Boston College’s next game is either going to be in about two weeks or seven months.
Two weeks sounds far preferable.
The #1 Eagles can make that possible by advancing to the Frozen Four on Sunday night; the team standing in their way is the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, the defending national champions. The last two teams to hoist the trophy will face off in the Northeast Regional Final at 8pm Eastern. Boston College and Minnesota-Duluth last met on October 10, 2003 in a game which was tied, 2-2.
In semifinal action on Saturday, Boston College defeated Air Force, 2-0. Chris Kreider was responsible for both of the Eagles’ goals while Parker Milner continued his personal hot streak by pitching a shutout. The Eagles did not appear to struggle per se, but they were met by a respectable effort from their opponent; BC found a way to win in spite of the Falcons giving the Eagles their best whack.
Boston College will need to find more ways to persevere against the Bulldogs, who erased Maine in their semifinal, 5-2, and prevented a Hockey East title game rematch. Jake Hendrickson led Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday night with two goals while also getting a strong performance by, amongst others, captain Jack Connolly. The Bulldogs were able to wipe out a 2-0 Black Bears advantage and pull away at the end.
Upon a cursory glance of what Minnesota-Duluth has accomplished in their 2011-12 season, one is immediately drawn to the list of national scoring leaders. Two Bulldogs (Connolly and Travis Oleksuk) are in the top five; Connolly is second in the nation with 60 points (20 g, 40 a) while Oleksuk is tied for fourth with 53 (21 g, 32 a). On moving down the list, one will see the Bulldogs’ JT Brown (47 pts — 24 g, 23 a) before reaching the Eagles’ points leader, Kreider, with 44 (23 g, 21 a).
What works for the Eagles is that they have a very slight advantage in goal with Parker Milner. Including Saturday’s shutout win over the Falcons, Milner now has a 1.76 GAA and a .933 save percentage; the former is fifth-best in college hockey and the latter is tied for third. Minnesota-Duluth’s goalie, Kenny Reiter, has also had a very good season, but statistically not as good as Milner’s. Reiter has a 2.39 GAA and a .913 save percentage, neither of which touch the top 20 in the nation. To Reiter’s credit, however, he has played the sixth-most minutes of any player in Division I this year and has well over 900 saves under his belt, so he is not to be taken lightly.
Minnesota-Duluth and Boston College are similar in terms of goals scored per game, but the Bulldogs have the most potent offense in the nation with 3.67; the Eagles are a little behind on 3.49. By all accounts, Minnesota-Duluth is a very, very good team, but they do have one Achilles heel: the penalty kill. The Bulldogs kill off only 77.7% of opposing penalties, which puts them in the bottom-third of Division I’s 59 teams, while the Eagles burn 87.6% of penalties, good for third-best in the nation. If BC can get on the power play a few times during the contest, they may be able to do some damage.
The Bulldogs and Eagles are two strong teams and promise to compete to the best of their ability. Even if Boston College is to win, this is sure to be a difficult test against a team that just last year proved it can scale the mountain. Win or lose, it has been a tremendous season for BC, but some fun in Tampa would make it sweeter.