Thursday, February 4, 2016

UNH Preview

No matter the opponent, the Friday game between Beanpot Mondays is one of the toughest to get ready for all season-especially when the opponent waiting in the wings is archrival Boston University. Nevertheless, Boston College will look to hold onto the #1 spot in Hockey East when the UNH Wildcats come to town looking to avenge an early season loss to the Eagles.

New Hampshire enters this game fresh off a stunning upset victory at Providence on Saturday night, after falling to the Friars just 24 hours earlier. It has been a down year for Dick Umile's squad as they currently sit in 10th place with a 9-13-4 record. Despite the rough go, UNH boasts the top two scorers in the league- Andrew Poturalski (41 points) and Tyler Kelleher (37 points). Both are undersized forwards who can fly up the ice and create plays with their uncanny vision- I would not be surprised if either of them inked NHL contracts this summer. Outside of those two however, UNH doesn't have much firepower. The Cats suffered a midseason blow when sophomore Warren Foegele signed with the Kingston Frontenacs (QMJHL) and ever since then, they have had a tough time putting the puck in the net but the more obvious problem is in their own end. In years past, the blue and white possessed some terrific defensemen such as Kessel, van Riemsdyk, and Pesce but they haven't had one guy take the reins and lead a unit struggling to find its identity. Speaking of past years, I think it's sad to see what is happening up in Durham because a couple years ago, BC-UNH contests were some of the best hockey games I have ever seen, especially those battles late in the season. Hockey East is undeniably a better conference when New Hampshire and Maine are competitive so hopefully, they can find a way to right the ship. In saying that, I sure as heck hope they don't get back on track with a victory tomorrow night.

As for the maroon and gold, obviously, things are looking up after wins versus Notre Dame and Harvard. The goal for the remainder of the regular season should be to get a #1 seed (preferably the #1 overall seed) and in order to do that, they have to beat teams like UNH. As of tonight, BC sits at #5 in the pairwise but thanks to those quality wins in January, they are a lot closer to the one seed pedestal. A loss against a team as low as UNH flips them back to a low 2 or high 3. In terms of team health, they're dinged up. I can't get into specific names but I would not be surprised if one or two regulars are in the stands in order to be ready for Monday. Don't expect either of the backup goalies to be behind the bench either- manager Charlie Van Kula practiced with the team all week as Ian Milosz suffered an upper body injury in warmups versus Notre Dame. My only concern is that they overlook this game because of what lies ahead. I think the staff has done a great job of focusing solely on UNH, as was the case last week with Notre Dame, but it's up to the players to come in and play at the level they're capable of.

Scouting UNH- 

Record- 9-13-4 (36th in pairwise)

Top scorers- Andrew Poturalski (19-22-41), Tyler Kelleher (7-30-37), Dan Correale (15-5-20)

Team offense- 3.31 goals scored per game (12th)

Team defense- 3.42 goals against per game (49th)

Power play- 25.7% (6th)

Penalty kill- 79.5% (46th)

Shots on goal per game- 28.73 shots per game (45th)

Keys for the Eagles- 

1. Use last change effectively versus Kelleher and Poturalski. UNH's big guns have been on the same line all season and assuming that doesn't change tomorrow night, I expect the staff to have McCoshen and Fitzgerald out there to combat their speed and playmaking abilities.

2. Production from the fourth line. I actually thought Chris Brown and company did a fine job when out there against Harvard but BC needs them to start scoring.

3. Stay out of the box. Not counting the third period versus Notre Dame, the Eagles have been much better with regards to avoiding costly penalties. UNH has one of the best power plays in the country and I expect them to take advantage if given the chances.

Notes- They might hold one or two guys out for precautionary measures. Gametime decisions. Ceremony for Coach York starts at 6:30.

Go Eagles!

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