Men's hockey, Wisconsin clash on Jerry York Night

Aside from those huddled in O’Neill for disgustingly long periods of time this week, most of BC 's student body is zoned in and well aware of tomorrow night’s match-up against the No. 2-ranked Wisconsin Badgers at 7 p.m. at Conte Forum. Since their last two meetings against Michigan (L, 3-2) and RPI (W, 7-2), the Eagles have dropped from No. 4 to No. 7 in the polls, currently tied with Yale .

The game against Michigan last week was frustrating, to say the least. The Eagles were only able to produce one goal, which came at 10:05 in the second period from freshman defenseman Ian McCoshen. The assist came from junior forward Johnny Gaudreau and junior defenseman Danny Linell. The goal brought some momentum for the Eagles, leading to a number of huge chances to tie up the game. Most notable of these was a beautifully-executed backhand play from freshman forward Ryan Fitzpatrick that ultimately missed just off the right post. A roughing call on Bill Arnold provided the Wolverines with a power play goal in the last second of the Eagles’ penalty kill from Michigan senior forward Luke Moffatt.

We got a taste of sweet, sweet victory this past Sunday at Conte against RPI. Each of our seven goals came from a different player. Senior forwards Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold, as well as our own Johnny Hockey, earned one, one and three goals, respectively. Freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko earned his first collegiate win, with 25 goals saved and a save percentage of .926.

However, RPI outshot the Eagles 27-23, with many of those scoring chances coming from the two penalties sophomore Michael Matheson drew in the first period (we were outshot 13-2 in the first). Freshman defenseman Steve Santini scored the final goal with 12:03 in the third. After a dominant second and third, BC pulled out the win against RPI.

What went down on Sunday against RPI was commendable, but Wisconsin is a whole other beast. And if the Badger’s No.2 ranking to RPI’s No.17 doesn’t prove that enough, then I’ll tell you what will.

Wisconsin is coming off of their first opening-series sweep since their 2004-05 season. Both victories (5-2 and 2-1) against Northern Michigan were offensive explosions on the Badgers’ end, where they outshot the Wildcats, 38-20 and 29-21 respectively. Although Northern Michigan isn’t currently ranked on the NCAA D-1 poll, this was the first time UW swept NMU since the 1996-97 season.

This gives the Badgers huge momentum coming into Friday night’s match-up, and they may just be able to feed off of it and come out with the win. The confidence UW’s offensive lines have with junior goalie Joel Rumpel in net is insane.

Freshman Grant Besse scored goals in both games, and his ego is definitely soaring. On top of that you have each player earning a point during that series, and with a head coach like Mike Eaves who knows the reality of each game’s unpredictable nature and knows how to get his lines to execute, we’re looking at a contest the Eagles need to bring their A-game for.

Comparing the two games the Eagles have played so far, it’s obvious that the team plays with more confidence when Demko is between the pipes. Demko displays goaltending ability that surpasses his years, but let’s not forget that he is still the youngest player in college hockey (he’s not even 18 yet!), and still has a lot of knowledge to gain.

Confidence doesn’t always equal scoring chances, but it helps. The natural instinct to connect on passes and to just go for the shot without trying to get too technical or “pretty” has to kick in, as we saw against RPI. Wisconsin’s leading goalscorers Nic Kerdiles and Michael Mersch demonstrate that confidence, earning a goal and two assists each, and so does BC’s combined special teams (Hayes, Gaudreau), that earned the Eagles the top power play spot in the nation (2-4).

There’s a lot at stake for both teams. First off, it’s Jerry York Night. If that doesn’t put a mountain of pressure on the team already, then I don’t know what will. On top of that, Gaudreau is one point away from earning his 100th career point, a major accomplishment for any player.

And on top of that, there is somewhat of a rivalry between the Eagles and the Badgers. As you may or may not recall, the Badgers were one game away from winning their second NCAA Championship in 2010 when the Eagles snatched it from their paws (enjoy the pun) in a devastating 5-0 loss.

So many different things could be argued for the fate of the Eagles at this point, but it is still too early in the season to make any definite statements and as we have seen in the past, absolutely anything can happen. We won’t know our fate until the puck drops. So if you were lucky enough to snag a ticket to Jerry-York-A-Palooza a.k.a. Friday night’s showdown, I’ll see you there. Game on.

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