Eagles Prepare For Surging Black Bears
Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
The Boston College men's hockey team has settled into a routine. For four weeks, since its first loss of the year to Notre Dame, it has alternated wins and losses. This weekend, the Eagles are striving to buck that tendency and sweep the University of Maine (6-1-3, 4-0-1 Hockey East) in a two-game home series.
"We've got to play more consistently," said head coach Jerry York. "We've shown flashes of being a very good hockey team, but we haven't been able to sustain that. Our goal is to play well, but play well for a long duration of time."
No. 3 Maine is in the midst of a trend of its own: the Black Bears haven't lost since Oct. 15 to Michigan State, compiling a 5-0-1 record and rising to second in the Hockey East in the process. No. 10 BC, who entered the season as the top team in the country, is locked in a three-way tie for third in the conference.
"We're keeping our head above water," York said. "Are we satisfied with where we are? No, not really. But we're still in the race."
If BC can knock off Maine, it can be closer to where it wants to be.
The Black Bears will not make it easy for the Eagles. They come to Chestnut Hill with the conference's top two scorers in forwards Spencer Abbott and Gustav Nyquist. Abbott has 16 points on eight goals and eight assists, and Nyquist has contributed four goals and 11 assists for 15 points.
"They're playing one of the most dynamic forwards in the country with Gustav Nyquist, and he presents all kinds of challenges," York said. "He kind of stirs the whole pot. He's their leader. We have to make sure we're aware of when he's on the ice and try to contain him as much as we can."
Nyquist and Abbott lead the conference's top offense, which has received at least one goal from 14 different players. In all, the Black Bears have scored 41 goals for a 4.1 goal-per-game average, 10 more than the second-place New Hampshire offense.
To counter Nyquist's threat, the Eagles must bring a tough defense to the game, which will be helped by the return of defenseman and assistant captain Tommy Cross, who had been out with a knee injury the past three weeks. Cross was expected to be practicing with full contact on Tuesday, York said.
Goaltender John Muse has been strong in goal so far this season. He owns a 1.46 goals-against average and .945 save percentage, both tops in the Hockey East, and has recorded two shutouts early in the season.
Fellow goaltender Parker Milner, who will likely start one of the two home games, has endured a relative sophomore slump. In his three starts, Milner is 1-2 with a 2.70 goals-against average, allowing eight goals on 80 shots.
On the other end of the ice, the Eagles have Cam Atkinson, who is tied for third in the conference in scoring. The junior forward has recorded 12 points with eight goals and four assists. Not far behind him are forwards Brian Gibbons and Joe Whitney, each with nine points.
"That group of four has really been our rock all year," York said of his veterans' leadership.
As valuable as his three leading forwards have been, York is looking for more offensive production overall. The Eagles have scored 17 goals, but have allowed just as many since resuming conference play.
The last time these two teams met was in last year's Hockey East championship, a hard-fought battle that went into overtime before ending in a 7-6 BC win.
"Maine has a great history with BC as far as good teams battling hard against each other. We always seem to be playing big games against each other," York said. "Maine, this year, is back in stride. It took a couple years, they haven't been as good as the standard they've set, but right now they've got a good club playing."
York expected the Black Bears to be one of the best teams in the conference after squaring off with them for the title last year. At the time, they just needed to solve some goaltending problems, which they seem to have done with freshman Dan Sullivan, York said.
"Maine brings probably the hottest team in the Hockey East conference in here to Kelley Rink," York said. "We want to play our best hockey of the season so far, and we have a chance to do that this weekend."