Frozen Fenway has returned for a 10-day celebration of collegiate and high school hockey. The weekend marquee matchups feature teams from the men’s Hockey East conference and several weeknights will have local high schools squaring off. Women’s Hockey East and ECAC will both be featured in a Tuesday night contest between the Boston College Eagles and the Harvard Crimson.
It might be hard to find two teams more different than each other that are only separated by a few miles. The Eagles are riding an eight-game unbeaten streak after a 1-1 draw against Boston University. Sitting atop the Hockey East standings, they have put together an impressive first half of the season, winning numerous conference awards and consistently ranking in the top spot of national polls.
Meanwhile, Harvard has struggled mightily this year, winning only one contest against lowly Dartmouth, who sits behind them in ECAC. They rank tenth in the conference in goals per game and eighth in goals against per game and have taken the second-fewest number of shots on goal of all ECAC teams with 299. To put that in perspective, the team above them, Brown, has taken 387, and the highest total is Princeton with 745.
It could be a trap!
The trap game. It’s as old as organized sports. The elite team riding a ridiculous hot streak goes into a seemingly meaningless game against a bad opponent. There’s no mathematical reason why they should lose. They get complacent. They take their foot off the gas.
All of a sudden the game is over and the lesser team comes away victorious.
Boston College needs to take this game as seriously as any in-conference matchup. Head coach Katie Crowley is as intense as any coach in the NCAA. Odds are the Eagles will be sent onto the big stage with their typical vim and vigor. But Harvard needs to sniff out any sense of relaxation and jump on those opportunities.
Harvard was leading Princeton after two periods during their game on Saturday and also finished the game with a higher shot total. However, a third period collapse put Princeton ahead. Should Harvard keep the elevated level of pressure they had for 40 minutes through 60 minutes against BC, there may be an upset in Fenway Park.
Down year for Daniels
Senior Crimson forward Sydney Daniels leads the team in goals with five through 11 games played. Two years ago she scored 19 goals, and last year she scored 21. Daniels was selected fifth overall by the Riveters in the 2016 NWHL entry draft, and it was understood that she was an elite talent on this Harvard team. It is difficult to pinpoint what has happened with the Crimson and Daniels, but she must still be the primary focus of Boston College.
Crowley will likely use Megan Keller to keep Daniels off the board. Keller is draft eligible and a frequent member of the U.S. National Team in various competitions and was named the Hockey East Best Defenseman last season. If there’s anyone that can shut down Daniels, it’s Keller.
This will be one of the primary matchups to watch on Tuesday, especially if this turns out to have just been a slow start to Daniels’s senior season.
Teeing up Tissenbaum
Harvard’s senior goaltender, Molly Tissenbaum, currently sits 15th in the nation with a .925 save percentage. Funny enough, Katie Burt of Boston College is just behind her at a .923 save percentage, but the difference lies in their goals against average. Tissenbaum has allowed 2.82 goals per game, while Burt has let in 1.78. As a first-year starter for the Crimson, other teams have had the ability to exploit Tissenbaum’s faults. Against a high-powered offense such as BC’s, Tissenbaum needs to be on top of her game and show her skills that won her the starting job this season.
One of her toughest matchups will be against Eagles forward Andie Anastos, who has torn up opposing defenses this season. On Saturday against BU she recorded a whopping nine shots on goal through 65 minutes of play, setting a new personal single-game high. Of course she’s surrounded by other weapons such as Delaney Belinskas and Caitrin Lonergan, but Anastos’s most recent performance shows how lethal she is when she is on her game.
Barbito’s Brutal Truth
This is Boston College’s game to lose. With so many talented players on offense and defense, they should be able to handily defeat a Crimson team that looks nothing like their old selves that contended for a national title.
Harvard’s goal this game is to get back on track and salvage the second half of their season. Find the lines and strategies that will generate more scoring and keep the Eagles off the board, and hopefully they will be able to carry that success back into conference play.
Puck drop between Boston College and Harvard is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at Fenway Park. The forecasted temperature is currently 38 degrees.