Thursday, January 14, 2016
The Terriers are red hot entering Friday's matchup after a stunning 6-5 win @ Harvard last Thursday, which was followed by a 7-2 stomping of UMass on Saturday night. After the departure of Jack Eichel, BU struggled out of the gate, falling to Union, UConn, and Merrimack but over the past month and a half, they seem to be finding their rhythm. As their dedicated Twitter followers like to point out, BU has played one of the toughest schedules in the country and won a good amount of those games- vs Michigan, Denver, @ Qunnipiac, and @ Harvard to name a few. Head coach David Quinn and his staff brought in a terrific recruiting class, headlined by Swedish product Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and USNTDP alum Charlie McAvoy, one of the top offensive defenseman in Hockey East. While the newcomers have had a large impact on BU's success thus far, it has been the senior class leading the way for the scarlet and white. St Sebastian's product (always tough seeing Arrows going down the street) Danny O'Regan is tops on the team in points with 7 goals and 16 assists thus far while fan favorite Ahti Oksanen leads their club with 10 goals. While BC and BU both play at a fast pace, they are built differently. BU's strength lies within their star studded blue line, headed by McAvoy and captain Matt Grzelcyk, who recorded a natural hatrick versus UMass last weekend. From the moment I first saw him play, Grzelyck has impressed me with his speed and play making abilities from the back end, so I look for him to play a major role in both games. Unlike last season, the Terriers are not very deep at the forward position but they have gotten contributions from senior Matt Lane and less heralded freshman Ryan Cloonan to help offset any offensive deficiencies. The departure of sophomore left winger AJ Greer to the QMJHL over Christmas break was a bit of a killer for them but Quinn brought in Finnish forward Oskar Andren and Dedham native Eric Udahl to play fourth line. The biggest question mark for BU is their goaltending. Junior Sean Maguire will likely get the start versus the high powered Eagles but after a year away from hockey due to concussions, the Powell River, BC native has had a bit of a rough go with a 2.80 goals against average and .899 save percentage.
I don't need to sit here and tell you how big of a weekend this is for the Eagles. BU sits one spot ahead of BC in the pairwise standings but it's the maroon and gold who hold a four point lead in the Hockey East standings. I thought we saw a lot of improvement versus Providence- especially on the offensive side of things. Throughout the month of December, BC had a tough time generating offense but against Providence, one of the top defensive teams in the country, they were able to pot eleven goals in two games. As I said earlier, BU is one of the best skating teams BC will see all year but they aren't known for the defensive prowess. I look for the Eagles to implement an aggressive forecheck aimed at forcing BU into turnovers below their own blue line. In terms of matchups, the staff will likely put the Wood-Cangelosi-Calnan against BU's top unit of Cloonan-JFK-O'Regan. The Terriers recently changed their lineup and their second line includes two of the biggest forwards in the country- Greenway and Oksanen, both of whom are very good at playing along the boards and using their length to create turnovers. I think BC will look to counter that line with Gaudreau-White-Fitzgerald which would give Tuch and company a favorable matchup versus BU's third line.
I'm sure you are all wondering who will be in net for BC and while I don't have an answer, I think there is a good chance Thatcher Demko makes his first appearance since December 29th after practicing most of the week. BC is banged up, as is the norm for this time of year, but they should have their full arsenal ready to go.
Record- 11-6-3 (9th in pairwise)
Leading scorers- Danny O'Regan (7-16-23), Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (5-13-18), Ahti Oksanen (10-9-19).
Team offense- 3.55 goals scored per game (9th)
Team defense- 2.85 goals against per game (32nd)
Power play- 23.3% (10th)
Penalty kill- 81.6% (33rd)
Shots on goal per game- 29.60 shots per game (24th)
Keys for BC-
1. Stay out of the box. In these type of games, perhaps more so than any other, avoiding penalties is paramount because momentum can shift in a matter of seconds with a power play goal or two. It is no coincidence that BC took less penalties than PC and came out with 3 points.
2. No turnovers in the defensive zone. BU has a nice mixture of size and speed and they can come after you in a lot of different ways. The turnover battle will be crucial.
3. Beware of the third period. The Terriers rank 37th in first period points this season and if you watched their game against Harvard, you could see why. However, BU is 1st in the country with 103 third period points. They scored three in under the four minutes against the Crimson.
Note- 6 PM start tomorrow because of TV.