The Boston College Eagles are the defending national champions, and even though there has been a sense that something isn’t quite right with this team lately, their path to the 2013 Frozen Four is potentially manageable.
BC will play in the East Region, being hosted in Providence, Rhode Island. Only about a one-hour drive from campus, the Eagles have the shortest distance to travel of any of the four teams for their region; Quinnipiac is about two hours away, Union is about three, and Canisius, all the way out in Buffalo, is a seven-hour drive.
Before the Eagles can worry about Quinnipiac or Canisius, however, they must play attention to Union. This will be the first-ever meeting between the Eagles and Dutchmen from the Schenectady, NY college — Union made the Frozen Four last season, but Ferris State advanced to the title game and faced BC instead. Union comes from the ECAC and are the conference tournament champions for consecutive seasons; Quinnipiac were the regular-season champions.
Union got hot at the end of the season and carried it all the way to a tournament title. The Dutchmen are 6-0 in the month of March and won most of those games comfortably. They have a record of 21-12-5 entering this game.
Boston College, on the other hand, lost in the Hockey East semifinals to Boston University, snapping a brief Eagle win streak. The Eagles are 22-11-4 overall.
BC has the benefit of essentially having a home game in Providence as they play a team that surely isn’t terrible, but not as seasoned as the Eagles. Union’s goals for/against averages are 3.08/2.08, which is respectable, as is their special teams play: the Dutchmen convert on 23% of their power play chances and kill penalties at an 86.7% rate. The Eagles’ scoring defense has allowed more goals per game than Union and the penalty kill fell to fourth in Hockey East after a three power-play goal performance by BU.
This is a reasonable draw for the Eagles and one they can win, but one knows that Jerry York will preach taking the opponent seriously. He would be correct, as Union is red hot and they made the Frozen Four last year themselves.
On the other side of the East Region are Quinnipiac and Canisius. The Bobcats are the top overall seed in the tournament while the Canisius Golden Griffins are the champions of the Atlantic Hockey conference tournament. This will be their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, and they got there on an eight-game win streak. In spite of that, they’re just barely over .500 on the season, which leads one to believe that it might take a special sort of effort to beat the #1 team in the tournament.
In the event that the Eagles win their regional semifinal, they would probably face Quinnipiac. The Bobcats, making only their second-ever trip to the tournament themselves, have been hot all season long but play in a weaker conference than the Eagles in Hockey East. Still, a 27-win team won’t be easy to beat in a tournament game.
Compared to other regions, Boston College got a favorable draw. Each one of the other three regions has more than one team from a big-time conference while the East only has one, the Eagles. The East is absolutely winnable for the Eagles, but they will have to finally do something about the issues that have plagued them for months — defensive breakdowns and too many penalties, for starters. An effort like the second half of the Hockey East semifinal might see them go back home on Saturday night, while a “typical” BC hockey performance in the NCAA Tournament could get them all the way to Pittsburgh.