Vermont men’s hockey (12-16-3, 6-9-3 Hockey East) probably isn’t as bad as its record. But Boston College (21-4-5, 12-1-5) is as good as its record. The Catamounts host the Eagles in Burlington, Vt. on Friday and Saturday, so that should help them. But the Eagles are coming off a tie last week against Merrimack, so that will probably help them. BC should win both games, but Vermont could win one, or both, or tie one or both.
BC hasn’t lost in 2016, and Jerry York’s team dropped just one conference game all season, but that loss hurts pretty bad. The Eagles blew a third-period lead at home to Notre Dame in December, and after tying Merrimack last Saturday, BC resides in second in the Hockey East regular-season standings. BC has 29 points, and the Fighting Irish have 30. Both teams have four games left, all in conference and all against formidable opponents.
York’s squad has gamebreakers up front, on defense, and in goal. BC’s +65 goal differential is the best in Division I, despite playing in the best conference in the country. A couple things afflict the Eagles. One of them is unavoidable, no matter how many first-round picks a roster boasts: injuries. Demko’s two backups to start the year, Chris Birdsall and Alex Joyce, are still out, so the junior goaltender from San Diego, Calif. has had to carry a heavy load. He’s gotten hurt a few times as well. Chris Calnan is still fighting a lower-body injury, too, and that cuts into BC’s forward depth, which isn’t quite the dominating strength after Jeremy Bracco’s overnight departure.
The Eagles’ other flaw is that they take way too many penalties. They have the seventh-ranked penalty kill in the nation and a dominant goalie, so their lapses in judgment haven’t killed them yet. It’s still a problem, however.
Vermont is seventh place in Hockey East with 15 points. Its season-long goal differential is -11. At five on five, though, the Catamounts tilt the ice about as well as BC does. At even strength, Vermont takes 53.8 percent of the shot attempts in its games. By comparison, BC takes 53 percent of even-strength shot attempts in its games. Vermont has the puck a lot, but it can’t do what BC does with it. BC’s shooting percentage is third in college hockey at 12.2 percent. The Catamounts are sixth from the bottom at 7.1 percent, residing alongside traditional bottom-feeders such as Niagara and Army.
Losing goaltender Mike Santaguida before Winter Break was a brutal blow for Vermont, but new starter Packy Munson has been a surprise. Though the team’s numbers have been fairly average, he has kept them in games the Catamounts have no business being in.
Vermont bounced BC in three games in last year’s Hockey East second-round playoff series at Kelley Rink. The Eagles took the first game, overpowering Santaguida, 4-2, with goals by Zach Sanford and Noah Hanifin. Vermont bounced back with a 3-1 victory in the Saturday night game by putting backup goaltender Brody Hoffman in between the pipes. Hoffman followed up on that performance with a 1-0 shutout on Sunday, thanks to a goal by Jarrid Privitera. Though was a 3-7 matchup in seeding, Vermont finished just four points behind BC in last year’s Hockey East standings. This year, BC has almost doubled up on Vermont’s conference point total. Could last season’s sweep give the Catamounts some confidence? Maybe, but this year’s Eagles are far superior to last year’s.
Keys to the Series:
- Stay out of the box: Vermont’s power play isn’t great (13.2 percent conversion rate on the season), but it’s still never good to let an inferior team get a chance to steal a goal. Plus, it’s two minutes that BC probably won’t score themselves. Obviously.
- Get Ian Milosz a new mask: It’s a bad look. The team may not have budgeted for a fourth goalie mask decoration, but there’s got to be enough cash in the coffers at Conte to make this happen.
- Show up: Vermont’s not that bad, but the Eagles should get at least three points out of this weekend. They’re way better. It might not happen, because that’s hockey, Suzyn, but BC wins most games before it gets off the bus because York’s roster is stacked. The quality of opponent varies, but if BC plays well, it should win, versus Vermont or most other teams. As it usually is, so it will be on Friday and Saturday in Burlington.
Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Staff