It’s Halloween weekend Eagles fans, and what better way to celebrate than with a hockey match against the number one team in the country, the Denver Pioneers. Boston College is coming off a rough weekend series against St. Cloud with the Eagles dropping both games 5-2 and 3-1. Jerry’s squad looks to bounce back this weekend by first traveling to Providence where they look to grab their second win against the Friars, before hosting Denver Saturday night. With this being the biggest game of the season thus far for BC, I had the privilege of sitting down with the writers of LetsGoDU to preview what to look for and expect from the top-ranked Pioneers.
1) Denver has clearly shown to be one of the top college hockey programs in the country. What do you think is contributing to their success?
Head coach Jim Montgomery constantly talks about his process, or proscess to last year's national title winning team. In almost every postgame interview, he'll reference his team's process and "being hard to play against." As important as the process is, it's impossible to ignore what Montgomery has done on the recruiting trail. Since his arrival in Denver five years ago, it seems he's landed incredible class after incredible class (but don't tell BU Twitter). Players like Henrik Borgström, Troy Terry, and Dylan Gambrell are just the tip of the iceberg. He knows what he's looking for in his players and he's finding it all over the country. It's easy to forget that prior to his arrival, George Gwozdecky's recruiting prowess had kind of fallen off and Denver's status as a perennial power was coming into question. Thanks to his process and diligence in recruiting, Denver is back among the elite. It all came together last year exactly how he planned it and the hope is this is a sustainable run at or near the top.
2) The Pioneers obviously have a tough weekend ahead in Beantown where they get to go up against a very strong BU team as well as BC. How is coach Montgomery going to have to adjust his game-plan when playing against these tough Hockey East opponents?
The toughest part of this weekend for this team is probably just the travel. It's their second true road weekend of the season and they're traveling much further than South Bend, Indiana this time. Despite returning so much scoring from a year ago, this is still a very young, inexperienced team to an extent. A number of freshmen are getting a lot of ice time on the third and fourth lines and along the blue line. Montgomery is still getting to know this team and what pairings work. He's still going to be using this weekend to figure that out. That's not to say he's not going into Boston expecting anything less than two wins, but there are other factors at stake this weekend and it's unlikely that he's going to change his game-plan much from the past two weekends.
3) What are some of DU's strong assets that will prove difficult for this young BC team? In a similar vein, what are some weak points that DU will look to expose against BC?
When you look at DU's roster, the first thing that strikes you is the depth of talent this team has. Names like Borgström, Terry, and Gambrell jump out at you for obvious reasons, but after them, there's scoring punch all the way down to even the freshmen on the fourth line. Keeping the puck off of the Pioneers' sticks is going to be important for BC if they're going to have success. The Pioneers cycle the puck in the offensive zone extremely well and they don't make many individual offensive mistakes. As such, I think SCSU exposed Boston College to an extent and Denver will attmept to replicate what the Huskies were able to do against the Eagles. It seemed like BC was in penalty trouble all weekend, and Denver will try to get on the power play as much as they possibly can throughout the evening on Saturday. They'll absolutely try to bait the Eagles to an extent and get them to commit unnecessary penalties. If they can force BC to commit such penalties, Denver will have a great chance to impose their will on the Eagles and take over the game.
4) What are some weak points that BC should look to attack if they are going to try to add a 'W' in their win column?
Right now, there is simply a lack of chemistry with the Pios right now. Passes aren't as crisp as they will be three weeks from now, breakouts still need some work, and lines haven't really been solidified. But on top of that, the Pios have shown a penchant for turning the puck over in dangerous situations. Despite outshooting Lake Superior State 120-33 over the course of two games last weekend, they escaped the weekend with a tie and a win. The reason for it? Periodically poor breakouts and lackadaisical defense that led to turnovers in the defensive zone. If DU doesn't clean up those mistakes this weekend, Boston College will have its opportunities to steal a victory on Saturday. If they want to force some of those mistakes, it would behoove the Eagles to place an emphasis on their forecheck. If they can force an inexperienced group of Pioneers to make more mistakes in front of Tanner Jaillet or Dayton Rasmussen, they could come away with a key home victory over the top-ranked team in the country.
5) Are there any particular players that we should keep our eyes on in the game this Saturday?
When you look at DU's roster, the names that obviously stand out are Henrik Borgström, Dylan Gambrell, and American Hero Troy Terry. Those are the three names that the country will be enamored with throughout the year and for good reason. They're extremely talented and all three have long, bright futures playing this sport. However, there is very little I could tell you about them that you don't already know. So instead, I'm going to direct your attention to players like junior Colin Staub, sophomore Liam Finlay, and freshman Ian Mitchell. All three of these players have a scoring touch that is going to be extremely key for DU throughout the year. No team can thrive with just three players providing the vast majority of the scoring at Staub, Finlay, and Mitcheill will do an excellent job supporting and setting up Borgström, Gambrell, and Terry. Watch for these three players to play key roles both against BU and BC this weekend if Denver is going to fly home to Denver with a couple of victories.
6) What do you predict the outcome of the game will be on Saturday?
Given how BC has started the season and how they looked against St. Cloud State, I have a hard time seeing Denver losing on Saturday. The game might end up being closer than DU fans would like to see, but tying Lake Superior State last Friday may have served as an important wake-up call for Denver. I don't think Boston College truly is what they looked like against SCSU, but at the end of the day, Denver is arguably the most talented team in the country and I think they'll come out on top in a close, 4-3 or 5-4 kind of game. I really think this is absolutely a game no one is going to want to miss.