Frozen Four 2012 Preview: Boston College Hockey Hopes To Dictate Offensive Pace Vs. Minnesota

Between a dozen goals and two shutouts, something has to give.

After two shutout wins against Air Force and Minnesota Duluth in the Regional Round of the 2012 NCAA men's ice hockey championship, the Boston College Eagles put their 17-game unbeaten streak on the line against the University of Minnesota in the second of two Frozen Four semifinal matchups Thursday.

The Gophers are a worthy challenger, having scored 12 goals in their two wins over Boston University and North Dakota during the earlier portion of the tournament, but they're going to need to continue their momentum against a team that has the power to exploit their weaknesses.

No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. No. 1 Boston College Eagles
Thursday, April 5, 8 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN 2
Tampa Bay Times Forum, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Up front, both teams have remarkable depth in their front-nine. Boston College features 8 forwards with more than 25 points -- one more than Minnesota -- and their third line could be the top line at many schools. While the Eagles have the slight edge here, it's worth noting that Minnesota's top line of Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers), Nick Bjugstad (Panthers) and Zach Budish (Nashville Predators) scored just two goals in the first two games, one an empty-netter. If that unit can get back on track, Boston College will have a lot to deal with.

The Gophers' defense has been one of the big surprises this season in college hockey. Defensemen Nate Schmidt has gone from a healthy scratch as a freshman to 40 point scorer, and overall, a blue line featuring one upperclassman has held its own. Minnesota's ninth in the nation with 2.21 goals against per game. That's changed in recent games, as the team has allowed 14 goals in their last four outings. That's been masked by offensive output, but it'll be tough to win that way against the potent Eagles.

The Boston College offense, led by Chris Kreider (New York Rangers) and Barry Almeid, scores an average of 3.5 goals per game, and they put up four goals on reigning champion Minnesota Duluth last Sunday.

Minnesota has a first team All-WCHA goaltender in Kent Patterson (Colorado Avalanche) that has the ability to shut teams out (the senior is tied for the national lead with seven) thanks to strong positional play. The Eagles, meanwhile, trot out Parker Milner, who has been just as outstanding over the last two months with a .935 save percentage. Although neither goalie needs to stand on their head to give their team a chance, they are both capable of doing so.

In the end, something has to give. Whether the two high-scoring offenses cancel each other out or this Frozen Four semifinal becomes a shootout, both Boston College and Minnesota are very similar -- talented all over the ice with balanced offensive depth.

The Eagles have consistent play on their side, while the key for the Gophers will be getting on the board first, as they're 22-7-0 when doing so. They can't let Boston College control the game offensively like they did against Minnesota Duluth in the Regional Final. If they can handle the BC attack, this will be a game worthy of a Frozen Four semifinal.

At the very least, my money's on the Maroon and Gold team.

For more on Boston College hockey, check in with Eagles blog BC Interruption. For more on Minnesota hockey, check in with Gophers blog The Daily Gopher. SB Nation Boston and SB Nation Minnesota provide accompanying coverage, and you can stay on top of the entire tournament with our Frozen Four 2012 StoryStream.

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