2015 Frozen Four Preview: BU, Providence showdown has conference and regional flavor

By Ken McKenna
Matt Grzelcyk - Boston University; Ross Mauermann - Providence College - 2015 Frozen Four Championship Game Captains

Photo: Boston University defenseman and Boston Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk and Providence College forward Ross Mauermann will captain their teams in the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four title game (courtesy of Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire and Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)

 

On paper, the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four title game looks like a David vs. Goliath matchup, pitting smaller Providence College (Enrollment: 5,000) against the storied and larger Boston University (Enrollment: 33,000).

But the reality is slightly different in that the two schools, both competing in the Hockey East conference, have a long history going back to their first meeting in 1927.

To be sure, the BU Terriers have had the better of the series between the two schools as they have compiled an overall record of 106-54-13 over the years. In the past couple of seasons, however, the Providence Friars have held their own against the Terriers, posting a 2-4-1 record since the 2012-13 season that includes this season’s 1-1-0 record. Most of the games between the two schools in the past three seasons have been settled by one goal, so, barring a goaltender meltdown, a lopsided win in tonight’s NCAA championship game at TD Garden isn’t a likely outcome.

The two schools have not met this season since their two-game series on Oct. 31st and Nov. 1st, with the Terriers winning the game in Providence’s Schneider Arena by a 4-1 score, and the Friars returning the favor the next night with a 2-1 victory at BU’s Agganis Arena.

The obvious marquee player from the two schools is freshman forward Jack Eichel, the winner of the 2015 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s best player, and the likely second pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Eichel leads the Hockey East conference and nation in scoring, and has been as good as the preseason hype had suggested. In his two prior games against the Friars, Eichel registered a goal and two assists.

In general, both schools have NHL prospects dotting their rosters, with the Terriers having six prospects and the Friars sporting seven NHL draftees. The most notable of the Friars’ prospects, particularly in this game, is junior goaltender Jon Gillies, who is property of the Calgary Flames. Gillies has turned in a strong 2014-15 season after going through an inconsistent sophomore campaign. He faced a fair amount of rubber in this season’s two earlier meetings between the two schools, stopping 74 of 79 shots from the Terriers in the two-game series.

Neither team is blessed with a large senior class, but a pair of senior forwards from each school have been important to the success of their teams this season.

For Providence College, those two players are captain Ross Mauermann and Shane Luke. Mauermann and Luke form two-thirds of the Friars’ top line, with Luke producing 31 points in 40 games and Mauermann contributing 26 points in 40 games. Along with junior Trevor Mingoia (39GP, 15G, 15A), they form the main offensive unit for the Friars.

The senior duo from Boston University includes Evan Rodrigues and Cason Hohmann. Rodrigues raised his offensive profile this season riding shotgun on the first line with Eichel, as he currently sits second in the nation in scoring with 61 points (21G, 40A) in 40 games. Hohmann anchors the second line, currently playing between junior Ahti Oksanen and freshman A.J. Greer. Hohmann has produced 30 points in 40 games, including a two-assist effort in the semi-final win over the University of North Dakota on Thursday night.

In comparing the two teams, you have a gritty, defensively sound Providence College squad going up against the more high-octane Boston University lineup.

On, Thursday night, the Friars were able to wear down a smaller University of Nebraska-Omaha squad on their way to a 4-1 semi-final win, but that approach may not prove to be as effective against a bigger and more talented Terriers team. The physical game will still come into play, but the main focus will be on keeping the number of shots on goal down while taking away time and space from the Terriers.

The Terriers will probably want to bottle their strong play from the first period of their semi-final matchup with North Dakota for use throughout the championship game, as opposed to the inconsistent and at times undisciplined effort from Thursday’s 5-3 win. In Eichel, the Terriers have the best player in college hockey, but a solid shutdown effort on Eichel by the Friars could hinder the offensive advantage that the Terriers possess in this game. Then again, Eichel has rarely been shutdown this season as he has averaged nearly two points per game, so the Friars have a tall task in front of them in that regard.

In a one-and-done scenario like the NCAA title game, the goaltending is sure to play a big part in the outcome. Gillies has been the go-to guy in net for the Friars this season, while Matt O’Connor has ably filled that role for the Terriers. Both goalies – Gillies at 6’5” and 215 pounds and O’Connor at 6’5” and 204 pounds – block out the sun, so getting pucks past them can be a difficult task. Neither goaltender has been prone to mental lapses this season, so it should take a determined effort on the part of both the Friars and the Terriers to light the lamp in this Frozen Four/Hockey East showdown.

Providence College and Boston University by the numbers

Providence College

Overall Season Record
25-13-2

Conference Record
13-8-1 (tied for second with Boston College)

Record vs. Boston University in 2014-15 – 1-1-0

Record by month (conference in parentheses)

October – 1-3-1 (0-1-0)
November – 6-2-0 (5-2-0)
December – 4-1-0 (1-1-0)
January – 5-3-0 (2-2-0)
February – 5-2-1 (5-2-1)
March – 3-2-0
April – 1-0-0

Longest winning streak – 6 games (12/9/14 -1/9/15)
Longest losing streak – 2 games (1/10/15 – 1/13/15)
Margin of loss – 9 of 13 losses were by one goal.

Holding teams to 2 goals or less in wins or ties – 22 times
Holding teams to 2 goals or less in losses – 8 times
So, in 30 of 40 games, they held the opponent to 2 goals or less.

Five shutout wins

Goals for – 115 (61)
Goals against – 80 (37)

Overtime wins – 4
Overtime losses – 4
Overtime ties – 3

Seniors – 3
Juniors – 10
Sophomores – 5
Freshman – 2

Boston University

Overall Season Record
28-7-5

Conference Record
14-5-3 (First in conference)

Record vs. Providence College in 2014-15 – 1-1-0

Record by month (conference in parentheses)

October – 4-0-0 (2-0-0)
November – 5-3-1 (4-1-1)
December – 2-0-1 (1-0-1)
January – 5-1-2 (4-1-0)
February – 5-3-1 (3-3-1)
March – 6-0-0
April – 1-0-0

Longest winning streak – 8 games (2/28/15 – present), also a 7-game winning streak earlier.
Longest losing streak – 1 game, but two 3-game streaks without a win (ties included).
Margin of loss – 5 one-goal losses, worst loss margin was three goals.

Holding teams to 2 goals or less in wins or ties – 22 times
Holding teams to 2 goals or less in losses – 2 times
So, in 24 of 40 games they held teams to 2 goals or less

Two shutout wins

Goals for – 155 (88)
Goals against – 91 (55)

Overtime wins – 6
Overtime losses – 1
Overtime ties – 4

Seniors – 2
Juniors – 6
Sophomores – 3
Freshman – 9

Providence-Omaha Preview

BU-North Dakota Preview

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