Here we are Husky fans: The Big Skate. Our Michigan Tech Huskies have earned themselves an automatic bid and are now the 16th seed set to play the 1st overall seed in the Boston College Eagles. The Eagles are close to one of the best teams college hockey has ever seen given their record, stats, and personnel. Is there more than meets the eye to this team? Do our Huskies have a chance? It’s time for our NCAA tourney semifinal series preview! 

Analysis

First and foremost, we need to address the top players that Tech fans may or may not be familiar with due to their history of being on the USNTDP when the Huskies played them a year ago. Now before I show this table, please remember that Tech’s best forward is Isaac Gordon with 18 goals, 18 assists for 36 points in 39 games played. 

Needless to say, the numbers the Eagles have managed to put up this season are insane. They have been a wagon this season relying on their underclassmen to both generate offense and be a brick wall in net. Their numbers have been ridiculous and yet their team stats are just as crazy, being number two in the country in PP% (29.2%), number one in PK% (89.6%), number 2 in goals per game at 4.5, and finally number 4 in goals against per game at just 2.2. 

Piggybacking off their last two stats I just listed, InStat also has their expected goals for and against with those being 3.5 and 2.9 meaning they are beating the projections the models have given them as well. This could be a few things, firstly it could be they just have the easiest schedule out of most top teams (Quinnipiac last year). Well, luck for you and I, we have a way to quantify a team’s strength of schedule using KRACH. Sadly though, we see this isn’t the case with the Eagles having the 2nd hardest schedule out of every team in college hockey this season. The next reasoning could be something like puck luck. Tech has had their fair share of fluky goals and maybe BC is the same way? Well, I would argue to a degree yes there are a decent amount of just plain weird goals that go in for the Eagles, but no it isn’t the main reason. The final reason is that the Eagles are just full of that much talent and score in ways others (think Connor Bedard). The skill cap is just that high. Looking at their last game against BU we find: 

The weirdest part about this game is that BU was the better team, but got beat up on. The large discrepancy can be partly explained by BC taking their foot off the gas once they were up by a large margin, but another is partly due to BU just being unlucky. Given their own talent level it is crazy to see the Terriers have an xG of almost five while only getting two. 

The Huskies currently find themselves in the shadow of the colossus that is Boston College. That being said, if they can play the right way there’s a chance we see a much closer game that many college fans would expect. First is their victory against the Beavers where we as Tech fans probably saw one of the most complete games they’ve played from start to finish. If they want any chance at making this game close they will need to continue to play that way. 

The biggest thing for our Huskies are going to be systems and frustrating the young Eagle players. From what I can tell is that a lot of time, BC is being allowed to do whatever they want which makes little sense when a team like BU can and should challenge them. Tech will have to be the difference there and be as physical as they can be. 

Keys to the Game

  1. Hit’em Hard, Hit’em Low, Hit’em… When he’s not expecting it. Tech will need to be physical. If BC wants to do something, make them earn it by taking a hit. After enough time the younger guy should either get rattled, or get upset enough to start making stupid decisions. Now am I saying for Tech to goon it up? Absolutely not, but they should finish absolutely every check they make. 
  2. Again. Tech will need to give it absolutely everything just to try and keep up. If they even want a shot at victory shifts need to be short, coverage needs to be perfect and slacking is not something they can afford even once. The same goes for the coaching staff as they need to be on the top of their game managing who is on the ice and what is and isn’t working. It’s not rocket science, but it’s gonna get as close to it as it can be in the sport of hockey.  
  3. Blue Collar vs Blue Chip. Tech will in the end just need to out work Boston College. The Huskies don’t have the top end talent and aren’t going to be able to hold them to a shutout despite what we all know Blake is capable of. Either the five skaters in front of him are going to give him the best chance to stop most shots going his way or they are going to leave him out to dry. Systems win games and this game is no exception. 

My Prediction

BC is the favorite to win and I don’t disagree. They have a better skill ceiling while also having better depth. I can see Tech making things competitive and keeping the game close for more or less two periods, but the Eagles are going to pull away. To get the historical data out of the way, yes Tech has never lost to BC in the National Tournament, and yes they have a 4-0 record playing in Providence Rhode Island. So let’s get the announcer curse out of the way now. BC wins 4-2. 

The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against the Eagles.

Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.

InStat plots created by Zach Aufdemberge.

How to Watch

Both games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), via ESPNU/ESPN+ (Cable/Streaming) for video featuring John Buccigross & Colby Cohen. Teams will battle it out this Friday at 2:00 ET.

Jonathan graduated from Michigan Tech in the spring of 2018 with a degree in Physics and Social Science in addition to a minor in Social and Behavioral Studies. He spent his college career watching hockey with the Misfits where he became the treasurer in his last year. When not traveling to away games he resides in Hancock working for a local engineering company and keeping up with all things Tech Hockey.

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