Sunday, March 29, 2015

Reflections On a Difficult Season

For the third consecutive year, the longest drought since 2001-2008, Boston College will go without a national championship in men's ice hockey thanks to a disappointing 5-2 loss to Denver in the East regional semifinals. Give credit where it's due as the Pios were absolutely tremendous all night long. I thought they were fast, aggressive, physical, and skilled, all the ingredients you need to win in this tournament. Lots of credit to Jim Montgomery and his staff for getting those guys to play at such a high level in what was a de-facto road game in the national tournament for them. I would not be the least bit shocked to see them in Boston next weekend for the Frozen Four because they're that good, although Providence seems like they're also playing some good hockey as of late.

As for BC, it's almost a fitting ending for what was one of, if not the toughest, season in a long time. We knew going into the year that goal scoring was going to be a huge problem and it turned out to be our unescapable kryptonite. Whether it was last night vs Denver, the Beanpot vs NU, or the series against Vermont, we just could not score big goals in big situations, which is something we always saw during the Johnny Gaudreau, Chris Kreider, and Nathan Gerbe years. The bottom line is that you  can't rely on sophomores and freshmen to come in and produce like those guys mentioned before, as underclassmen. I thought the fresheman class was a huge plus all season long, except for maybe the last two or three games. Alex Tuch, Zach Sanford, and Noah Hanifin came in here and displayed exceptional talent which I believe will carry each one of them a long ways in their hockey careers.

Going forward, I think the biggest question in everyone's mind is with regards to the sophomore class which was one of the largest and most heralded of the Coach York era. Interestingly enough, their production dropped significantly from last year to this year even though they were given more playing time but I think that might be the root of the problems right there. If Gilmour, Fitzgerald, Cangelosi, and Calnan aren't your "go to" guys but the guys that can create an enormous amount of depth and skill on the top three lines, such as they did a season ago, then you've got a heck of a team but they were just worn out when they had to go against guys like Eichel, Roy, Rau, Fasching, Moore, and Heinen week in and week out. The thing is, there was such a drop off in production from the freshmen and sophomore classes to our junior and senior classes that if Gilmour, Tuch, Fitz, Cango, etc had off nights, then we were in huge trouble. Amazingly, there were games in the 2014 season when G and Hayes were off but those guys picked up the slack because at the end of the day, they're still very, very good hockey players. They just don't match up well against the highest of the high end guys like they had to so often this year. Of course, as juniors they will be asked to be the forefront of the team because of such a small senior class but only next year they will have a lot of weapons surrounding them, something they did not have this season.

It put a big smile on my face to see Mike Matheson play one of, if not his best, games of the season in what will probably be his last time ever wearing the maroon and gold. I would say that there has never been a player, at least in my memory, that has been scrutinized as much as #5 has but at the end of the day, he is one heck of a hockey player and despite what a ton of other fans say, he made our team a lot better than it would have been without him. I don't think he will come back but I hope he at least considers it because as I said, he's a great player and was a terrific captain this season. Obviously, I don't want to see next year's senior class be the first in Coach York's tenure to never play in a Frozen Four so I look for them to really step up and take control of what will be a young but extremely talented squad next season.

I want to take this paragraph to thank Michael Sit, Destry Straight, Quinn Smith, Danny Linell, Brad Barone, Brian Billet, and Cam Spiro for all they have done for BC Hockey. Yes, many critics will talk about the lack of production and all that stuff but the bottom line is that you represent Boston College with class and dignity both on the ice and off and I believe this class did that. They worked harder than any group of seniors I have ever seen at BC but it just wasn't meant to be for them. I wish them all the best of luck in whatever lies ahead and hopefully they will continue to be terrific representatives of Boston College and it's hockey program.

At the end of the day, it goes without saying that this was as tough a season to be a BC Hockey fan as it gets. Not only was it a tough year for the maroon and gold, the only thing worse than BC losing is seeing BU win and unfortunately, it seems like it's their year. I've always said this and I think a lot of fans are starting to realize it now. If we don't have a good year and we're the 58th best team in college hockey but BU is 59th, then everything is okay but when they're winning Beanpots and making Frozen Fours, I don't think that is something that anyone at BC will accept. Sure, all the losing this year stunk but I can't help but think that it will motivate the players and coaches to come back next year and light the world on fire. We will see where all the dominos fall as the summer goes by but right now, there is a chance for next year's squad to be the most talented team Coach York has ever had. I have 100% confidence that the staff will go out and build teams in the future that will consist of speed, toughness, determination, and most importantly, talent. They have done a terrific job of bringing in some high powered reinforcements for the 15-16 season but it's about what the players do from now until October 9th that will determine just how many games this team can win next season because if you ask me, there is no reason why they can't run the table.

Let a brand new era in BC Hockey commence.

