This weekend’s Quinnipiac-Boston College home-and-home series has been circled on many East Coast women’s college hockey followers’ calendars as one of the best match-ups of the entire season. Not just of the early season. No, the entire season. That doesn’t change because both teams are coming off of weekends where each suffered a loss.
Both the Bobcats and the Eagles lost this past weekend?!
It may feel like a completely foreign concept, but it actually occurred. Quinnipiac fell 3-2 last Friday to perennial College Hockey America power Mercyhurst before rebounding Saturday in overtime, while BC fell to a massively motivated Maine squad, 3-2.
When it comes to the Eagles and Bobcats, however, neither can ever be kept down for long. This weekend will be a great indicator as to who really rules the roost in New England this season.
Here are three aspects to watch going into this weekend’s series:
Youth versus experience
Over the first six games of the season, BC has rolled out a freshman-heavy lineup. It helps that many of the Eagles’ newcomers are some of women’s college hockey’s best, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be a learning curve. “I still think our team is a little young and we need to realize how hard we need to go for three full periods,” Eagles head coach Katie Crowley said in a team release last weekend.
Luckily, BC’s blueline doesn’t have to rely too much on newcomers, with Megan Keller on their top pairing, and goaltender Katie Burt has experienced being peppered with shots by some of the world’s best.
On the other hand, while Quinnipiac did lose quite a few seniors in the off-season, they have quite a bit of returning firepower, especially Taylar Cianfarano, and a heck of a goaltender in Sydney Rossman. This is also a Bobcats lineup that desperately wants a trip to the Frozen Four to go with their consistently high national rankings, and an early season match-up with a team who has been there on multiple occasions is a chance for them to prove that they could make that postseason journey.
Staying out of the penalty box
Penalties were a problem for BC last weekend. Though they defeated UNH 4-1 to open the weekend, they took trips to the penalty box six times. In their loss against Maine, they limited their penalties to three, but the Black Bears’ game-winner came mere seconds after the Eagles’ penalty kill. In the season-opening weekend against Minnesota-Duluth, they allowed a power play goal in each game as they split the series.
When two high-talent teams meet, the increased amount of physicality can sometimes translate to a higher amount of penalties. One lackluster penalty kill could make the difference this weekend, and so limiting time in the box will be key not just for the Eagles, but also for the Bobcats. BC leads the nation in power play goals, with 10, but Quinnipiac has taken a mere 7.3 penalty minutes a game so far this fall.
Setting the tone early
Quinnipiac is 5-0 thus far this season when they are the first on the scoreboard. When they didn’t score that first goal at Mercyhurst a week ago, it threw their fast-paced offense off their game, and it took them ten minutes to answer. The Bobcats will turn to Cianfarano, Emma Woods and Melissa Samoskevich to find the back of the net first and establish a tone in their favor.
With a defense like BC’s, scoring first could be a challenge even for the Bobcats’ talented lines. If the Eagles notch that first goal, they will need to keep their heads in the game and keep a strong, consistent pace for the rest of the game, something that they have struggled with.
Even though this is a non-conference meeting, both teams will be competing hard with the next national poll ranking in mind. The series kicks off at Silvio O. Conte Forum at 2 p.m. EST on Friday.