Boston College hockey returns to Massachusetts on Saturday, where they will stay for most of the rest of the regular season, only venturing out for a game at UNH. It will be a unique setting for Saturday’s game as the Eagles will take on Providence College at Fenway Park.
BC will be bolstered by the return of Colin White, Casey Fitzgerald, Joe Woll, and the Mattila brothers from World Juniors. Ryan Fitzgerald’s status is still up in the air as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain.
Providence is coming in with confidence after a 1-0-1 weekend against Denver, improving their record to 8-6-4 and boosting them up to #22 in the Pairwise rankings.
Here are some keys to look out for on Saturday:
1. Managing the conditions: Outdoor hockey poses a unique challenge of having to deal with ever-changing weather conditions, and how they impact ice quality and game play. The current forecast is calling for snow at around the game the game will face off, with snow showers going from about 4 PM-8 PM. It will also be the second game of the day on the ice surface, with BU and UMass facing off earlier in the day.
All this suggests that the ice isn’t going to be very fast, and is liable to get snowy and choppy. This mitigates the effectiveness of a north-south transition game, and makes grinding out ugly goals more important than ever. BC will have to look to get pucks in deep, get shots on net, and muck for rebounds. This historically hasn’t really been their game, so they will need to adjust accordingly.
The same goes on special teams. BC likes to set up their power play with quick passes up high and seek out quick one-timers from the point. In snow, these plays will likely be less effective.
2. Re-integrating the returning players: White and Fitzgerald will be coming off one day of rest after playing significant, intense ice time in back-to-back days against Russia and Canada. Will they be able to carry their usual heavy load? Ice time will need to be managed appropriately and the coaching staff will need to figure out where to slot the returnees in to the lineup. Does BC go back to the lines pre-break, or change things up?
3. Win the special teams battle: This part is obvious, but becomes more key against a well-coached, opportunistic Providence team. Their win against Denver featured a lot of tight, close play without a lot of up and down scoring opportunities. PC cashed in on a pair of powerplays to bury the Pios. BC has been their own worst enemy with penalties this year and it’s high time for that to change.