MEN'S HOCKEY: Battle Of The Green Line Set For Friday
Published: Thursday, January 16, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014 03:01
Back in November, Boston College celebrated head coach Jerry York’s just-announced contract extension through 2020 by dismantling rival Boston University on the road, 5-1. After that game, first-year Terriers boss David Quinn said, “the score was indicative of the game that was played … I want it to sting … we need to feel this pain. It was a mismatch.”
As the rivals prepare to face each other again Friday night in Chestnut Hill, Quinn and his players are feeling more pain than Quinn would probably deem necessary. BU was blown out 7-3 against Maine at Fenway last Saturday, and has lost its past four games.
Without a win in their last six contests, the Terriers have also recently suffered substantial personnel losses. Wingers Jake Moscatel and Evan Rodrigues have been injured since Jan. 4, and sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelyck—who Quinn called his “best player” at the Frozen Fenway practice press conference—suffered a separated shoulder last Thursday in practice and is “going to be out for a while,” according to Quinn, as reported by SB Nation. Forward Sam Kurker, a former second-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, also left the university on Monday.
“We are in that little funk where you fix one hole in the dam and the other one springs loose, and you put your finger in that one and another one springs loose,” Quinn said after the Maine loss, according to The Daily Free Press. “We have to find a way to put all our fingers in all the holes and stop that dam from leaking all over the place.”
If the contrast of the state of each respective program was on display in early November, the Eagles—sitting in first place in Hockey East and moving up in all the national polls—could conceivably obliterate that dam altogether on Friday. One major way in which BC has improved since the first meeting of these two teams is the power play. BC has had the best offense in the country for almost the entire season, but only recently has the power play matched the Eagles’ even-strength potency.
York and his staff have made some technical adjustments on the power play, such as utilizing more of a 1-3-1 formation with four forwards and one defenseman, as well as some personnel changes, including the utilization of freshman forward Adam Gilmour at the point. The biggest changes that York has noticed are simpler ones, though.
“I think just the cohesiveness, it looks like we’re using each other well, we’re moving pucks, we’re getting more shots to the net,” York said after practice on Tuesday. “So I’d say [we’re] more cohesive as a unit, getting out of the zone, setting up in the zone, and now we’re getting more shots on net.”
Throughout BU’s season to date, penalties and the penalty kill have been an issue. Maine converted its first three man advantages against the Terriers, and Quinn’s squad has committed 18 penalties in its last three games combined.
“Right now we’re in a situation where it’s one thing after another,” Quinn said. “It’s a different problem every game right now, and that’s something we’re going to have to correct.”
The main problem BU faced in the first Commonwealth Ave. showdown was that it could not contain BC’s top line of Austin Cangelosi, Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau. The trio combined for three goals and six points that night, and Cangelosi has since been replaced by power forward Kevin Hayes on that line.
“Ever since we put them on a line together, they’ve been very, very good,” York said of his top unit consisting of Hobey Baker finalists. “I like how they’re playing.”
When asked what role all these divergent factors between the two teams could play Friday night, though, York expressed faith in the rivalry. “I think the rivalry is such a big thing for us, and you need rivals in sports and BU-BC is something our kids really get excited about, and we’re really looking forward to Friday’s matchup,” he said.
“We’re not concerned about recent records, it’s how you play Friday night. The team that plays best Friday night will win 95 percent of the time. Some nights there’s crossbars and posts. But it’s not how we played last week or how BU played last week, but it’s how each team plays on Friday night and we’re [going to] prepare really hard for it.
“You know, it’s a weekend that brings BU here and Maine here, but all our preparation is for BU,” York said. “Saturday morning we’ll wake up and prepare for Maine, but we’re really concentrating on BU here.”
York even went so far as to invoke the Patriots as an example of a team succeeding despite injuries to dispel any notion of a drop off in skill for BU. The Eagles will be focused on getting ready for Friday, and according to York, they will need to be, because the rivalry is real. How powerful the rivalry is remains to be seen until the final horn on Friday, because what is also real is the gap between these two hockey teams.