On Saturday afternoon, 1:30pm at the DCU Center, the Eagles' climb to the top of college hockey will officially begin against the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. This game will be the first time the Eagles and Nanooks have met in a hockey game.
The Eagles (#2; 25-10-3) enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country, having won the Hockey East Tournament last week and going undefeated in the month of March. On a broader scale, Boston College have not lost any of their last nine games, and are 13-2-1 in their last sixteen. Alaska (#13; 18-11-9), on the other hand, finished in 5th place in a tough CCHA, winning their first round tournament matchup and doing enough to qualify for an at-large bid.
This is Alaska-Fairbanks' first ever NCAA Hockey Tournament berth as a Division 1 team. The last time Boston College made it here, they hoisted the trophy.
Nearly across the board, Boston College is a better team than Alaska. As I shared yesterday on Soaring to Glory, the Eagles lead the Nanooks in a number of different statistical categories. Alaska gives up slightly fewer goals, but the Eagles, riding the third-best offensive attack in the country, score far more. Though Alaska's goaltending, one of their key strengths, is 9th-best in the nation, Boston College's is eleventh, barely lagging behind.
The Eagles are 7th in the nation on the power play, converting 21.4% of the time. Alaska is 19th with a 19.3% conversion rate. Killing other teams' penalties is another strength for the Eagles, as they are 11th (85%); Alaska, however, isn't far behind at 18th (83.8%). Boston College has scored five short-handed goals this season, whereas Alaska has only managed one. Goalie Scott Greenham for the Nanooks, on the other hand, allowed no short-handed goals at all this year, while BC goalies have allowed three. Speaking of Greenham, Alaska will go as far as he takes them, and he will have to have a big game against this dangerous BC offense if the Nanooks are to have a chance.
There is no such thing as an easy tournament game. Alaska is a good team with solid goaltending, and they are not to be taken lightly. It is obvious, however, that Boston College is a better team in several key areas. If the Eagles are able to figure Greenham out, they should be able to win, provided John Muse holds up his end of the bargain. I do expect the Eagles to win and advance to face the winner of North Dakota/Yale.