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PREVIEW: Boston College Hockey takes it outside vs. Providence

Tomorrow night’s game is huge as the season gets back underway

Boston College High School Vs. Catholic Memorial At Fenway Park Photo by Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

#15 Boston College Eagles (13-7-2) vs.
#22 Providence College Friars (8-6-4)

Date/Time: Saturday, January 7, 2016 5:00 PM

Venue: Fenway Park, Boston, MA

TV: The game will be broadcast live on NESN/NESN+ (by the end of the game, it will only be on NESN+ as Bruins coverage begins at 6).

Radio: WEEI 850 AM/ BCEagles.com

Storylines:

For the fourth time in program history, Boston College will play at Fenway Park, with tomorrow night’s clash with the Providence College Friars making up the back half of a doubleheader on Yawkey Way.

The game will likely see the welcome return of Colin White, Casey Fitzgerald, Joe Woll and the Mattila brothers to the lineup after their absence due to World Juniors. The availability of the USA players has not yet been confirmed, but it seems that they will probably participate.

Ryan Fitzgerald’s status is still up in the air; it’s questionable if BC would make his first game back come on outdoor ice.

The ice is likely to be rough tomorrow. A full game will be played between BU and UMass tomorrow afternoon beforehand, and snow is likely to start in the late afternoon and pick up intensity during the game. The current forecast says we could see six inches of snow pile up. It should make for slow and choppy ice conditions and a slog of a game.

BC can’t worry too much about the snowglobe spectacle: what they need this weekend is a win. Between injuries and WJC departures, BC has been skating shorthanded since Thanksgiving, and it shows; the Eagles have two wins in their last seven games. With a gigantic and difficult series against BU coming up next weekend, BC could use a W to get the second half off on the right foot and secure their spot on the right side of the Pairwise bubble.

Getting to know the opponent:

Like Boston College, Providence is basically rebuilding with an entirely new team this year. For the most part, they’ve had a slower go of it than BC has, but they’re showing signs of coming on strong recently.

They're riding a 5 game unbeaten streak including a 1-0-1 mark last weekend against #2 Denver, and PC too will be bolstered by a returning player from WJC in Erik Foley. This surge has them up to #22 in the Pairwise after digging themselves an early hole.

The profile of Providence so far will come as no surprise to those who know about what Nate Leaman has done with the Friars; they’re a well-coached team that defends well and tends to control possession in their games. With a 55.8 CF% in all situations and 54.6% at even strength, the Friars are one of the nation's best possession teams. On average, they outshoot their opponents by a 33-25 margin - the 8th best differential in the country.

Unsurprisingly given these numbers, PC is one of the nation's best teams at keeping the puck out of their own net, with a 2.39 goals against average, good for 14th in the country. Where PC struggles is scoring, averaging just 3 goals per game. They don’t have a ton of electric offensive players, with nobody on the team averaging a point per game. Brian Pinho and Foley are the offensive focal points, along with solid two-way defenseman Jake Walman.

The style of hockey we are likely to see tomorrow could play to Providence’s advantage, as the game isn’t likely to open up in to a track meet. BC will need to adjust accordingly and do what they can to generate traffic and score greasy goals.

CAT PREDICTIONS

Mimi is predicting a cold and close game, with the Eagles pulling out a 2-1 victory:

Meet Mimi and other Cat Predictions stars at the Gifford Cat Shelter, located on Undine Road in Brighton.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • This is the fourth edition of Frozen Fenway. We’re thankful that at least we didn’t lose a home game this time. We appreciate that the players likely enjoy the experience, and unlike us old farts, they haven’t been through it before. As such, we’ll likely see something like this again within a few years. But I’d expect the attendance to continue to drop. We’ll see what the crowd looks like tomorrow.
  • We’ll see if Colin White et. al. come back with an extra gear after WJC, the way some Eagles players have in the past. This is actually the part of the season where White really thrived last year, between WJC and the Beanpot, before picking up an injury late in the season. If White can bottle up what he unleashed in Montreal and Toronto, he’s going to inflict a lot of whoop-ass on Hockey East opponents down the stretch.