Thursday, January 7, 2016

Providence Preview

BC will end their ten day hiatus this weekend as they take on the #3 Providence College Friars, the team they lost to in their last outing. I don't need to tell you how big of a series this is for the Eagles-with RPI's tie this evening, BC is currently the last team in the NCAA field and they're fighting with the Friars for home ice in the Hockey East playoffs while looking to end a three game losing streak. The task will be that much more difficult without star goaltender Thatcher Demko, who suffered an upper body injury two weeks ago versus Ohio State. Freshman Ian Milosz will make his first ever start after enrolling in the school this week.

Providence is in the midst of their own slide as they're coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to crosstown rival Brown on Sunday afternoon. The Friars have lost two of their past three games after starting the season 11-0-3. Nate Leaman and his crew will get a big boost as star defenseman and leading scorer Jake Walman is set to make his first start since getting hurt on December 5th against Merrimack. PC is one of the deepest teams in college hockey with seven players potting over ten points for the year, but their go to line consists of first rounder Mark Jankowsi, Nick Saracino, and Trevor Mingoia. Those are just three of the nine seniors on Providence's roster, which is tops in Hockey East and far more than BC's four. I don't think there is a significant difference between PC's first and second line but that top unit will see a ton of playing time, which was certainly the case down in South Florida. BC had a difficult time matching up with those three guys, all of whom play a skilled game with some physicality mixed in. I look for the staff to put Wood-Cangelosi-Calnan out there as much as possible against Jankowski and company so that they can match that bump and run style. PC's power play was able to get on the board against the Eagles in the first matchup and the addition of Walman on the blue line should only help their cause. I said this yesterday and I'll say it again, as tough as it will be to beat these guys with a freshman in net for the first time, the players in front of him can make a huge difference by staying out the box and blocking shots. BC has to make it a priority to get out to the point and defend as well as they can. They need to limit the shots that get to Milosz by forcing the PC defenders to dump the puck off the wall instead of going bombs away from the top of the zone.

I think the outcome of these games will depend on two things. Number one, BC has to avoid penalties, especially the unnecessary ones that plagued them down in Florida. I've always been a believer in "good" and "bad" penalties. Taking out an opposing player fifteen feet away from the puck will have no impact on the game, so why the need? If they give PC four or more power plays in each game, then they won't have a good chance of bringing home four points. Secondly, BC needs to create more offense, whether it's on the power play or five on five. Outside of the first twenty minutes against Ohio State, they have yet to record a period in which they generated a large majority of scoring chances. The return of White and Wood should jump start their respective lines but BC is going to need more out of Sanford, Tuch, and Gilmour. I think Sanford is playing at a high level, evident by his nine points in six games stretch but, his two wingers have not taken their games up to the notch needed to have sustained success. That is not a knock on Tuch or Gilmour because both have been banged up for a large majority of the season so, hopefully this layoff will have a positive impact on their games. Teddy Doherty took some reps at forward this week so I would not be shocked if he plays up while Michael Kim takes his spot on the blue line. However, with White back in the fray, I find it unlikely that the captain will join the forward ranks. Speaking of White, the staff knows he will be tired after seven games in nine days at the World Juniors but I think everyone is aware how vital these two games are for BC's trajectory, so expect #18 to play a regular shift.

No matter what happens, we're going to learn a lot about this club over the next 48 hours. The best teams deal with injuries and I'm convinced that if Milosz can play the way he's capable of, then he'll give BC a chance to win. They don't need him to stand on his head for sixty minutes because they have more than enough offense to put the puck in the net. The first ten minutes of the game will be crucial- if Milosz can make a few stops early and BC jumps out to a lead, then they will be able to play at a faster tempo. For the first time all season, BC's backs are against the wall, let's see what they're made of.

Scouting PC- 

Record- 13-2-3 (6th in pairwise)

Top scorers- Jake Walman (11-8-19), Mark Jankowski (8-10-18), Nick Saracino (5-13-18)

Team offense- 3.56 goals scored per game (9th)

Team defense- 1.89 goals allowed per game (6th)

Power play- 22.5% (11th)

Penalty kill- 85.3% (17th)

Keys for BC- 

1. Stay out of the box. The Eagles average 19.17 penalty minutes per game, which leads the country. The next closest team is Army, who is at 15.78. That is an astonishing difference.

2. The defense needs to cover for Demko's absence- blocking shots, limiting odd man rushes, and keeping PC away from the grade A scoring areas will be critical. Hopefully, Milosz will be able to manage his nerves in the first few minutes.

3. Need big games from Tuch, Gilmour, and Ryan Fitzgerald. All three of these guys have played very well at times, especially Fitzgerald, but they have not been producing enough offense as of late. It needs to be more than just the two freshmen.

Go Eagles !

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