Thursday, January 21, 2016
It has been a rough couple of months for UMass hockey, to say the least. The Minutemen were undefeated in their first six games of the season before running into Yale and BC, whom they lost to by a combined total of 13-1. Things have not gotten much better for John Micheletto and company as UMass has just one win since November 7th, a 2-1 overtime decision over Army. So what is wrong with the Minutemen? Well, like a lot of teams, they are dealing with injuries. Star forward Dennis Kravchenko has missed the past four games and top defenseman William Lagesson has missed five of the past six games, including both last weekend versus Lowell. If UMass is going to have any chance against the Eagles, they need those guys in the lineup because BC's depth and speed will take its toll on them. UMass has a lot of smaller forwards that can fly and for the first half of the season, they did not have much trouble putting the puck in the net. However, over the past two months, the Minutemen have been unable to pot enough goals as they have just one game with three or more goals since a November 15th tie versus Vermont. I am an avid reader of Fear the Triangle, UMass hockey's go to site on the internet and it is clear that the author, along with fellow fans, is very upset with the direction the program is headed in. Earlier this week, he posted an article calling for the firing of head coach John Micheletto, sighting the coach's inability to adjust his systems based on the personnel he recruited. A few years back, UMass posted a record crowd of over 8,000 versus the Eagles (BC won the game) and head coach Don "Toot" Cahoon was able to pick up some stunning victories over Boston College but since Micheletto was hired over Mike Cavanaugh (among others), UMass' attendance has gone down the drains and their performance has not fared much better.
The opponent may not have the pedigree of Providence or BU, but that does not mean this game is any less important for the Eagles. Obviously, you want to win a Hockey East regular season title but the most important thing BC can do between now and the end of the regular season (outside of winning the Beanpot) is clinch a top four seed. Not only would they be able to play at home for the quarterfinals, they would have almost two weeks to fully heal and gear up for the NCAAs. With fourth place Providence taking on first place Lowell, BC could have a chance to separate themselves from one of those two teams, depending on what happens this weekend. In terms of the pairwise, BC cannot afford to lose this game. They did a great job of solidifying their position in the top ten and setting themselves up for a run at a #1 seed but if they get upset by UMass, they could drop three or four spots. The Eagles are starting to get healthy but they are still a bit banged up on the blue line although there is a chance they have the same starting six as last Saturday night. Expect Teddy Doherty to continue playing forward with Zach Sanford and Alex Tuch because that line had a terrific game versus the Terriers. BC has played well on the olympic ice surface so far, winning both games at Colorado College and one at New Hampshire but playing at UMass has never been an easy task for the Eagles. The Minutemen are going to come out and play hard, especially after all the question about the status of their coach, so I expect this to be a tight game.
Record- 7-12-4 (38th in pairwise)
Top scorers- Shane Walsh (15-5-20), Ray Pigozzi (7-12-19), Dennis Kravchenko (7-11-18)
Team offense- 2.48 goals scored per game (48th)
Team defense- 3.61 goals against per game (54th)
Power play- 16% (38th)
Penalty kill- 80.7% (37th)
Shots on goal margin per game- -7.13 (53rd)
Keys for the Eagles-
1. Stay out of the box. The easiest way to lose games against opponents you should beat is by giving them power play after power play. If the Minutemen get their chances, I'm sure they will be able to take advantage.
2. Be careful of the olympic surface. In order to create offense, I could see UMass implementing the stretch pass to catch BC off guard with the long changes. The Eagles need to be ready.
3. Use speed on the outside. Unless UMass made some drastic changes this week, BC should expect a supper aggressive forecheck that often leads to odd man rushes for the opponent. Look for the Eagles to try and generate a lot of chances through the neutral zone.