Saturday, March 26, 2016

Duluth Preview

Tonight marks a tremendous opportunity for this BC Hockey club as they face-off against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs for a spot in the Frozen Four. Scott Sandelin's squad edged defending national champion Providence in the first game on Friday, before the Eagles dispatched Harvard in the nightcap.

UMD is one of the hottest teams in the country as they have won eight of their past nine games, with the only setback coming in the NCHC championship against St. Could State. Despite the hot streak, Duluth was squarely on the NCAA bubble for much of the second half and needed at least one win last weekend in order to sneak into the field. Not only did they get a victory, it came against one of the best teams in the country- North Dakota in the NCHC semifinals. Unlike Harvard, a club that had only defeated two NCAA tournament teams entering Friday's game, Duluth has victories against five tournament competitors, including Providence, who they obviously took down last evening. With wins against giants such as North Dakota, Minnesota, St. Cloud State, and Miami, you may be wondering why they had to work so hard just to earn a bid. Despite all those quality wins, the Bulldogs have some eye opening losses, such as Bemidji State (x2), Omaha (x2), and Northern Michigan. BC and Duluth have a couple of common opponents outside of the Friars- UMD split with Lowell, lost three times to Denver, and won all four games against lowly Colorado College. It goes without saying, Duluth is not your typical four seed, in fact, they're probably one of the best teams in this tournament. They are a bit different from BC in that they don't like to get into a track meet but they aren't without some highly skilled forwards that can make things happen. Leading the way will be the senior duo of Austin Farley and Tony Cameranesi, who anchor UMD's top line along with sophomore Karson Kuhlman. I haven't watched much of Duluth this season, outside of the two overtimes last night and a regular season game at North Dakota, but that line generates the majority of scoring chances as Cameranesi and Farley rank first and second, respectively, in scoring. The interesting thing about this game is that one team will be led almost entirely by upperclassmen while the other is headlined by a few teenaged studs. Duluth's top five scorers are all either juniors or seniors while BC has four freshmen or sophomores on the top of their scoring chart. I think Duluth will try to win this game by frustrating BC via being physical, not giving them much room to operate through the neutral zone, and getting excellent goaltending, as they have all season. Sophomore Kasimir Kaskisuo will get the start after stopping 36 of 37 Providence shots on Friday. The Finland native is one of the best goaltenders in college hockey, with a .922 save percentage and 1.93 goals against average.

I'd be shocked if this anything but a fantastic hockey game. We all know what happened in 2012 but these are two totally different teams, as not a single player from that game will skate tonight. Duluth is going to play a heavy game that might cause BC problems if they can't get the puck out of the zone in order to start the transition game. The Bulldogs are one of the top defensive teams in the country, allowing just 2.03 goals per game, which is good for 8th in the country. Unfortunately, when BC plays defensive-oriented teams such as Lowell, Vermont, or Merrimack, they tend to take more penalties because they can't seem to get in a rhythem at any point in the game. That is probably Duluth's game plan tonight- get in BC's head, force the Eagles into making bad mistakes, and capitalize on their chances. If BC is able to get off to another good start, it may cause Duluth to open up their style of play, which means the pace of the play should favor the Eagles. If the BC team we saw last night shows up, it will be awfully tough for anyone to beat them, but if the BC squad of last weekend appears, Duluth might have a shot of getting to their second Frozen Four in five years.

Scouting Duluth- 

Record- 19-15-5

Leading scorers- Tony Cameranesi (10-26-36), Austin Farley (14-15-29), Alex Iafallo (8-14-22)

Team offense- 2.69 goals scored per game (27th)

Team defense- 2.03 goals allowed per game (8th)

Power play- 14.6% (45th)

Penalty kill- 87% (5th)

Shots on goal per game- 34.64 shots on goal per game (6th)

Keys for BC- 

1. Can't get entangled in Duluth's style of play. This will be a chess match of sorts between a team that likes to play as fast as possible and a team that is known for the defensive prowess. When BC has a hard time breaking through the neutral zone, they usually vent that anger by taking penalties. Can't happen tonight.

2. Bring the same effort as last night. It may not have been a "complete" game against the Crimson but it was the next closest thing. If they play like that again, I can't see them losing.

Notes- Should be same lines. Gaudreau out again.

Go Eagles

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