Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Scouting the enemy: Boston College Eagles

No. 13/14 Quinnipiac returns to the scene of the program's first ever Frozen Four when they head to Pittsburgh, PA to face No. 5/5 Boston College in the Three Rivers Classic. The last time the Bobcats played in Pittsburgh, they fell in the National Championship game 4-0 to rival Yale. It was a painful night for all Bobcats fans especially myself being in the arena losing to a team that Quinnipiac had beaten three previous times that season. The Bobcats are in the first year of a three year deal playing Boston College with each team having a home game over the next two seasons. Quinnipiac matches up with the Eagles for only the second time in program history with the last meeting a 3-2 Bobcats win in the National Semifinals at the 2016 Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida. It was a monumental win for the Quinnipiac program beating a team with the prestige and history of Boston College. After the loss to the Bobcats, Boston College got cleaned out with many key players leaving early for professional contracts. With so many defections this was not expected to be one of legendary coach, Jerry York's best Boston College teams but he surprisingly has them atop the Hockey East standings halfway through the season. At 13-6-1 (8-1-1 Hockey East), the Eagles have positioned themselves well for another run to the NCAA's in the second half of the season. Quinnipiac is coming off a disappointing end to the first semester with four losses in it's last five games. The Bobcats may be catching the Eagles at the right time as they will be without presumably their top forward Colin White along with forward Julius Mattila, two of the their top six defenseman in Casey Fitzgerald and Jesper Mattila and starting goaltender Joe Woll. All four are playing in the U-20 World Junior Championships. Quinnipiac will be without freshman defenseman Karlis Cukste as he is also playing in the tournament for his home country of Latvia.

Matthew Gaudreau (photo by John Quackenbos/Boston College)
Offensively this is one of the top teams in the country at scoring goals. This year they have averaged 3.65 goals per game which is good for 5th in the nation in scoring. It's a smaller faster team up front than past Eagles teams where they had a lot of size up front. The Eagles best scoring forward won't be with them in Colin White (10 goals and 7 assists) as he is with Team USA at the World Junior Championships but Boston College still has other scorers to worry about. Senior Matthew Gaudreau the younger brother of former Eagle and current Calgary Flame Johnny Gaudreau leads the team in scoring with 22 points (6 goals and 16 assists). Sophomore Christopher Brown (2014, 4th round, Buffalo) has 18 points for the Eagles (6 goals and 12 assists). A pair of seniors have been big contributors as well in Ryan Fitzgerald (2013 4th round, Boston) with 16 points (5 goals and 11 assists) while Austin Cangelosi has 14 points (8 goals and 6 assists). Freshman David Cotton (2015 6th round, Carolina) brings size and scoring ability up front with his 6'3 frame. He has three power play goals to boat as well. A couple of other players to watch are sophomore JD Dudek 11 points (8 goals and 3 assists) and senior Chris Calnan (2012 3rd round, Chicago) 10 points (3 goals and 7 assists). Boston College is just outside the upper tier for power play as they are scoring at a clip of 17.89% (17-of-95). 7 of the 17 power play goals will be missing with White and Fitzgerald both not in the lineup so it will be a weakened Eagles power play which will be good for the Bobcats who are killing opponents chances at an 87% clip good for 7th in the country.

Ryan Fitzgerald (photo by Melissa Wade)
If there was ever a time to face off against the Boston College defense this is that time. The Eagles are missing essentially their top defenseman in sophomore Casey Fitzgerald (2016 3rd round, Buffalo) who is playing for Team USA in the World Junior Championships. Fitzgerald is the leading scorer from the blue line with 13 points (5 goals and 8 assists) and also has blocked 17 shots. They are also missing freshman Jesper Mattila who will be playing for the Finland U-20 team at the World Championships. This leaves Jerry York with only five true defenseman on the the roster and will either force York to play a forward back on defense or double shift some of the defensive players. The Eagles have a very young, talented but inexperienced defensive corps this weekend with only one senior in Scott Savage but they have done very well this season in only giving up 2.45 goals per game. The rest of the defenseman are made up of one sophomore and three freshman. They are smaller players on the blue line that can move the puck well in transition. Savage has 13 points (3 goals and 10 assists) and has blocked 20 shots while freshman Connor Moore has blocked 32 shots on the season to go along with 9 assists. Sophomore Michael Kim has 12 points (1 goal and 11 assists) with 26 blocked shots. The Boston College penalty kill is middle of the pack in at 82.4% good for 37th in the country so this could be a way for Quinnipiac to find the back of the net especially since the Eagles are the 3rd worst team in the country at taking penalties with over 17 minutes per game.

In net the Eagles will have freshman Ryan Edquist in lieu of starter Joe Woll who is with Team USA. Edquist has played in four games and started three of them and has a record of 3-0 with a 1.85 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. The 6'0, 170 pound goaltender by way of the state of Minnesota has played against Colorado College, UMass Amherst, Arizona State and late action against Harvard. He has not exactly been tested against true top teams so far this year but he is an athletic goaltender who can play bigger than his size in net. Quinnipiac needs to challenge him and pepper him with constant shots and traffic. Backing up Edquist is sophomore Ian Milosz who has not seen any game action this season.

This is a very important game for Quinnipiac with regards to the pairwise as they face only two top pairwise teams in the second half with Harvard and Union still on the schedule. Winning this game also can give this team some confidence going to the full second half slate of the schedule. For Boston College this is a game they really don't have to have outside of the revenge factor from losing in the National Semifinals a year ago to Quinnipiac. This should be a well played game by both teams even with them both missing many key players.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathan_singer.

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