On Thursday night, the men’s ice hockey team will make its fourth Frozen Four appearance in the last six years, in which they will face the Union Dutchmen, a team that is white-hot entering the tournament. To stop the Dutchmen and advance to Saturday’s national championship game, the team’s first line will have to remain productive and the entire team will have to stay out of the penalty box.
It is no secret that the Eagles’ first line, comprised of Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes, and Bill Arnold, is arguably the best line in college hockey. Hayes and Gaudreau were each top ten finalists for the Hobey Baker award that Gaudreau is the favorite to win, and the line as a whole has combined for 76 goals. All season long the line has provided the largest portion of the offense that was so key to the team’s successes, which included winning the Beanpot and finishing the regular season atop Hockey East.
Come Thursday, this line’s productivity will be more essential than it has been all season. Dutchmen goalie, Colin Stevens, boasts an impressive 1.92 goals against average and .932 save percentage, both of which are better than the numbers put up by Thatcher Demko and Brian Billet. So, getting shots by him will not be easy. It will be up to the first line to score first and get inside Stevens’ head.
On that note, whoever is in net for the Eagles (Demko, most likely), will have to match Stevens’ competitiveness and play the game of his life.
According to the team’s website, the Dutchmen have five players that each have at least 31 points and six players with at least ten goals. This is the ECAC champion and high-powered offense that the Eagles will be going up against, and it will be in large part up to Demko to limit their success offensively.
What the Eagles cannot do is spend too much time in the penalty box, especially because of stupid penalties. The Dutchmen have not lost since Jan. 31 and a key part of their 10-game win streak has been their ability to make opponents pay for giving them a man advantage. When the Eagles were embarrassed by the Dutchmen in last year’s regionals by losing 5-1, it was in part due to the seven penalties BC committed during the game. Staying out of the box will prevent the Dutchmen from being able to capitalize on the power play, and will allow the Eagles to time to gain some sort of rhythm on offense. Whereas the Dutchmen enter the Frozen Four hot, the Eagles were losers of three of their last four before the tournament started, so maintaining this momentum that the team has re-developed in the tournament will be essential.
It won’t be easy, but the Eagles will ultimately move on to the championship game and likely should face the University of Minnesota Gophers. The Eagles have the best offense in the country, and although this is a very hot Union team that is now in its second Frozen Four in the last three years, the Eagles will be too much for them to handle in the end. Expect Gaudreau, Hayes, and Arnold to lead the way offensively in what should be a close game.
Additionally, the Eagles do have history, as quirky as it may be, on their side. The team has made the Frozen Four on every even year since 2004, and won the tournament during every even year since 2008. Now, that could mean nothing, or, with it being 2014, it could mean everything if the Eagles end up being national champions on Saturday night. To find out if the pattern will continue, though, the team will first have to overcome a Dutchmen squad that is hot by putting their best-in-the-country-offense to good use.
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