Monday, February 8, 2016
I say this before every BC-BU game but I don't think anyone who has ever been involved in the rivalry, whether as a player, coach, student, or fan, would tell you there is anything better in college athletics. The disdain between the two programs is obvious but the underlying respect towards one another is unique, especially considering how close the two institutions are and how they compete on so many different levels. It should be a tremendous spectacle not only for the tournament, but for the sport of college hockey.
The Terriers enter this game on a 5 gamer winning streak, which is tied with St Cloud State for the longest in the country although it should be noted those wins have come against Maine (x2), Merrimack, Northeastern, and UMass, five of the worst teams in college hockey. As we saw a couple of weeks ago, they will be led up front by freshman Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, senior Danny O'Regan, and fan favorite Ahti Oksanen. Coming into the season, many (including me) questioned whether or not BU would be able to get consistent scoring due to the fact that they lost their top guys from a season ago. So far, they have proved their critics wrong as they are 7th in the country with 3.67 goals scored per game. Their blue line has accounted for a good chunk of that offense as they are 2nd in the nation in defenseman scoring which is not surprising given the talent they have on that back end. That being said, their best player (in my opinion at least), Charlie McAvoy, is questionable for tonight's game with a lower body injury per Mike Morrelae of NHL.com. Personally, I would be absolutely shocked if he didn't play in a game of this magnitude. One guy that has found his way for the scarlet and white is rookie Jordan Greenway who has recorded 7 points in 5 games since the weekend series with BC. That stretch includes a 3 point outburst vs Maine and a 2 goal performance on Friday night at UMass. BU possesses a good mix of size, speed, and skill. Guys like Greenway and Oksanen are bigger, more powerful forwards who have tremendous stick skills, especially in the offensive zone. However, they also have players like O'Regan, Lane (who has had a great senior year), and JFK who can beat you with their speed to the outside. Entering the weekend series versus BC in early January, many BU fans had concerns about goaltender Sean Maguire but even since those back to back stellar performances against the Eagles, the senior out of British Columbia has stood on his head.
I think one of the more intriguing story lines is the fact that these are the youngest teams in college hockey and there is no way to determine how the players will react to the circumstances. Perhaps the impending snowstorm will have a negative effect on the crowd but I still expect around 9-10,000 people to be there. If you're reading this, you're probably wondering about the status of BC's injured players- in particular Colin White, Miles Wood, and Chris Calnan. While things could certainly change between now and 7:30, I would be shocked if they were not in the lineup given that all three participated fully in practice yesterday afternoon. Obviously White and Wood are the two engines that make the train go but Calnan's value as a fourth liner who can kill penalties should not go unnoticed because in these type of game, the unheralded players are often the ones who make the biggest impact. As was the case in the Harvard game, I would say that whichever team takes the lower amount of penalties will be the team that comes out on top. If you look at the past couple of games these teams have played in this tournament, you will notice just how crucial power plays are. It sounds cliche but in such an emotional game, staying out of the box and preventing your opponent from generating a lot of opportunities on the power play is going to be critical.
Record- 16-7-4 (7th in pairwise)
Leading scorers- Danny O'Regan (10-22-32), Ahti Oksanen (14-16-30), Matt Lane (14-10-24)
Team offense- 3.67 goals scored per game (7th)
Team defense- 2.59 goals against per game (23rd)
Power play- 21.6% (11th)
Penalty kill- 81.5% (37th)
Shots on goal per game- 34.67 (6th)
Keys for BC-
1. Do everything possible to stay out of the box. 5 on 5, I think BC is the better team- 3 of BU's 4 goals against the Eagles came on the man advantage but if BC runs around taking boneheaded penalties once again, the Terriers will take advantage.
2. Contain BU's first line. JFK and O'Regan can really get up and down the ice to create plays so BC has to be aware and they cannot get all three forwards sucked in deep like they did all night vs UNH.
3. Early and often. I think there will be a lot of nervous players who might be prone to making an occasional mistake early on, which is why I think getting out to an early lead is very important.
Notes- Everybody should be good to go. McAvoy is a gametime decision for BU.