On Friday night, the Boston College Eagles scored a clutch late power play goal to slip past Michigan State 6-4 and pick up their eighth consecutive victory. Here's a look back at some observations from Friday's game.
1. BC's defense can get rattled: I said this while at the game, and came back to find that Grant had made the same observation in his post game article: the Spartans' sequence of three goals in under two minutes was eerily reminiscent of BC's exhibition game against the University of New Brunswick, when UNB scored goals in bunches in the second period to blow past the Eagles. Once they got rattled a bit, they seemed awfully... scrambly. A far cry from the usual calm control they play with, which starts from Demko and permeates its way forward. Lots of blown coverage and bad turnovers. Additionally, BC twice gave up goals right away on the ensuing shift after scoring a goal of their own.
This is pretty understandable with a young team that includes two freshmen defensemen, but it's certainly something to work on. With the exception of one shift after their first goal, and two terrible minutes after going up 4-1, BC played a pretty solid game. But they're going to need to maintain their focus for 60 minutes and not get rattled when they're facing the BUs, Providences and Lowells of the world.
2. Miles Wood has become the go-to guy, even on the power play: When Jon Rish joined BC Interruption Radio two weeks ago, he discussed how remarkable it was that BC had enough forward depth that a player as good as Miles Wood wasn't on the top two power play units. That changed temporarily when Ryan Fitzgerald had to sit out a game due to a suspension, and it looks like Wood has now made himself indispensable on the power play. He was BC's most dangerous player on their five unsuccessful power plays, then cashed in on the doorstep to score BC's game winner.
3. Michigan State is much improved over the last few seasons: I don't necessarily expect Tom Anastos's squad to make the NCAA tournament this season, but they should be a lot more competitive than they have been over the last few years. They had two pretty dangerous lines and played a full, 60 minute team effort, being defeated only on the strength of some brilliant individual efforts by Colin White, Ryan Fitzgerald and Alex Tuch. They also played with a lot of heart and clearly didn't give up even when down 4-1 on the road. They seem to be on the upswing this year - possibly good news for BC's strength of schedule/pairwise situation down the line.
4. There's a fine line between being physical and taking stupid penalties, and BC crept on to the wrong side of it on Friday: Jerry York is generally all calm on the bench, but he was pretty angry with both JD Dudek and Teddy Doherty in the second period after they took hitting after the whistle and roughing penalties that gifted Michigan State a pair of power play opportunities at key moments. He gave them both a stern talking to from the bench. Thankfully, BC's penalty kill has been (as usual) outstanding, with Friday's 7 for 7 performance vaulting BC to #5 in the nation with a 91.1% PK. However, BC is (also as usual) one of the most penalized teams in the nation - currently averaging a whopping 23.2 penalty minutes per game, which is #2 in the nation, with such luminaries as Army, Maine, Northern Michigan and Arizona State joining them in the top 5. I have no problem at all with BC's physical nature and willingness to mix it up with opponents, but they need to be careful to stay on the right side of the line and not make their lives harder by taking too many unnecessary penalties.
5. The Eagles have demonstrated some serious intestinal fortitude: For the second time in three weeks, BC game up a late, game-tying goal -- then bounced right back for a thrilling game winner. You love to see character-building wins like that early in the season. Those tests will make them a stronger team come the last few months of the season when the opponents get tougher and the stakes are raised.