Men's Hockey

Previewing BC Hockey, 2016-17: What to Expect Over Thanksgiving

No one likes to lose. The goal of every player when they step on the rink is to look up at the scoreboard at the end of three hard-fought periods and see their team ahead. The demoralizing effect of a loss can sometimes put a player—and a team at-large—in a tailspin. That, however, doesn’t seem to plague Boston College men’s hockey which, assuming the team plays as it has for the past season and a half, often avoids that fate.

Since the beginning of 2015, BC is 10-3 coming off of a loss or a tie. When that happens, the Eagles don’t just win—they win big. Coming off of a loss or tie, BC has outscored its opponents by an average of 3.7 points and has recorded three shutouts. During the same time period, the Eagles averaged a point differential of 1.77 points, which means that they scored about two more points when they came off of a loss or a tie than when they came off of a win. Even when the Eagles have lost, it is only by an average of a point, and they often kept the games close until the third period. If history repeats itself—as it so often does—look for the Eagles to come out strong against Connecticut, Minnesota, and Northeastern following their loss to No. 9 Harvard this past Friday.

While BC is coming off of a tough loss to Harvard, UConn shut out its most recent opponent, No. 7 Boston University. Despite this dominating win, BC still looks to be favored in the matchup. UConn will be led by sophomore Tage Thompson who leads the team in shots, points, and assists—he is also 24th overall in the country in points. Unfortunately for BC, Thompson will also be looking to take advantage of the Eagles well documented penalty problems as he ranks fifth in the nation in power-play goals.

Even though Thompson has recorded more points than any BC player so far this season, the Eagles’ depth should be more than enough to counter his effects. Five BC players have more goals than the second-best UConn player. Look for the comparative depth of BC to overwhelm the Huskies, especially Casey Fitzgerald and Chris Brown who have both scored in two of the last three games for BC.  

The Eagles should take care of the Huskies relatively easily as long as they take advantage of the opportunities presented to them, unlike against Harvard. But the matchup against UConn in all reality is a warm up for No. 11 Minnesota, the Eagles’ opponent on Sunday.

Similarly to its earlier opponent, Minnesota is also coming off a shutout victory over BC’s crosstown rival BU. Its national rank suggests that Minnesota is a much bigger challenge than unranked UConn. At first glance, however, the matchup appear to greatly favor BC. Minnesota has only two players with over 10 goals, a far cry from the seven BC players who have reached that milestone thus far in the season. These numbers are deceiving, however, since Minnesota has played four less games than BC. Instead, look at the average goals per game. Minnesota forward Tyler Sheehy is currently averaging 1.20 points per game, the most between the two teams. Look for Sheehy alongside teammate Vinni Lettieri to try and make a statement in this Tuesday’s matchup.

In general, Minnesota keeps games much closer than the Eagles. The Golden Gophers have had fewer blowout wins than the Eagles—70 percent of their games have been decided by one point, while the Eagles have had only 36 percent of games decided by that margin. This style of play is dangerous both for Minnesota and its opponents as the game is always within reach of the other team. BC will need to go out strong and pile on goals make Minnesota play major catch-up.

Another key to the game will be the much talked about BC penalty problem. The realm of penalties is where Minnesota enjoys a distinct advantage over the Eagles. While the Eagles give up 7.5 penalties a game, Minnesota only gives up 5.6. The Golden Gophers have converted on 26.2 percent of their power plays in 2016-17. That means you can expect the Golden Gophers to find the back of the net twice on a power play. This is a dangerous situation for a BC team that will want to get ahead quick to put Minnesota out of its element.

BC will have another heated matchup as it takes on crosstown rival Northeastern. That being said, Northeastern should be a considerably easier matchup than what the Eagles will have seen thus far in the week. Northeastern has gone 1-4-3 against ranked opponents this season with its only win coming against No. 19 Providence, a 5-4 win.

For the Huskies to have a similar upset as they had against Providence, they will need stellar play from senior forward Zach Aston-Reese. In the Providence upset, Aston-Reese scored two of the team’s five goals and is thus far in the season ranked fifth in overall scoring with 20 points. Northeastern will need to rely on play from Aston-Reese and Dylan Sikura to keep the Huskies in the game. Northeastern starting goalie Ryan Ruck will need to limit BC to under his average of 2.98 goals per game for Northeastern to have any hope of pulling out the upset.

One thing that the Eagles will not have to worry about as much in this matchup is penalties. Northeastern commits penalties at a similar rate as BC averaging 7.2 penalties per game. The Huskies convert at a respectable 20.7 percent, but the difference between penalty numbers and subsequent power plays should make penalties a moot point for this matchup.

The upcoming week for the Eagles looks to be a promising one as they are favored in all three of their matchups. Regardless of this, the Eagles will need to stay focused over the thanksgiving break as they try to give Superfans everywhere something to be thankful for.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

November 22, 2016