Men's Hockey

Previewing BC Hockey 2016-17: What to Expect From UMass

After dropping both games to Boston University in the Battle of Comm. Ave., Boston College men’s hockey is looking to pick up a win against Massachusetts (5-16-2, 2-8-1 Hockey East) on Friday. Against ranked opponents such as Quinnipiac and Notre Dame, BC has struggled to eke out a victory, adding to its need for a win against a weaker UMass team.

Both the Eagles and the Minutemen have been on a slide in recent games, and both teams are looking to use this game to swing momentum in the positive direction. UMass has lost nine out of its last 10, and the Eagles have won only one out of their last six.

For BC, poor offensive production and sloppy penalty killing have plagued recent contests, however, the Eagles have developed a strong defense and have seen consistent goaltending from freshman netminder Joseph Woll. The Minutemen, on the other hand, have been struggling on essentially every front. Their meek offensive production has been limited to 13 goals in their past 10 games, and they have been taking penalty after penalty which has further compounded their scoring issues.

Last Time They Played: The last time these two teams faced off was a slugfest of messy play and garbage-goal scoring. BC emerged as the victor in a 7-4 win at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. With the notable exception of a scrappy third period, the Eagles skated circles around UMass, leading 5-0 after the second period. In the third, through an onslaught of power plays and practically no 5-on-5 play, the Eagles managed to put up two more goals to bring their total to seven, led by two-goal performances from senior Austin Cangelosi and sophomore superstar Colin White. The Eagles proceeded to win their next four games.

Eagles’ Keys to the Game:

  • Better Penalty Killing: In the Eagles’ last several losses, poor penalty killing has led to several timely goals for their opponents. In last weekend’s contests against BU, three of the five goals for the Terriers came with a man advantage. Including the empty-netter at the end of Monday’s game as a power-play goal, all three of the Terriers’ goals came with the man advantage. The Eagles’ loss to Quinnipiac on Dec. 29 tells a similar story, in which two of the three goals for the Bobcats were on the power play. Notre Dame also notched a power-play goal en route to victory on Dec. 10, beating the Eagles 3-2. BC’s recent trend of sloppy and ineffective penalty killing is coupled with the all-too-familiar habit of taking too many penalties, giving opponents 18 power-play opportunities in the last six games. Converting on six of those opportunities, the Eagles have killed a measly 66.6 percent of those 18 penalties. The way things have been recently, opponents are averaging a goal per game against the Eagles with a man advantage. BC must be better at eliminating shooting lanes and maintain better discipline in order to prevent open space in the middle of the ice on the kill to secure a victory on Friday night.
  • Suffocating Defense: UMass has struggled with its offensive production this season, something that the Eagles must take advantage of. Lately, BC’s defense during 5-on-5 play has been stellar. Even teams with outstanding offensive capabilities such as BU, Quinnipiac, and North Dakota have had limited opportunities to score during even strength play, providing Woll with considerable confidence and room to breathe. The Eagles’ ability to force the puck out wide also creates offensive opportunities, forcing turnovers and setting up rushes in the neutral zone. Capitalizing on turnovers and creating odd-man rushes will give open space to snipers like White, Cangelosi, and sophomore J.D. Dudek to find the back of the net. Turnovers are also an area in which the Minutemen have struggled, so continuing to play good defense will allow the Eagles’ offense to play with some gusto and score enough goals to secure a W.
  • Just Play Hockey: As of late, the Eagles seem to be missing that certain X-factor that leads to those ‘wow’ moments. Whether this can be attributed to the injury of key players or some fluidity in the coaching staff present on the bench (due to head coach Jerry York’s recent eye surgery), it will be important that the Eagles allow their team chemistry and skill as hockey players take an active role in facilitating good hockey. With nine NHL draftees on the roster, the Eagles have the potential to be a great program, it simply depends on whether or not they can put it together for 60 solid minutes. We’ve seen moments of brilliance, even in the BC’s recent losses. Grinding cycles in the offensive zone has created solid scoring opportunities, particularly against smaller teams. Men have been in front of the net providing screens for the aforementioned snipers, and everyone knows that good things happen when you go to the front of the net. Goaltending for the Eagles has been consistent and reliable, if not better. Once BC can find the magic with these factors, it can beat any team. This can be seen in the Eagles’ Hockey East performances and in victories against teams like Providence. Despite two losses to BU, BC still stands alone  on top of the conference, scoring more goals than any other team and giving up no more than average. Finding the mumbo-jumbo and gelling as a team will not only be important on Friday night against the Minutemen, but will be even more important moving forward through the season.

UMass is a beatable team, and the Eagles ought to take this game as an opportunity to slingshot themselves to further victories going forward. If BC can kill its penalties, continue playing good defense, and capitalize on scoring opportunities, the team can not only win on Friday but continue to do so in the future. Without these things, however, the future looks grim as other Hockey East teams are hitting their stride.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

January 19, 2017

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