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Hockey East: How Important are Face Offs?

Matt Dewkett

Coaches are always harping back on winning faceoffs and how crucial draws are especially in the offensive or defensive zones late in games. Generally, a good team will win more faceoffs than it loses and will have a go-to center for key draws late in the game.

There have been just three Hockey East league games, so way too small of a sample size, but through the first weekend of the Hockey East season, teams that have won the faceoff comparison are 1-2.

Boston University outscored UMass, 8-1, in Friday's game at the Mullins Center, but were out-muscled on the faceoff dot by a wide margin. The Minutemen controlled 40 of the 63 draws in the game. Of course, the home team has the advantage of last change and last one into the dot so theoretically should win the category.

UMass Lowell won both the game and the faceoff battle on Friday in its home opener against Boston College. The River Hawks, 5-2 winners, won 38 faceofs while losing 31.

Vermont came away with a decisive 6-2 win at Northeastern's Matthews Arena on Saturday night. The Catamounts led 5-0 after 40 minutes, but their dominance in the faceoff circle was just by a margin of six. UVM won 33 out of the 60 draws in the game.

Taking the faceoff discussion a step further, it's a tell tale sign of the importance coaches put on experience when deciding who to take faceoffs. UMass was the only team that had a significant rookie presence in the faceoff dot.

Keith Burchett (3-0) and Dominic Trento (2-0) both were perfect in the dot while fellow rookies Dennis Kravchenko (7-5) and Anthony Petrella (3-6) saw action in the circle. The combined 26 faceoffs taken by UMass freshmen were the most of any of the six teams.

BU freshman sensation Jack Eichel went 8-10 while classmate Chase Phelps lost the only faceoff he took. Despite playing so many freshmen, just 19 of the 63 faceoffs were taken by the rookie class at BU.

Boston College rookie forwards Zach Sanford and Alex Tuch did not see any action in the Eagles' game against UMass Lowell. The River Hawks only sent one freshman to the dot, Michael Louria who went 0-2.

Nolan Stevens was the only NU freshman to take a faceoff and he went winless. Freshman Jarrid Privitera won the only faceoff he took for UVM while fellow rookie Rob Darrar went 0-8.

The two best Hockey East players in the faceoff circle so far are both sophomores. UMass' Steven Iacobellis went 13-4 while Northeastern's Mike Szmatula went 16-6.

What does this say? Probably very little, but it's another interesting statistic to look at especially as the season progresses and the sample size increases.

* Faceoff statistics from Hockey East Online.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.