Last but certainly not least, the penalty minutes need to be cut back. It is absolutely stunning to see that BC leads the nation with 6.93 penalties per game while the next closest is 6.12. In the world of hockey stats, that is an astonishing difference between first and second place- they need to bring that number drastically down.

This is a huge game for pairwise and Hockey East standings implications. No matter who dresses and who doesn't, the Eagles need to be ready to go from the get-go. When you're 13-1-1, there aren't any "must wins' in December but Christmas in BC Hockey world would be a heck of a lot better if they were able able to take down the Irish tomorrow night.

Scouting Notre Dame- 

Record- 8-4-4 (16th in pairwise)

Leading scorers- Thomas DiPauli (7-9-16), Anders Bjork (5-10-15), Jake Evans (2-12-14)

Team offense- 3.19 goals scored per game (19th)

Team defense- 2.56 goals against per game (23rd)

Power play- 19% (28th)

Penalty kill- 80% (42nd)

Keys for BC- 

1. Stay out of the box. I am starting to sound like a broken record.

2. Need a good first period. For three straight games, the Eagles have started out poorly, especially in the opening minutes. That needs to change.

3. Avoid turnovers in the offensive zone. Notre Dame makes a living off of their suffocating defense and ability to turn miscues into goals.

Go Eagles

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