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Spartan Hockey Preview: #8 Boston College Eagles

Only one game this week, but it is a good barometer for where the Spartans are as a program


Yes, Boston College sits at just 4-5. Yes, they have lost four games in a row, including one each to teams like Connecticut and Harvard. This may not be a team stocked with the same talent it has had lately after being in the Frozen Four 3 of the last 4 seasons, with championships in two of those years. Make no mistake this is still Boston College, a premier program in college hockey and represents the best chance for a Spartan marque win outside of Minnesota all season.

Boston College was the first opponent of the Tom Anastos era at Michigan State. The 2011 Spartans lost to Boston College, fresh off a 2010 national championship, 5-2. Of course that Spartan team went on to greatly overachieve it's talent and get to the NCAA tournament, losing in the first round to Union, still the only tournament appearance for Anastos. The Spartans rebounded the next night to beat Air Force in overtime, to finish 3rd at the Ice Breaker Invitational. This game should be a fun, small barometer of where Tom Anastos has this program in his fourth season. It also represents a chance for dad to have house bragging rights over daughter, as Andie Anastos has  4 goals and 8 points as a sophomore on the top ranked Eagles women's team.

#8 Boston College Eagles 4-5 (1-3 Hockey East)

Time: 7:00 PM EST Friday at Munn Ice Arena

Radio: Spartan Sports Network

BC Blog: BC Interruption and Game Week Q&A

#8 Boston College Eagles Stats Match-Up (National Rank) Michigan State Spartans
3.00 (22) Goals Scored/Game 2.38 (38)
2.78 (33) Goals Against/Game 2.50 (24)
5-of-46 10.87% (42) Power Play Percentage 4-of-36 11.11% (39)
38-of-43 88.4% (18) Penalty Kill Percentage 29-of-32 90.6% (10)
Ryan Fitzgerald (So) 7G 1A, 8 pts Leading Scorer Matt Berry (Sr) 5G 3A, 8 pts

Thatcher Demko (So) 4-4 2.11 GAA, .921 save %


Brad Barone (Sr) 0-1 5.10 GAA, .815 save %

Expected Goaltenders

Jake Hildebrand (Jr)

3-5 2.40GAA,

.912 save %

Last weekend the Spartans got a series split against the Eagles' fellow Hockey East member, New Hampshire, winning on Friday night 4-3 and losing Saturday 5-2. The Eagles meanwhile lost a thrilling game against rival Boston University at home 5-3 on Friday before coming out flat Tuesday night and losing to Harvard 6-3. In the loss to Harvard  the Eagles played with senior Brad Barone in net, making his first career start for the injured Thatcher Demko. Barone started the season as the third goaltender but was moved up to back-up when Brian Billett left the team for a personal leave of absence. Needless to say, it has been an interesting week in Boston College goaltending. Demko was out with an illness and I would expect him to be between the pipes at Munn tonight.

If Demko is in fact between the pipes, Spartan fans are in for a treat as Demko is one of the best American goaltending prospects out there. The 36th overall selection of the Vancouver Canucks in last spring's NHL draft took over the reins as a freshman last year as the season wore on and was the 2nd ranked prospect in the Canucks' organization by Hockey's Future. Sophomore forward Ryan Fitzgerald (Boston Bruins 4th round 2013) is tied for 5th in the country with seven goals. The 5'10" forward is undersized but fits the prototypical small forward that BC coach Jerry York is able to mold into an NHL talent. On defense super freshman Noah Hanifin is a projected top five pick in the NHL draft this coming spring and was ranked 3rd in the initial rankings by ISS Hockey behind BU forward Jack Eichel and OHL forward Connor McDavid. Hanifin is a part of the most heralded freshman class in college hockey in at least a decade and has the talent to back it up. Fellow freshman Alex Tuch (Minnesota Wild 18th overall, 2014) will also be someone to keep an eye on.

3 Keys to Spartan Success

  1. Get a 2 Goal Lead- The Spartans had a great start last Friday night in their win over New Hampshire and were able to hold on late. Saturday night they battled back from down 1-0 to take the lead 2-1 early in the second, but could never gain separation. BC is a team on the ropes and traveling a decent distance to play a single game against a 3-5 team. If the Eagles come out flat the Spartans need to take advantage and build a lead. That is presicely what Harvard did Tuesday night before the Eagles came on strong with a great 3rd period.
  2. Stay out of the box- Yes the Spartans have a top-ten penalty kill. Also it is true that BC is 0-for-23 on their last 23 power play opportunities. But when a team has as much talent up front as the Eagles and you know they have spent even more time working on their power play in practice, why tempt fate? This Eagles team is just looking for a chance to bust out on the power play and the Spartans need to be careful to not let that explosion happen on them.
  3. Take advantage of the few chances you get- Mike McMahon who covers Merrimack hockey and writes for College Hockey News does a great job covering advanced stats in Hockey East. Before last weekend's games Boston College had an adjusted possession percentage of 54.77%, good for fifth in the league. For comparison here are the other Hockey East MSU opponents: Boston University (59.32% 1st), New Hampshire (58.80% 2nd), UMass Lowell (43.37% 10th) and UMass (42.90% 11th). The Spartans have a 2-4 record against those teams listed. They controlled the game in terms of shots against the lower ranked teams and were outshot by New Hampshire last weekend greatly on Friday. With good possession numbers for BC it is likely that the Spartans are outshot so taking advantage of their few opportunities will be huge.
BC is too good to be 4-5. I'll say Demko starts in net and is the difference for the Eagles. I expect a closer game than the 2011 5-2 drubbing, make it 3-2 Eagles. I am 0-2 on the season as I predicted a split last weekend, but flipped the days.
Around the B1G
Wisconsin apparently just can't even. They start 0-4, take two weeks off, drop to 0-6 last weekend and now have ANOTHER?!? bye week. Top ranked Minnesota hosts 13th ranked Minnesota-Duluth Friday before heading to Duluth Saturday. Penn State gets it's first real test playing at 4th ranked Massachusetts-Lowell. Michigan looks to get a weekend sweep verse sacrificial lamb American International. Ohio State plays a home and home series with 19th ranked Bowling Green (don't adjust your computer screen, yes BG is ranked 19)