College Hockey Series of the Week: Boston College vs. UMass
As the calendar turns towards the month of February, Hockey East currently has five teams inside the top 20 of the USCHO poll. Two of those teams, No. 5 Boston College (15-7) and No. 7 UMass (16-8-2), will meet up at the Mullins Center in Amherst for a Friday night fight.
Boston College is fresh off of two overtime losses to Hockey East foe Maine by the scores of 4-3 and 3-2. The two losses resulted in the Eagles falling to second place in conference alongside Providence.
Even after scoring a combined five goals last weekend, Jerry York’s team still has the third-best offense in the country, averaging 3.75 goals per game.
Julius Mattila, David Cotton, Logan Hutsko and Aapeli Räsänen anchor the offensive attack for the Eagles, as Mattila leads the team in assists and points with 23 and 30. Hutsko leads all goal scorers with 14, and Cotton has strong production on the attack with 28 points.
The back end consists of high caliber defensemen such as Jesper Mattila, Ben Finkelstein and Marshall Warren. Mattila has a plus/minus rating of plus-16. and Finkelstein isn’t far behind at plus-15. Warren and Finkelstein have only combined for nine points through 22 games, but their impacts go beyond the stat sheet.
2019 first-round pick Spencer Knight has proved himself worthy of that title with his play between the pipes this season. In 21 games, Knight has a record of 14-7, a goals-against average of 2.04, a save percentage of .927, and has allowed just 43 goals.
As for UMass, the loss of an exceptional talent like Cale Makar would prove to be a blow to most other schools. But that’s not the case for the Minutemen.
UMass is still in the hunt for a national championship and has virtually picked up right where it left off after reaching the national title game last season.
The offensive production, led by Mitchell Chaffee, averages 3.25 goals per game and sits at No. 12 in the nation. Chaffee, a junior forward, leads UMass in points and assists with 29 and 13, respectively, in 26 games.
John Leonard is another name that stands out for this UMass offense. The junior forward has lit the lamp 17 times and is an extremely skilled player with the ability to change the momentum of any game.
Defensively, Jake McLaughlin leads the way with a plus/minus rating of plus-25. Considering that his plus-minus during the 2016-2017 season was a minus-17, it’s safe to say that he has improved tremendously since his freshman campaign.
Then you have two extremely stable and reliable options in net, those being Filip Lindberg and Matt Murray. Both of their exceptional seasons have made it difficult for head coach Greg Carvel to decide which one to start.
Both netminders have nearly identical statlines, as Lindberg has a record of 7-4-2 in 15 games played, 25 goals allowed, a goals-against average of 1.85, and a save percentage of .930, while Murray has a record of 9-4 in 14 games played, 22 goals allowed, a goals-against average of 1.76, and a save percentage of .921.
UMass is two points ahead of Boston College in the Hockey East standings, and a Boston College win would propel the Eagles into first place should Providence also lose to Northeastern.
Regardless, this game will create a playoff-like atmosphere, as it is an extremely strong possibility that these two programs could see each other in the conference tournament championship game in March.
Look for both goaltenders and defensive units to steal the show. Goals could be at a minimum, and Boston College could potentially remain stunned after two shocking losses. This game will be far different than the last meeting in Amherst, as the Eagles took that meeting 6-3 on Jan. 11.
Expect the home team to come out on top here. The Mullins Center has a capacity of just south of 10,000, and that venue will be filled to the rafters.
Prediction: UMass 3, Boston College 2
Christopher Hess is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.