Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Boston U: Only Eichel? You Don't Know Jack

If you've followed college hockey even a little bit this season, you're well versed in Boston University's Jack Eichel.

The North Chelmsford, Mass., native has dazzled the NCAA this year and his numbers speak for themselves.

The rookie forward leads the NCAA in points (67), points per game (1.76), assists (43), assist per game (1.13), plus/minus (+49) and power play points (22). He's also fifth in goals (24).

He's a presumed Top-2 pick in this year's NHL draft, appeared on a recent SportCenter episode and is everyone's odds-on-favorite to win the Hobey Baker award as college hockey's finest player.

So the formula seems simple. Stop Eichel, stop the Terriers, right?

Freshman phenom Jack Eichel leads the Terriers, but who else should fans keep their eye on?
Simply put, absolutely not.

The UND men's hockey team will have its hands full this Thursday night in TD Garden in Boston during their Frozen Four national semifinal showdown with a BU squad that can deliver up and down their lineup.

Let's take a closer look at some of "the rest" of the Terriers.

Up Front

Jr. F, Evan Rodrigues'
45 points is in the most
in the NCAA
since Christmas
First up, the Northeast Regional Most Outstanding Player, Evan Rodrigues.

The senior forward has notched some gaudy numbers himself not only this season, but in his career, entering the Frozen Four as the NCAA's active scoring leader with 121 points. Rodrigues' 1.03 assists per game and 1.56 points per game are  2nd and 3rd best in the country this season.

The Senior scored three goals in the regional, including the game-winner against UMD in the regional final, and added an assist. Rodrigues' 45 points since Christmas are the most in the NCAA.

Complimenting Eichel and Rodrigues, junior Danny O'Regan rounds out the Terriers top line with the 13th best points per game in the NCAA averaging 1.23 per game.

Outside of the top line, converted defenseman Ahti Oksanen's 24 goals (.68 per game) is the 4th best in the NCAA and the junior's 9 power play goals are third.

So, stop their forward lines and that's it, right? Wrong again.

In the D-Zone

Jr. D, Matt Grzelyck's
37 points is 4th-best
by a D-man in the NCAA
BU's 12th best defensive corps allows just 2.26 goals per game and is led by a pair of juniors.

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is fourth in the country scoring per game by a defenseman with 37 (10 goals, 27 assists).

Between the pipes, Matt O'Connor leads the NCAA with a .839 win percentage and is 15th in the country with a .928 save percentage.

We've solved it. Stop a dynamic top line, plus one and a solid D-corps. Depth will be the Achilles heel, right? Again, a closer look may speak different.

Terriers Dig Deep

Outside of those already mentioned, BU has solid depth with seven other players coming into the Frozen Four with at least 11 points.

What Can Slow BU?

There are certainly a lot of pretty stats to suggest the Terriers are a force to be reckoned, but, what can hold this BU team down?

Special teams are always a key to a playoff run. BU has been excellent on the power play this season, featuring the second best percentage (25.6%) in the nation. However, the Terriers haven't been world beaters on the penalty kill, carrying a 83.1% kill, just 28th best in the NCAA, into the Frozen Four.

Come Frozen Four time, experience can play a big-time role. While BU has passed every test put in front of them this season, the Terriers have only played eight games against NCAA tournament teams this season, going 5-3 in those games. On the other end, UND has played 24 such games, going 13-8-3.

Another aspect of that experience comes in the age of these two squads. No need to look any further than the last two national championship teams, Union and Yale, who featured veteran-heavy lineup, as examples.

BU is very young, with an average age of 20.88 years old, the Terriers are the youngest team in the country. North Dakota is more a year older at 21.95 with its seniors playing in four NCAA tournaments and a Frozen Four. For the coaches, UND's Dave Hakstol is in his 7th Frozen Four in 11 years while BU's David Quinn is in his first in his second season as head man. Can this Terrier team continue to play like veterans?

Check back in tomorrow for a deeper look at Nebraska-Omaha and Providence. Then, on Thursday, DDC will take one last peek at North Dakota and make his semifinals picks. 

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