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Hockey Banter, Week XXIV, Part II: Women's Frozen Four

This is it -- the final weekend of the women's hockey season. This time, BC hopes to end it with a win. But 39-0-0 Minnesota stands in our way.

via Graham Beck, BC Heights Sports

Joseph Gravellese: So, the inevitable matchup is upon us. All year long, it seemed like BC vs. Minnesota was eventually destined to happen. East vs. West. Old school vs. New school. "Has their own dedicated arena" vs. "Most prominent media covering the team is"

Throughout the year it looked like the game might potentially not happen -- or at least, not at this stage.

BC went on a big midseason surge and moved into the 2/3 range in the PWR, meaning Minnesota could be avoided until the national championship game. Then the Eagles went on a bit of a nosedive, raising questions about whether they'd make it to Minneapolis at all.

But here they are. And here we go. BC vs. Minnesota. The Eagles hope to prevent the Gophers from going 40-0(!). History will be made?

Grant Salzano: History will be made!

I'm feeling it. I'm feeling good. Are you feeling it?

JG: I have a lot of belief in this BC team, and they've played their best all year against top opposition. Oddly enough it's freakin' Northeastern and Vermont who dragged them down.

But the Eagles have been lights out against top teams. They just beat Harvard again, scoring 3 goals on a team whose GAA was barely over 1 for the season.

I do think BC is the best team Minnesota will have faced all year. The Gophers are undoubtedly better on paper, but they don't play the Women's Frozen Four on paper. They play it on a crappy web stream.

The Eagles can win this game, if everything goes right.

GS: I know I'm way more of a POSNAN than you are, and despite my earlier prediction of Minnesota winning in the tournament preview, I'm really feeling overwhelmingly confident for no reason whatsoever and am calling the BC win.

You were in attendance for the Harvard quarterfinal -- give me the breakdown.

JG: It wasn't the most inspiring game ever. It was kind of a grind of a game, to be honest.

But BC did a good job of limiting Harvard's grade A chances. Aside from Boyles' awesome, highlight kick save, there weren't many times when Harvard looked super dangerous.

The Eagles kind of did what they had to do. They got a little lucky in that two of their goals were, from my perspective, softies. But you put yourself in position to cash in on those by working hard and getting pucks to the net.

I doubt Nooorra Ratteehy (someone check the spelling) will be giving up any softies for the Gophers, but yeah.

I'm not sharing your opinion that BC is totally going to win. But I think they can put a scare into the Gophers, surely. They're going to be dealing with a lot of pressure, going for 40-0 and playing at home. They've shown some chinks in the armor, being taken to triple OT by North Dakota last week.

GS: Hey, last time BC played against her, we almost got her pulled from the game.

...That game was a freaking joy.

JG: Yes it was. BC beat Minnesota at Conte Forum in the 2011 NCAA quarterfinals, memorably. The Gophers have run roughshod on the NCAA since.

It would have been nice if North Dakota had pulled the shocker. But the bright side is, BC now has the opportunity to make history themselves.

GS: This is a much different and more experienced Minnesota team than the one from 2011, that's for sure.

I really think it's remarkable how similar these two teams are, really. Granted, the comparisons are basically "Minnesota's YYY is basically BC's XXX on steroids," but it's true nonetheless.

You've got two really experienced senior goalies (BC's on a redshirt senior season) who have made some noise over their careers, but nothing like this season.

You've got each team with a 'star' defenseman, Minnesota's Bozek and BC's Bolden, who have been critical to each team's success.

You've got a star forward tandem on each team in Minnesota's Kessel and Brandt and BC's Carpenter and Skarupa.

And you've got both teams who, behind those superstars, have some remarkable depth.

Kind of eerie in a way.

JG: Agreed. Fast, physical, relentless, great goaltending.

I'm not saying BC is on Minnesota's level. But I see what you mean about similarities.

I actually think BC is deeper than Minnesota. Though I say that with full knowledge that I haven't seen Minnesota in person to fairly compare their lower lines. But suffice it to say if this comes down to third lines I'll take Caitlin Walsh and Ashley Motherwell.

Before we go into keys to the game and predictions, let's briefly touch on the other women's semifinal. BU plays Mercyhurst in a game between, well, not exactly our two favorite teams.

Mercyhurst absolutely stunned #2 Cornell (nice national title prediction, Grant). BU held court at home against a solid Clarkson team. I have to think BU needs to be considered a favorite in this game. Which kind of sucks. Though it sets up the crazy possibility of a BC-BU title game.


GS: Yeah... I... wouldn't make it to Sunday if BC and BU both won their semifinal. You would be writing that game preview without me because I would have had every kind of heart failure possible.

BC played Mercyhurst twice and BU thrice this year. I don't think either of those teams are particularly strong but BU is definitely better, unfortunately.

Hurst has the stronger goalie though, so who knows.

JG: Okay, LET'S GO! What needs to happen for BC to beat Minnesota?

Obviously key #1 is great goaltending from Corinne Boyles. She's been tremendous down the stretch and will need to have the game of her life.

It's safe to assume Minnesota will pump around 40 shots. Maybe more.

GS: I'm going to make the not-really-all-that-bold prediction that BC is going to outshoot the Gophers. They've been outshot a couple times this year, and they haven't faced a team that likes to throw the puck on net like BC does.

JG: BC will also need, as underdogs so often do, tremendous special teams. I'm talking 50+% on the power play to feel good.

The Eagles are going to need to quickly find the line between good physical play and taking penalties, and tow that line all night.

GS: BC staying out of the box is 10x more important than what they do when Minnesota is in it.

We've let lesser teams stay in games with our inopportune penalties. Minnesota will make it hurt.

JG: It would be nice if some sort of shutdown line emerges who can play defensively against the Gophers' top unit. Minnesota on a power play is like a shootyhoop team shooting free throws. They might miss but there might as well be no defense.

This is kind of a stupid "captain obvious" point but BC really needs to avoid giving up a goal in the first ten minutes of the game.

BC pretty much never plays in front of a crowd. There will be a crowd in Minneapolis. And it will be packed, and loud. That could be intimidating for BC. But if they can get past those jitters, the pressure and weight can build up on the home team.

GS: Here's the main thing I think for BC: The Eagles need to play this game like they aren't underdogs.

The teams that have taken leads against the Gophers seemed to immediately go into Prevent Defense mode. BC has the guns to get into a shootout with them.

We also need to roll 3 or 4 lines instead of playing hero line hockey all day. Minnesota has really drawn last blood in the third period all year, and our top lines need to have the gas to get to the end.

JG: I know you're on record from the Q&A as picking a BC win. Confident or just crazy talk?

GS: Confidence. I've got all the good juju going -- my Minnesota Women's Hockey t-shirt and Gopher jersey are inside out and upside down at the bottom of my closet, a superstition which has a perfect record, I believe.

Okay, maybe a bit of maniacal craziness too. But it's a *confident* maniacal craziness.

It's not just the gut feeling though. This is a team that really can beat those Gophers. We don't need a miracle -- we just need our best hockey.

JG: (Thanks for reminding me to carry out that superstition, which I borrowed from the infamous Med School Matt and his gigantic random soccer jersey collection.)

One last question before we sign off for the week: You still breathin'? I'm worried about your mental health this week.

GS: I'm breathin'. My vacation the last week and a half was well-timed, as at least I was able to step back (mostly -- apologies to the Mrs.) from hockey a bit in preparation for Heart Attack Weekend here. But no, seriously, if BC beats Minnesota I will be useless for the next two days preparing for a national title game...

JG: It's all good, man. I'm here for ya.

Go Eagles.