The Boston College Eagles don’t have much time to shake off Sunday’s loss to Minnesota: they’re back on the ice tonight, taking on the defending Hockey East Champion Northeastern Huskies at Matthews Arena. For a quick preview of the matchup, we chat with our friend Mike Davis from the Northeastern Hockey Blog. Be on the lookout on their site for some questions we answered for them about BC.
BCI: The Twitter chorus (at least from you) has been all about Ruck's struggles so far this season. Do you attribute some of that to team defense or is Ruck really just personally having a bad season so far?
Mike: Yes, I have been a loud Ruck critic all year. His rebound control has been poor at best, and there have been multiple instances where he rebounds come from shots at his glove and his blocker. His positioning has caused him to get beat on multiple tips and point-blank shots I would expect him to save.
However, it must be noted that NU's team defense is different this year compared to years past. This year Jim Madigan and staff brought in some smaller, puck moving defensemen, which has helped the breakout and offense but clearing rebounds, preventing screens, and preventing deflections have all been lacking. NU is playing 2 drafted freshmen every game but have 3 regulars that returned, so experience isn't the issue- it comes down to performance.
BCI: Is Northeastern's 5-5-4 record so far yet another patented slow start, or do you think it's a fair reflection of where this team is at right now on paper?
Mike: The record is maybe a bit below what the team deserves to this point- I think they should have beaten UVM and Bentley (first game), but NU has also been hit hard by injuries, taking out Nolan Stevens and Sam Kurker until next semester, and lost John Stevens for a handful of games. Injuries, combined with goaltending saving 87% of shots, will lead to losing games that a team should win. For the record, they are ahead of their pace from last season!
BCI: For the most pat, the Huskies have had no trouble scoring goals this year - they just potted 6 on Friday night against Minnesota. Who have been the driving forces behind the offensive surge? To what do you attribute the success?
Mike: The Huskies have a very top-heavy offensive approach. Three players are in the Top 10 nationally in scoring (Sikura/ZAR are T4, Gaudette is 10th). Garret Cockerill has 11 points to lead blue liners. John Stevens' return from injury helped stabilize the top six- Stevens is a solid faceoff man and much more the facilitator than a goal scorer. Lincoln Griffin has quieted down since his torrid start to the year but is playing well with Sikura/Gaudette.
After the top six, though, there is a significant drop off in scoring. Among bottom six forwards, only one has multiple goals (Matt Filipe, with 2), and only two have more than ten SOG in 14 games (Filipe and Brendan Collier). The Huskies' offense is really driven by the success of their top 6, combined with defensive contributions by Cockerill, Jeremy Davies, and Eric Williams.
Thanks to Mike Davis from the NU Hockey Blog for previewing the game with us. Follow them on Twitter at @NUHockeyBlog.