BC Looks To Stay Atop Hockey East
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
This weekend, the No. 2 Boston College men's hockey team (21-10-1, 15-7-1 HE) will take on Providence College (10-10-3, 12-14-4) in a home-and-home series, the second to last in the regular season. The Eagles will travel to Providence Friday night, and the Friars will come to Kelley Rink on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. start. BC will be looking to build off its 4-1 victory the last time the two teams faced off, and maintain the top spot in Hockey East.
The Eagles, winners of seven in a row, have really turned it on for an end-of-the-season push, but have no time to enjoy their good fortunes, as every point is at a premium this late in the season. Continued strong play is going to be a necessity if they have any hopes of locking up lone possession of first place in Hockey East this weekend. Currently, the Eagles are edging out UMass Lowell for the top spot by one point, with only four games remaining in the season.
"The most important thing for [the Eagles] is not the team [that they are playing] but how well [they] play and that [they] need to try to secure two points because [they're] in a very important pennant race," said head coach Jerry York. "It's awfully close here with four games left, so they need the eight points left available to [them]."
Despite the Friars' overall record of 12-14-4, motivation shouldn't be any type of issue, according to York, who said he does not "care if it's a Tuesday night, a Friday night, a Saturday afternoon—if you're playing BU or the Boston Bruins, you bring that same enthusiasm to every game."
The Friars themselves are making their presence known within Hockey East this season, and are vying for a great amount of attention from their opponents. They have received points in their last four games, including wins against Maine and at UMass Amherst. Much of their improvement lies in the hands of their new coach Nate Leaman. Leaman coached Union College in the ECAC last year and earned single season school records in wins (26) and division wins (17).
"Providence has played fairly well recently, and they've actually had some good wins over the course of the season," York explained. "They have a strong goaltender, they play an up-tempo, fast style, and they'll have the home ice advantage on Friday night. Nobody sits back and gives you two points. They're certainly going to bring an ‘A' game when they play the Eagles."
York believes that his team has responded well recently, thanks to a special emphasis on team defense and goaltending, and he will be looking for more of the same from junior goalie Parker Milner on Friday. Milner, who just received the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week award, has backstopped all of the Eagles' victories on their seven-game winning streak, and has a 17-5 record overall this season.
On top of the strong goalie play, York is hoping to build on the energy and enthusiasm that the team has had as of late. This excitement has been generated just in time for the Eagles, who seemed to be lacking it in December. The Eagles were a lowly 2-4-1 before their current seven-game tear, giving up 23 goals in the process.
York spoke of the turnaround in demeanor, stating that he believes they are "much more positive and much more upbeat."
"When you have a lot of enthusiasm and you have a lot of energy, you're able to be that much more effective tactically, so I think the energy and the enthusiasm our team has generated has resulted in a lot of really good play."
If the Eagles are able to sustain that high level of intensity, they should be in good position after this weekend in the Hockey East standings. York noted that in the end, he won't be looking to one player or a certain line to step up. Rather, it will need to be a full team effort in order to pick up these essential four points against the Friars on the weekend and stay atop the conference standings.
"With our goals and aspirations, one line or one particular player is not going to help us achieve that," York said. "We need the 20 players we dress to all be factors in the course of the game to determine the outcome of the game. You never know what shift or what point in the game that the tide's going to turn for you or against you. It has to be all four lines and all six defensemen."