Photo courtesy of bceagles.com
After a 6-2 home loss to Providence in Boston College’s Hockey East opener, the Eagles will hit the road this weekend to face conference foes New Hampshire and Providence. The loss put BC at 2-3 and dropped the Eagles to No. 15 in the national polls.
Last season marked the first in more than a decade that the Eagles failed to secure a win against UNH. In November, the two teams battled to a 2-2 draw, while the Wildcats got the better of BC in a 6-4 win in January. A 7-seed in the 2018-19 season, UNH was swept by the top seed UMass in the first round of the postseason. The Wildcats will likely be locked in a three-way battle with Maine and UConn for the final two spots in the Hockey East tournament.
The Wildcats are 2-2-1 on the young season, and the Friday night game at Whittemore Center will be UNH’s home opener. Three of their five games have gone to overtime, with UNH posting a 1-1-1 record in those games. The Wildcats tied Miami, lost to Bentley and defeated Merrimack all in games that went beyond 60 minutes. Those three overtime games were sandwiched between a 6-2 win over Miami and a 3-0 shutout at the hands of Boston University.
UNH’s main advantage comes on special teams. The Eagles have struggled to stay out of the box and have taken too many penalties at inopportune times to start the season. The Wildcats boast the best power play in the conference, converting on 31 percent of their man advantage opportunities. BC, meanwhile, sits with the bottom ranked penalty kill at 74 percent. UNH is also the least penalized team in the conference, and BC the most, so the Wildcats will aim to take advantage of that. Junior defenseman Max Gildon has 3 of UNH’s 7 power play goals. Gildon, a third round selection of the Florida Panthers in 2017, will be playing against some future teammates when BC comes to town. The Panthers currently hold the draft rights to Spencer Knight, Logan Hutsko and Ben Finkelstein.
Mike Robinson has started four of UNH’s first five games, recording a 1-2-1 record. He has a 2.69 goals against average but holds a save percentage below .900. The junior, selected in the third round of the 2015 draft by the San Jose Sharks, is one of the more experienced goalies in Hockey East.
UNH’s offense has been middle-of-the-pack in Hockey East, averaging an even 3.00 goals per game. Forwards Charlie Kelleher and Jackson Pierson lead the team with 8 and 7 points, respectively. Perhaps the biggest surprise offensively has been Kohei Sato. The junior from Japan had 2 goal in his first 49 games with the Wildcats but matched that total in the season-opening win over Miami. Sato has added two more since, giving him 4 on the season.
UNH will be a challenge, but the young Wildcats team provides an ideal opportunity for the Eagles to break a three-game losing streak.
Twenty four hours later, the Eagles will be at Schneider Arena for their second matchup of the season with Providence. It’ll mark the first time BC has visited Providence since last March when BC pulled off the upset in the 2-versus-7 matchup of the Hockey East quarterfinals.
The two teams have a history after facing each other six times last season, and that translated to a physical game last Friday night. In the first 10 minutes of the game, Vimal Sukumarar and Ben Morageas were both assessed boarding minors for dangerous hits on Connor Moore. In the second, the tension escalated when Ron Greco was ejected for an elbow up high and peaked when Jason O’Neill and Jesper Mattila exchanged hits down by the corner boards.
Six different players scored for the Friars in that game, highlighting the scoring depth that has propelled them to a Hockey East-best 4.50 goals per game average. Jack Dugan is averaging over two points per game. He’s aided by forwards Tyce Thompson and Greg Printz, both of whom have double-digit point totals on the season.
Friday night’s contest against UNH can be seen on NESN. Saturday’s game can be streamed on WEEI 850 AM or watched on CBS All-Access.