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Northeastern Meets Boston College to Open Hockey East Play

A look at this weekend's big series between Northeastern and Boston College

Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau is one of college hockey's most exciting players
Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau is one of college hockey's most exciting players
Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

Boston College and Northeastern will meet for a home-and-home tilt this weekend in Hockey East play. Boston College gets to host the Friday night game, in a game that will be aired on the NBC Sports Network at 8:00pm EST. The series turns to historic Matthews Arena on Saturday, when Northeastern hosts the Eagles at 7:00pm.

Both teams will be looking to bounce back after tough losses in their last game. Boston College travelled out to Minnesota and had a second straight difficult trip out West after opening the season with a loss at Michigan.  The Eagles earned a hard-fought 3-3 tie on Friday night, coming back from an early 2-0 deficit in a very exciting game. On Saturday, they had to sit around and watch Bo Pelini's bizarre insistence that Taylor Martinez attempt to throw a football, which must have sapped BC's will to live, because the Eagles struggled to a 6-1 defeat against the Gophers the next day.

Meanwhile, Northeastern is also coming off their first loss of the season, a 6-4 loss to St. Lawrence, in what has otherwise been a tremendously positive start for the Huskies. Northeastern won their first five games of the season, which was the best start the school has had in over 20 years. Of the five victories, only the one against St. Lawrence will maybe hold up as a quality win by the end of the season, but the fast start has given the Huskies some confidence heading into Hockey East play.

The Friday night game will be an absolute treat for a national television audience that will get to see two of the most gifted offensive players in all of college hockey in Northeastern's Kevin Roy(Anaheim), and Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau(Calgary). Roy is currently tied for the lead in the national scoring race with 12 points in his first six games this season. Gaudreau has eight points through his first five games, and last year, finished tied for 4th in the nation in scoring with 51 points. Both are smaller players, but use different tactics to be so effective.  Gaudreau is a blazingly fast skater, while Roy is a more cerebral offensive player, with incredibly quick hands.

In terms of other players to watch, Boston College is always loaded up with NHL Draft picks. Sophomore defenseman Michael Matheson(Florida) is one of four first round NHL draft picks playing college hockey this year. Freshman defenseman Ian McCoshen(Florida) just missed out on the first round of last year's NHL Draft, though is quickly proving he probably should have been taken higher with a fast start this year.  Gaudreau's linemate, Kevin Hayes(Chicago), is the younger brother of Chicago Blackhawk Jimmy Hayes, and could be joining his brother in the Second City some day.  Freshman goalie Thatcher Demko is expected to start on Friday night, and is considered one of the top goaltending prospects for next summer's NHL Draft.

Northeastern's roster doesn't have as many future NHL prospects, but one player to watch will be standout freshman Mike Szmatula. A classic late-bloomer, Szmatula was a top scorer in the USHL last year, and is off to a fast start to his college career with a goal and 10 assists in his first six games. If he continues his incredible scoring pace, he might be looked at as an NHL free agent. Szmatula has less than prototypical NHL size, but is a strong kid that plays with toughness and ferocity.

Both teams like to play a very fast, up-tempo style of hockey, which should lead to an exciting, and possibly high-scoring game. The top lines for each team are likely to cancel themselves out a bit, with each getting their goals. The key match-up will be whether Northeastern's defense, which on paper, looks like the team's biggest weakness, can neutralize Boston College's talented young forwards on the second and third lines, to give the Huskies a chance at staying with the Eagles.

SBN College Hockey's Evan Sporer(@ev_sporer) will be covering Friday night's tilt, while Jeff Cox(@JeffCoxSBNation) will be covering Saturday's game.