This weekend, BC looks to start off 2016 strong after a rough end to 2015. BC will be taking on the defending National Champions Providence College. PC is coming off a loss to Brown, while BC is coming off of a loss to BC in the Florida College Hockey Classic Consolation Game.
Joining us to preview the game is Will Bagnall, Providence color commentator / student.
BCI: First off, we have to talk about last year's Championship game. How great was that as a Providence fan?
Will: I think the significance of the National Championship went far beyond the realms of hockey. At Providence our two biggest sports are hockey and basketball and in the last few years both teams have shown promise but they have always been one step short of big time success. So it was a big deal for our campus to finally achieve nationwide success and notoriety and it has, I feel safe in saying, reinvigorated our sports culture. Sold out games are becoming a more and more common occurrence, with lines for tickets going all the way out of the Slavin student center.
BCI: Providence has had a great season so far, consistently being ranked at the top of the pack. What have been the biggest things to go right for the Friars this season?
Will: I would attribute PC’s success this year to several factors. For starters, the play of Nick Ellis this season has been vital to PC’s success, especially during the early stretch of the season. Losing a goaltender like John Gilles would give anyone a reason to be concerned but Nick Ellis’s play this season has quieted those concerns. In addition, the return of Mark Jankowski has provided the team with a central figure and a true leader as well as a reliable force on the offensive end and in the faceoff circle. Finally, PC has benefitted from goal production from normally unexpected places. Not only has their bench continued to provide goals but their defenders have proven to be equally effective on offense.
BCI: BC and Providence are both coming off of a rough weekend at the Florida Hockey Classic, coming in fourth and third respectively. Providence also just dropped a game against Brown. What has gone wrong for Providence in the past few weeks? Do you think they'll be able to continue dominating, or is this where things start to even out?
Will: I think for every team there comes a point in the season where the team experiences a lull in play. After all it is hard for any team, college or professional, to maintain the same high level of play that the Friars have enjoyed over the course of this season. On the more concrete level, I think that what we are seeing is a downside of part of the way the Friar’s style of play. The aggressiveness of their defenders, who are often quite active in the offensive zone, does make them vulnerable to counter-attack and while Nick Ellis continues to be strong in net he can’t save every shot that comes his way. I must also express that the Friars have only lost 2 games and are still undefeated in Hockey East play. Add on to that that their two losses have come in OT leads me to express strongly that the sky is not falling yet. In fact the upcoming series against BC provides the Friars with the perfect opportunity to refocus and reinvigorate their season. If I have learned anything about this Friars team is that they live for a challenge.
BCI: Who has made the biggest impact for the Friars this season?
Will: Losing a great goaltender like John Gilles caused the PC hockey community coming into the season to have a lot of concerns as to whether Nick Ellis could maintain the high level of play coming into this year. Not only has Nick Ellis met our expectations but he has surpassed them and is playing, dare I say, at a championship level. In the Friars' two losses, Ellis recorded 62 saves, including a career high 42 saves against Brown. Even though the Friars have had a rough stretch their goaltender has shown that he is still one of the best goaltenders in the country and all we need is for the Friar’s offense to return to form and we will once again be one of the more dominant teams in the country.
BCI: If you could steal any player from BC for the Friars, who would it be and why?
Will: Really I feel quite comfortable with PC’s squad as it is. I believe we have great depth and starting talent at defense as well as dangerous scorers. Given the Friars' recent offensive struggles to score goals when they need one, I would be tempted to steal BC’s freshman Colin White. On a team as talented as BC, leading the team in points with 23 is no mean feat. His point total is also greater than Providence’s leader in points, Jake Walman, a talented scorer in his own right with 19 points.
BCI: What are you predictions for this weekend's BC/PC series?
Will: Providence is still undefeated at home with seven wins and one tie at Schneider Arena, with that tie going to Boston University. They also only have one away loss while winning 5 and tying 2. Boston College has 1 loss and 1 tie at home along with 1 loss at home. Boston College has two players who have scored more points this season than Providence’s leading scorer Jake Walman and two others who are tied with Walman. But the Friars still have Nick Ellis and a solid caste of defenders around him. It’s a classic defense versus offense battle and in such a battle, I personally always give the edge to the defense. I have a hard time believing (if I’m being unbiased) that the Eagles will lose at home but I am confident that Friars will be able to leave Conte Forum (Kelly Rink) with at least a tie. As I was doubtful that the Eagles will lose at home am I equally doubtful the Friars will lose at home and furthermore I am confident that they will be able to defeat the Eagles at home. I predict that the Friars will tie the Eagles in Boston on Friday night and win at home in Providence on Saturday night.