On Friday night, the #4 Boston College Eagles will face the #19 Merrimack Warriors in a Hockey East heavyweight fight. On Sunday night, all BC does is trade up to play the #5 New Hampshire Wildcats.
This is going to be a crucial weekend for BC’s Hockey East regular-season desires, whatever those may be. In case you require a visual aid to supplement your hockey preview experience, try this one:
That’s why this is a big weekend. You can’t go through playing your two closest conference rivals in mid-February and have it be otherwise.
Merrimack is just 13-10-5 overall on the season, but they’ve done quite well in Hockey East play. As of Thursday night, the Warriors were tied for 20th in the PairWise standings, so one might think that getting two cracks at a top-five team (BC and Merrimack will play again in a week) on your own home ice would present a great opportunity to make a final tournament push. We’re not just talking at-large bids, though: Merrimack is still very much in play for the top seed in the Hockey East Tournament, and therefore just as much in play for a conference championship.
The Warriors are hot, having won five of their last six games with no home losses in over a month. Merrimack boasts one of the best scoring defenses in Hockey East: junior goalie Sam Marotta has the lowest GAA in the conference at 2.08, and he’s also third in save percentage. Their penalty kill is third-best as well. Offensively, things are nowhere near as rosy as a team, but Merrimack does have the second-leading point scorer in Hockey East: junior forward Mike Collins with 34. Boston College, of course, has #1 in sophomore Johnny Gaudreau (36).
As for New Hampshire, BC has already faced them twice and split a January home-and-home with the Wildcats. UNH has cooled off a bit recently, going 0-2-1 in their last three games. We know how they operate: good scoring, good defense, alright power play, and a good penalty kill. They’re perhaps to be taken more seriously as a legitimate contender than Merrimack, with one difference between these two games being that BC gets UNH at home on Sunday.
A four-point weekend for Boston College would put them in the commanding position of being at least three points ahead of Merrimack and five ahead of New Hampshire with just six games left to play. Anything less than that and BC starts getting into some less savory scenarios. A zero-point weekend would be a disaster; the Eagles have been known to have those, but usually in January. To say that one of those bad weekends happening now would be troublesome would be an understatement.
BC’s Friday contest against Merrimack begins at 7:30pm. The New Hampshire meeting on Sunday has a 4pm start time.