The mantra for the 2015-2016 BC Women's Hockey season: The Main Thing Is Not To Get Excited.
That was something my grandfather would say all the time. It's not that you can't enjoy the ride. But keep your wits about you and your expectations in check.
This year's iteration of the BC women's hockey team actually has a better record than last year's team eleven games in at a perfect 11-0-0 (last season the Eagles started 27-0-1, but had the perfect record marred early with a tie in game 3 against St. Lawrence).
But the problem for BC is that no matter how many games they win in the regular season, they have the stigma of being unable to win when it counts. As we've repeated ad nauseum, BC lost 3 games last year: the Beanpot title game, the Hockey East title game, and the Frozen Four.
So it's all business for the Eagles so far. They're well aware that these wins are meaningless without picking up the requisite hardware at the end.
Having said that: There's no reason not to enjoy the ride, particularly in a rivalry game such at this.
Pairwise*: BC #2, BU #15
Team Offense: BC 5.45 GPG (#3 in NCAA), BU 3.09 (#9 in NCAA)
Team Defense: BC 1.09 GPG (#2 in NCAA), BU 3.45 (#26 in NCAA...yikes)
Probably pretty accurate at this point, given the earlier start of the women's season
BC's Power Play Turnaround: Last year's Eagles struggled mightily on the power play, 15th out of 34 teams in conversion percentage, but their prolific scoring rate at 5 on 5 meant that they were actually the 2nd worst team in the country on the power play when measured by how much their scoring rate improved while on the man advantage. This year has been a complete turnaround. BC is 3rd in the country behind only Minnesota and a Dartmouth team that has played just 5 games. In their last 7 games, their power play is #1 in the nation.
BC's Lights Out Penalty Kill: Until Saturday's game at Walter Brown Arena, the Eagles were a perfect 35 for 35 in penalty killing. That streak ended against BU, but the percentage is still tops in the country at 97.4%. Impressively, BC has scored more goals shorthanded (4) than teams have scored against them on the power play (1).
BU's Problems In Goal: BU's goaltending tandem has really been on the struggle bus this year. Erin O'Neil, a former teammate of Katie Burt's on the USA U18 team, is just 25th in the country out of 45 qualifying goalies in save percentage. Her teammate, Victoria Hanson, is a whopping 39th...
They aren't faring any better in GAA: They're 32nd and 39th, respectively.
Meanwhile, BC's Katie Burt has cruised to a 0.90 GAA (3rd in the country) and a 0.958 save percentage (4th in the country). She's allowed a Demkoian 2 goals in 7 games. #shade
Game Day GIFs:
BC absolutely blitzed the Terriers on Saturday by a score of 8-1, and they put up a few goals for the highlight reel. I couldn't puck just one, so here are the top 3:
Keys To The Game:
Contain Sarah Lefort: BU's best player is back from the Four Nations Cup tournament where she contributed to Canada's losing effort against Team USA (AMERICA!). With her back, BU will be able to roll two pretty good scoring lines. She's not Marie-Philip Poulin, but she's talented enough to put the team on her back.
Stay Out Of The Box: BC is the better team, and despite their superb penalty kill, giving BU too many chances to even up the talent on the ice with power plays is the only way the Terriers are going to hang with BC. The Eagles should control the game 5 on 5.
Don't Get Injured: BU has a history. Last year, Kayla Tutino was given a one game suspension for a brutal hit from behind on BC's Emily Pfalzer. A few years back, former Terrier Melissa Anderson took a dive at the surgically repaired knee of Tracy Johnson behind the play as time expired. The Terriers aren't as good as they were last year and BC should win. Get the W and get out.
The Last Word:
It's probably a good thing that this is a rivalry game, because even though BU isn't quite as good as they were last season, they're still dangerous -- especially with Sarah Lefort back from Four Nations.
You'd like to think that it's impossible for the Eagles to overlook a team after last year's disastrous end to the season, and Saturday's 8-1 blowout is a good sign.
BC won't score a another touchdown, but two field goals feels right. BC wins 6-0, continuing a surprising streak for the Eagles where they score more on the road than they do at home.