The Providence College Friars took home third place in the Florida College Hockey Classic by defeating the Eagles 2-1 in front of a sparse crowd at Germain Arena. Like always, give PC a lot of credit for the way they battled, as I thought they outplayed BC for a majority of the game, due in part to BC's continuing trend of taking dumb penalties.
Instead of writing a full game recap, I figured it would be best to look at the issues currently surrounding this team and what can be done to rectify them. I'm not in the business of calling players out because at the end of the day, they're doing everything they can to deliver victories to this team and they're kids, not pro athletes. That being said, there are a lot of holes in BC's game at the moment, but I should point out that historically, BC slumps throughout the month of January and almost always in these Christmas tournaments. I'm not making excuses, I just don't believe it is time to give up on them because they lost three games without having any of their top guys in at the same time. Colin White and Miles Wood both make a major impact in every game they're involved in so when both of those guys are back, I expect BC to play at a higher level. Give me this team at 100% and I'll take my chances against anyone in the country.
Here are the most obvious problems-
1. Penalties. BC leads the nation in penalty minutes per game (it's not even close) and they also have the most penalized player in Hockey East (Wood). Coach Ayers has done a remarkable job with the penalty killing unit, so much so that I would say the PK is the only aspect of BC's game that is clicking at the moment. However, even the best penalty killing units can't kill off four to six penalties a game and on top of that, killing penalties sucks the momentum out of your team because you can't create any offense. Not only are they taking an absurd amount of infractions, a lot of those are the result of boneheaded mistakes. The first Providence goal tonight was directly after an interference call that should never have happened- the PC skater was not going to make an impact on the play but for whatever reason, the BC defenseman felt the need to try and take him out. I originally thought the five minute major in the first period was a bad call but after looking at the replay, the BC forward just railed the PC player for no apparent reason. Justified call, in my opinion.
2. Power play. BC's power play has not scored against a team other than RIT since November 21st at New Hampshire. They have more than enough talent to put the puck in the net but, for whatever reason, they can't generate a single goal. Once White and Wood are back on the same unit, perhaps they will have sustained success.
3. Blowing leads. Outside of the RPI game, Boston College has held a third period lead in every game this season. This includes surrendering a two goal advantage versus Notre Dame in under twelve minutes. Unlike some fans, I don't think this is a major issue- yet. BC is a very young team and when healthy, they're rolling six freshmen a night and those guys don't have a lot of experience when it comes to closing out games in this league. It certainly doesn't help when they're giving opponents critical power plays late in the game, which is what happened versus Northeastern, Ohio State, and Providence. In reality, this all comes back to staying out of the box.
4. They're not creating enough five on five offense. I don't think anyone would deny that White and Wood are the two engines that make this train roll and without them, it is difficult to muster much, as was the case last season. I was impressed with the play of Adam Gilmour, Alex Tuch (outside of the penalty), and Zach Sanford this weekend but they are still not at the very top of their games. I think Tuch has made tremendous progress from October to January but, they need him to start putting the puck in the net- it didn't happen this week.
5. Turnovers. Outside of the two goals 44 seconds apart from each other, I thought BC did a much better job in their own end versus Providence. It seemed like PC only had one line that was generating the majority of their scoring chances and if BC is able to get their forward situation settled for next week, they can do a more affective job of keeping those guys at bay. They had a couple of horrific turnovers against the Buckeyes on Monday, two of which led to goals. A large part of their game plan seems to include these home run passes from one end of the ice to other and from my view, they rarely work. Sometimes, when they try to feed Wood on the far side by flipping the puck up and making it a 50-50 battle, he is able to get a scoring chance, but since no one else on the team has that sort of size and skating ability, the play doesn't work as often.
I know a lot of fans are ready to pack it in and give up on the year but, they shouldn't lose sight of a couple things. First of all, this team has too much talent not to be successful in March, if they can stay healthy, they'll be able to roll three legitimate scoring lines and a fourth line that can grind it out on a nightly basis. If history tells us anything, Coach York will get his guys going in time for the Beanpot and the subsequent Hockey East and NCAA tournaments. I expect BC to come out and play their best hockey of the season, given that these next two games versus Providence will have an enormous impact on the pairwise standings. As of now, they would be the last team in the NCAA tournament but if they were able to pick up a few wins vs the Friars and Terriers, they would be right back in the hunt for a high seed.
I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't get a laugh or two out of the backlash from this week. Last year, I got all worked up because I knew they didn't have the pieces and it would have been a near miracle if they made the NCAAs, let alone the Frozen Four. This time around, I know they have the guns to win, they have the best coach of all time to put the right pieces in place, and in my mind, there is no reason to press the panic button.
On a quick side note, I thought Michael Kim played very well in his first collegiate game. I'm not sure what the situation will be once everyone is back but he certainly deserves a second look.