On Friday night the Michigan State Spartans hockey team will travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass. to take on the second ranked Boston College Eagles. The Eagles are currently 8-1 on the season, having not lost since October 11 and they have six shutouts in their past seven games. The Eagles are led by junior goaltender Thather Demko and boast a balanced roster that has offensive contributors up and down the lineup.
Joe Gravellese from the great SB Nation Boston College blog BC Interruption was nice enough to answer some questions from yours truly previewing the upcoming series. Joe also co-hosts the amazing and unique Eastern Bias podcast with Shep Hayes (from Blogging on Babcock-A Boston University blog) covering all things Hockey East. Be sure to check out BC Interruption, as I will be answering some questions that Joe had for me that will be up over there soon, and download the Eastern Bias podcast on iTunes.
- Thatcher Demko was expected to be one of the best goaltenders in the country but I don't think anyone expected 6 shutouts in 9 games. Has he done it by himself or has he been helped by a commitment to shot blocking?
It hasn't been so much shot blocking as good team defense as a whole. The Eagles have been pretty good at limiting opponents' chances, either by just having the puck a lot themselves or by playing solidly in their own end. When opponents do get opportunities, though, Demko is there to deny them. He's been truly phenomenal this season coming off surgery on both hips that has him looking fully healthy for the first time in his BC career.
2. The Spartans and Eagles have two common opponents, Denver and Maine, with the Eagles fairing pretty well at 3-0 against those opponents. What has been the key to the Eagles' early season success?
Balanced scoring, and Thatcher Demko. BC has 3 and sometimes 4 lines contributing on a given night. It's a huge departure from last season when BC was really quite reliant on their first line and had trouble scoring if they weren't on the ice. A big group of talented freshmen have infused the team with talent,and juniors Ryan Fitzgerald and Austin Cangelosi have taken huge leaps from last season so far. Of course, Demko has been the glue of the entire operation.
3. This team has seemingly not skipped a beat since Jeremy Bracco left the team for the OHL. Is that something that actually brought the team together as one instead of causing a rift?
This seemed to be a pretty tight and fiery team anyway even before Bracco left but that definitely appears to have brought the team together. Particularly in the Friday night game against Denver right after his departure, you could see how much it meant to the players to nab the narrow 4-3 win - they flew off the bench after the game as though it were a playoff victory. BC has great leadership that starts with an excellent captain in Teddy Doherty. They are playing some great "team" hockey right now.