This weekend, Boston College men’s hockey will have a home-and-home series, but it’s not just any home-and-home. The #2 Eagles are going to square off twice against the #4 New Hampshire Wildcats, the second-place team in Hockey East at the moment. Even though there are still two months left before the Hockey East Tournament begins, this weekend series could have a serious impact on who wins the regular-season title and who may be the favorite to win the whole thing at the TD Garden in March.
Friday night’s game is on NESN and at Conte Forum, while Saturday’s game is in Durham and untelevised. The arena surrounding Kelley Rink will be full of fans in this critical home game, even though many of the students won’t be back on campus yet. There is up to four points at stake between Friday and Saturday, but one look at the current Hockey East standings shows how important those points may be.
1. Boston College: 19 pts (12 GP)
2. New Hampshire: 17 pts (11 GP)
3. Boston University: 16 pts (12 GP)
The Eagles are two points ahead of UNH at present, but New Hampshire has an extra game in hand. Assuming that the #4 team would win it, for all intents and purposes, the Eagles and Wildcats are tied. Given that these two teams will only meet once in the regular season beyond this weekend, the Eagles need to take this very seriously and get whatever points they can.
There are two things to note for Boston College. One, players are coming and going. Every Eagles fan is gratified to see Johnny Gaudreau return from the World Juniors, but then, Patch Alber gets injured and has to have surgery. Losing that senior leadership hurts, but getting back your star player could change the game. Two, this may not be the best time for the Eagles to be catching one of their top rivals in the conference. It may have been because of the lack of Gaudreau, but two non-wins in their last two games has given somewhat of a clue that BC may be entering their typical mid-season slump. With the games being this big, they can’t afford that to be the case. A bad weekend for the Eagles could make it very difficult for them to win the regular season trophy.
Granted, the regular season trophy is not what matters the most, but we’re also talking about potential NCAA Tournament seeding with important home-and-homes like this. If BC has a good weekend, they’ll firm themselves as one of the top teams and will set the stage for great things to come, but New Hampshire will not be an easy out. The Wildcats, both times just edging out Boston College, have the best scoring offense and defense in the conference. They also have a tremendously successful penalty kill, which will be a great matchup with BC’s top power play offense.
The puck drops on Friday and Saturday nights at 7pm.