It’s tournament time in college hockey and kicking things off tonight on NBCSN, the nation’s No. 1 team, Boston College, kicks off the Hockey East tournament in a curious way against UMass (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
While you’d think that Boston College would come into Game 1 of their series with UMass as heavy favorites, what with having home ice and being the top team in the country and all, they haven’t fared well against the Minutemen this season. The Eagles are 1-2-0 against UMass this season, winning only their first meeting this season, a 4-2 decision. In their last two games, both in Amherst, the Minutemen were decided victors with 4-2 and 4-0 wins.
Curiously, this game features relatives facing off against each other. UMass top scorer T.J. Syner and BC senior forward and top goal scorer Barry Almeida are cousins that come in looking to move on to the semifinals at TD Garden in Boston next weekend. Syner has piled up his points by setting up his teammates while Almeida has poured in 21 goals this season and even outshooting his teammate and Rangers star prospect Chris Kreider.
Boston College having weapons like Almeida and Kreider is what helps set them apart from UMass. The kind of scoring depth the Eagles have is something that UMass absolutely cannot compare to. UMass sophomores Michael Pereira and Conor Sheary have done well enough to help the offense this season, but they’ll need a lot from them if they want to make it to Boston next weekend.
They’ll also need a big weekend out of freshman goalie Kevin Boyle who has been the steadier man in goal, but his numbers aren’t outstanding. That could prove to be a huge problem against a loaded BC squad. Coach Don Cahoon will have to have a few tricks up his sleeve to help his team take the series. Confidence isn’t exactly riding high in Amherst this weekend.
As for BC coach Jerry York, the Hockey East tournament kicks off with bigger goals in mind for the Eagles as they’re hoping to win yet another national championship. The Eagles very likely have a spot in the NCAA Tournament secured as is, but York will make sure his team doesn’t come in taking anything for granted. With Kreider, Almeida, and Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary) leading the offense, the Eagles are loaded. With six players in double figures in goals, UMass will have some issues containing everyone.
One area where BC is sneakily strong is on defense. Brian Dumoulin (Carolina) is banged up but will likely play while Tommy Cross (Boston) and Patch Alber give the Eagles defensive corps to be worried about. Parker Milner’s great play in goal won’t help the Minutemen feel any more comfortable about things either.
(Photo courtesy: UMass athletics)