This Saturday will feature a big game for the Black Bears as they host the #7 Boston College Eagles at Alfond Arena for a showdown.
A game that came in as my #6 matchup for Maine this season, it already has shown to be an important game for Maine.
Coming off a dominating victory over rival BU 7-0 on Friday night, the Black Bears are well rested for this weekend. Maine saw it’s offense come from six different scorers, freshman Brian Morgan was the only multi-goal scorer in the game. The game featured two PP goals including a 5-on-3 PP goal with just seconds remaining in the first. What many considered the dagger was Ben Hutton’s 5-on-3 SH Goal halfway through the second period. Maine’s even strength play tremendous as there struggles to score 5-on-5 are well behind them as they were phenomenal on all sides of the ice. To cap it off, Marty recorded his second shutout of the year, and it’s his second shutout in three games.
The freshman have been stupendous through 10 games, the Morgan-Brown-Byron line has been a production of offense with a 8-14-22 stat line. These freshmen have played together in 9 out of the 10 games and play very well together. The other notable freshmen is the defensive pairing of Dan Renouf and Eric Schurhamer. Roommates off the ice, they have a great chemistry together, and while there stats don’t jump off the page, they’ve been a great contribution to the success through great neutral-zone play and guarding the points well without allowing many pucks out of the zone easily.
Lastly Martin Ouellette has been continue to solidify his legacy as one of the greats to play between the pipes in the Black Bears sweater. The senior Blue Jacket’s draft prospect has played in all 10 games so far for Maine as Gendron has said he’s going to stick his best goaltender out there for every game. So far that has been Marty, holding a 2.08 GAA and a .930% save percentage, including two shutouts.
BC comes into this matchup boasting a 4-0-1 HE record (8-2-2 Overall) and sits #7 in the country according to the USCHO poll. In the past week they went 2-0-1 with a win and tie over UMass Thu-Fri and a defeat of Harvard Wednesday. Thursday’s win didn’t come without controversy, with BC up 2-1 with just under 4 minutes left UMass had scored the tying goal despite a blatant missed call for offsides. Coach Jerry York demanded a review of the play, which overturned the goal. However the rules state that blown offsides calls can’t be reviewed, unless the game is televised, hence it never should’ve been reviewed, UMass should’ve tied the game. This led to lots of discussion in the college hockey universe culminating in a written statement from Hockey East saying it should’ve never been reviewed.
But nonetheless BC moves on escaping with a win, they continue to roll as they’ve won 6 of their last 7 and hasn’t lost since they played Minnesota in the Big Ten/Hockey East challenge almost a month ago. BC is headlined with their superstar junior Johnny Gaudreau or as some refer to him, Johnny Hockey or Gaurdreaubey Baker. His impressive 12-11-23 stat line shows his continued offensive explosion from last year. He’s currently the standalone leading scorer in college hockey right now, averaging 1 goal/game and just under 2 points/game. This Calgary Flames draft prospect continues to turn heads as one of the best in college hockey following his superb sophomore campaign.
Senior Kevin Hayes has had a great year as well with a 6-12-18 stat line. Joseph Gravellese of BC Interruption told me that he’s, “becoming an imposing force on BC’s second line.” Certainly he’s someone that’ll give Maine fits, and Hayes is finally getting his stuff together, he’s just 7 points short of last year’s totals already.
The goaltending situation has been handled mostly by senior Brian Billet so far. He’s played in eight games so far, going 5-2-1 and has gotten the start in the last four straight games. The other goalie freshman Thatcher Demko, who has played in 4 games and boasting a 3-0-1 record. He hasn’t played since playing BU two weeks ago, out with an injury but Coach York has hinted at a possible return this weekend against Maine.
This game I expect to be a battle, one for the ages. Maine’s and BC’s games in recent years have been quite the games with Maine sweeping BC 2 years ago and BC taking last year’s bout at the Alfond. Last year’s bout was like a heavyweight fight, BC threw a punch, Maine came back quickly with a counter. Through 2 periods it was quite the battle, but then in the third Johnny Gaudreau threw a right hook, in this case a goal that put Maine down for the count. However Maine won the last two battles at Conte Forum back in January.
Some keys to beating BC include establishing the physical game early, and drawing BC into penalty trouble, as they are prone to do that often. Getting those powerplay chances will be key as BC does great on the penalty kill. Gravellese told me, “bury your chances. BC has done a great job of controlling possession in most of their games this year … But they’re susceptible to breakdowns.”
Lastly he said what’s a given, “Throw the kitchen sink at Gaudreau.” Johnny Hockey is just so damn talented that you basically just need to neutralize him from the game, which Maine actually did back in January, so I’m sure Maine’s been watching tape on this game.
My prediction is not a good one for Maine. While they’ve been phenomenal so far, they haven’t played a team that’s the likes of BC and it’s gonna be bad. But I think with all the confidence and momentum that Maine carries over into this weekend game. My final score prediction is BC 3-2.
My colleagues and I at WMEB will have the game for you as we have so far for every Maine home game. Tune into WMEB 91.9 FM at about 7:15 for the pre game show. Hope you tune in.