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Preview: UConn men’s hockey taking on a BC team in free-fall

The Huskies have a shot to continue their winning ways against a BC team that has not won in 11 games.

Team: Boston College Eagles

Current record: 10-4-4 (5-9-3 Hockey East)

Standings: Eighth (20 points)

Head coach: Jerry York (28th season)

Series history: BC leads 14-4-2

UConn apparently broke Boston College with its thrilling 5-4 win back on Jan. 8. Since then, the Eagles are winless in their last 11 games – a program record – with 10 losses and a shootout defeat to Providence that goes into the books as a tie. On paper, they’re in free-fall. But Mike Cavanaugh sees it differently.

“I was really impressed with them watching them play in the Beanpot on Monday night,” he said of BC’s 3-1 loss to Northeastern. “They deserved better in that game. I thought they controlled a lot of it and they ran into a hot goaltender.”

The Eagles are without three of their top players, though. Jack McBain (13-11-24) is at the Olympics with Canada while Marc McLaughlin (18-6-24) and Drew Helleson (2-16-18) are there with Team USA. McBain and McLaughlin are BC’s top two point-getters, which leaves Patrick Giles (11-5-16) as the only remaining player with double-digit goals.

Naturally, the Eagles’ offense has floundered. They’ve scored more than two goals just once since playing UConn and the one time they surpassed that mark, they scored three goals in 32 minutes against Harvard then gave up six unanswered.

At the same time, BC’s defense has been a liability. It allowed five goals to UNH, eight to Notre Dame, seven to Providence, four to Maine and six to Harvard. The Eagles’ penalty kill has been spectacularly bad, allowing a goal on exactly a third of opponent power plays (12/36). Meanwhile, their power play has been miserable, scoring just four times in 30 tries (.133).

That’s a perfect combination for a UConn team with a bad power play and great penalty kill.

At goaltender, BC is dreaming of when it had Spencer Knight between the pipes. Both Eric Dop and Henry Wilder have been below-average with Dop holding a 3.09 goals against average and .888 save percentage in 22 starts and Wilder owning a 3.07 GAA and .890 save percentage in six starts.

By the numbers

34 – BC is currently No. 34 in Pairwise while UConn is No. 21.

1 – After failing to record a single win at Kelley Rink in their first seven years of Hockey East, the Huskies can pick up their second victory there in the span of a month. UConn beat BC in Chestnut Hill back on Jan. 8.

6 – UConn has totaled six goals in each of its last two contests but no player has scored more than once in a single night.

5 – The Huskies have won five straight Hockey East contests over UNH (x2), Merrimack (x2) and Providence.

2 – With 69 career assists, Jachym Kondelik needs just two more to tie Sean Ambrosie’s Division I program record.

1 – With 95 career points, Kondelik is tied with Max Letunov for the most in UConn’s Hockey East Era.

1498:42 – Darion Hanson has been in net for 1498:42 this season, second-most among Hockey East goaltenders. Providence’s Jaxson Stauber is first with 1397:33.

What to watch for

Trap game?

It’s almost unfathomable to think UConn could consider BC a trap game but that’s where both teams currently are. Even though the Eagles are currently going through one of their worst stretches in program history, the Huskies can’t be the ones to give them oxygen by looking ahead to the huge series with UMass next weekend. If UConn plays like it has over the past three weeks, it should come away with a comfortable victory.

Power play

Cavanaugh loves to say the most important power play is the next one, meaning he doesn’t care how good (or in this case, bad) the unit has been, all that matters is what it does with its next opportunity. The coach likes the way the power play looks in practice and thought it created a grade-A chance against Merrimack until they “fumbled” the puck. With how terrible BC’s penalty kill has been recently, UConn might not have a better opportunity to get its power play going than it has on Friday.

Defensive dominance

UConn’s defense has been excellent recently, holding opponents to two goals or fewer in each of its last seven games. While Darion Hanson is playing his best hockey between the pipes, the Huskies’ team defense has made life a lot easier for their goaltender by limiting dangerous chances and keeping opponents away from the net. Much of that can be attributed to improved play from the defensive corps after a rough start to the second half.

“I think John Spetz has been really playing really well. I think Jake Flynn has stepped his game up. Roman Kinal had a really nice play on our second goal the other night,” Cavanaugh said. “I’ve said all along, our defense doesn’t have necessarily that all-league, Hobey Baker type candidate, but collectively as a group, they’re really, really strong.”