Boston University and Providence face off later tonight for the national championship at 7:30pm EST in a game that can be seen on ESPN2. With both teams hailing from Hockey East, they're very familiar with each other. This will be the third meeting of the season between the two teams. They played a home-and-home series October 31st/November 1st of this year with each team winning a game on the road in their first Hockey East contests of the season.
So what, if anything, do those two meetings from earlier this season tell us about tonight's championship game?
October 31st, Schneider Arena, Boston University 4 Providence 1
The next evening, Providence head coach Nate Leaman would describe this as "as bad as we've been since I've been the head coach" and the numbers back this up.
There were a lot of expectations placed on Providence coming into the season. They were picked first in Hockey East in both the preseason coaches and media polls, and the burden of that ranking seemed to weigh on them in the early going of the season. After an ugly split with Ohio State and managing just a single tie on a tough road trip to North Dakota, the Friars came into Hockey East play not playing their best hockey.
The Friars would actually get on the board first with a goal from Steven McParland at 7:37 of the first period, but from there, it was all BU. John MacLeod scored his first career goal to tie the game in the first period. Despite the tie score after 20 minutes, BU was outshooting Providence 16-6. Ahti Oksanen scored on BU's only power play of the game early in the second period and the Terriers never looked back.
Final shots on the game were 41-18 in favor of BU, with Providence managing just three shots on goal in the third period. Providence went 0-4 on the power play with a short-handed goal given up, while BU was a perfect 1-1 on the power play. Boston University held a 62-42 advantage in even strength shot attempts, which works out to possessing the puck roughly 59.6% of the time.
November 1st, Agganis Arena Providence 2 Boston University 1
We covered this game. Jeff Cox's game story gives you a good idea of how the game went.
As you'd expect, Providence bounced back strong after a bad effort on Friday night. They outshot BU 17-5 in the first period and built a 1-0 lead. Shane Luke put the Friars up 2-0 about midway through the game, and that lead was all Providence needed. The Friars went into a bit of a defensive shell in the third period, yielding 18 shots on goal to their own six, but Jon Gillies was up to the task and held on for a 2-1 victory.
Final shots for the game ended up 38-33 in favor of Boston University. Providence was 1-for-6 on the power play while Boston University was 1-for-4 on the power play. Boston University again held the even strength shot attempt advantage 67-54, possessing the puck roughly 55.3% of the time.
So what's the lesson from these games?
That early season series mostly confirms what one might suspect. Boston University appears to be the more talented and more offensively explosive team, but Providence is definitely capable of hanging with them and potentially stealing a game. Expect the Terriers to hold an advantage in possession in tomorrow's game. But if Providence can find a way to get a lead, they've got a defense capable of shutting down Boston University's attack and grinding out a win.