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Hockey East Semifinals: 2 Boston College vs. 8 Vermont

The Boston College Eagles mens' hockey team, now ranked fourth in the country and in hot pursuit of a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament, continue their quest to take the Hockey East Tournament crown on Friday night at the TD Garden. The Eagles, the highest seed remaining in the tournament, will face the lowest-seeded Vermont Catamounts for the right to play in Saturday's championship game. All remaining games in the Hockey East Tournament will be broadcast on the New England Sports Network (NESN). BC and Vermont will play in Friday's 5pm game, while other contenders Boston University and Maine have the 8pm time slot.

Boston College made it to the semifinals by sweeping the best-of-three series with Massachusetts; the Eagles were the only victorious quarterfinals team to have done so. BC, with a record of 23-10-3, are undefeated in their previous seven games, and are 11-2-1 in their last fourteen. Their last loss was at Northeastern nearly one month ago on February 19. Freshman Parker Milner got a number of those starts in goal for the Eagles, but junior John Muse notched the series-clinching win in the Hockey East quarterfinals.

Vermont, the last team in the Hockey East Tournament, came back from being a game down in their best-of-three series with New Hampshire to win, two games to one. Both Catamount victories were 1-0 wins; senior Jay Anctil scored an overtime goal in the decisive third game to put Vermont in the semifinals. UVM, a Frozen Four entry last season, sits at 17-13-7 on the season and are 4-2-1 in their last seven.

Head-to-head, Vermont won two out of three against the Eagles this season. Those games, however, were played in October and November, and these teams have not seen each other in over four months. BC is 19-7-2 since the last BC/Vermont game on November 15.

In Hockey East Tournament history, Boston College and Vermont have met three times: two were quarterfinal games, and one was the 2008 title game. Boston College won all three of those matchups against the Catamounts.  In order to win, Vermont must also overcome the fact that no #8 seed has ever advanced to the finals in this tournament.

No team in Hockey East is hotter than the Eagles at present, and there are few teams in the country I would take over them. They have a potent offensive attack, the best in the Hockey East, led by two of the conference's point leaders: Cam Atkinson and Brian Gibbons. Chris Kreider has also come on very strongly for the Eagles since the World Juniors, scoring goals in a number of the games he has played since. Not only do the Eagles have the top scoring offense in the conference, they also have the best scoring defense, as their goaltending only allows 2.26 goals per game, which is well ahead of the second-best team. To win this game, BC will have to forget about their early-season losses to the Catamounts and play with the same intensity that they've carried throughout this prolonged hot streak. They can ride this group of players all the way to the Frozen Four. BC is without a doubt the best team in this conference, and I expect them to advance to the finals against either Maine or Boston University.

Keep checking BCI for some of the best Boston College sports coverage around, and for more analysis of Boston College hockey's climb to the top.

The author, Joe, writes for Soaring to Glory, a Boston College blog.