Go Eagles.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Denver Preview



For the third time this season, Boston College will face off against Denver only this time around, everything is on the line. The Eagles come in as heavy underdogs versus a DU squad that many are predicting to win the National Title thanks to their stellar depth and defensive core. While Denver has complied a terrific record of 23-13-2, they are just 6-7-2 on the road and while this is certainly not a true home game for the Eagles, it might as well be due to BC's proximity to the Dunk. Anyways, from what I can tell, Denver has a style of play that can translate very well on the road in big games. They are structured, very good in both ends, and have a couple of studs that can possibly carry them a long way in this tournament. Of course, the Eagles and Pios met in the first round a season ago when the maroon and gold ran away thanks to some guy named G. I am fairly confident that Denver will come out of the gates with as much energy and excitement as it gets so we need to be ready to weather the storm early on.

As I have said twice already, the key for BC will be trying to contain Denver's terrific defense and first line. They are led by Joey LaLeggia, perhaps the best offensive defenseman in the entire country outside of Noah Hanifin. Supporting LaLeggia on the back end will be World Jr Championship standout Will Butcher who has 3 goals and 13 helpers this season. Obviously, no one knows exactly what Jim Montgomery will do with his lines but there is a good chance that his top top line will consist of his top three scorers, Danton Heinen, Trevor Moore, and Daniel Doremus, a trio that combined for 119 points this season. Since we don't have last change, it will be pivotal for the staff to try and get Hanifin and McCoshen out there every time those guys hit the ice but I am not sure which line they will try and matchup vs Doremus and company. I think they will start with Sit, Smith, and Straight but that could obviously change as the night goes on. BC has to be aware of Denver's defense taking the puck and moving it up the ice with their feet. Guys such as Butcher, LaLeggia, and Zajac love to take the puck and go while also jumping in from the offensive blue line.

The most interesting question going into tomorrow's game is who will start in net for the garnet and gold? If I was a betting man, I would go with freshman Tanner Jaillet but it was the sophomore Evan Cowley who played (very well) in both games against BC in November. No matter who starts, it has to be all about getting pucks and bodies to the net. We aren't going to skate circles around these guys for 60 minutes so if there is nothing in the offensive zone, just put the puck on net and hope for a rebound. We have a huge height advantage against this team so let's use it to our advantage. The more traffic we create in front, the more scoring chances we will have. Of course, we all know what the biggest key for this BC team is that they have to find a way to score the first goal tomorrow. As a coach, it must stink putting such an emphasis on that first tally but tomorrow, it will be paramount, especially considering the style of play the two teams both play. Amazingly, BC's record when leading after the first period is 13-0-2 while their record the other way around is 2-6-2. They have to find a way to get a lead after the first period tomorrow night.

Doesn't get much better than fighting for a chance to play in the Frozen Four in your home city and that is exactly what these guys have a chance to accomplish this weekend. This Denver club is the best we will see all season but I know we can find a way to win if we do the things we do best. We have to be sound in our own end, we need great goaltending, and most importantly, we MUST score the first goal.

He will get em going. Let's go baby.

Scouting Denver- 

Record- 23-13-2, recently defeated North Dakota in NCHC consolation game. Fell to Miami in semifinals.

Leading scorers- Danton Heinen (16-29-45), Trevor Moore (21-21-42), Joey LaLeggia (13-25-38)

Team offense- 3.29 goals scored per game (9th)

Team defense- 2.45 goals allowed per game (29th)

Power play- 21% (7th). Very good.

Penalty kill- 84% (25th)

Shots on goal margin per game- + 3 (21st)

Keys- 

You know the keys. Just win baby.

Notes- Doherty at forward. Silk out.

GO EAGLES !!







Sunday, March 22, 2015

Let's Go



Before we dive into what lies ahead this week, let's take a step back and talk about what this team accomplished this season. Trust me, I know, the expectation at BC will always be to win the National Title but this year presented some challenges unlike any other in recent memory. The losses to Harvard, UConn, Denver, and arch-nemesis Boston University, all within a one week span, had a lot of fans (one in particular) up in arms over the direction of this team but like he does every single year, Coach York got the guys ready for some of it's biggest games of the season and they were able to secure a tournament berth. I know, it's been  very difficult to watch Boston University skate around the Garden with those trophies but don't worry, we will win all of those next year by a combined total of 100-0. I don't want to say the Beanpot and Hockey East tournaments don't matter but in Coach York's world, there is really only one trophy that counts. I think each and every fan should be very proud of what this team and this coaching staff have accomplished over the course of these past three months, especially considering what had taken place earlier in the year.

With all that being said, we're not in this tournament for participation medals. We are in it to win and I'm telling you right now, any time you have that guy behind the bench, you've got a shot. Every single media outlet whether it's the Globe, certain college hockey reporters, ESPN, etc has decided to crown Jack Eichel like he is the second coming of Jesus. That's just the way Coach York wants it. Usually, the local media will swarm Conte Forum during the week of the NCAA's for practice, in fact, I've seen a whole section filled with cameras once. That won't happen this year (it will next year). They'll all be down the street talking about how BU is going to make the world right by winning the National Title in Boston thanks to the greatest thing to ever hit the Earth. Good. That is just the way he wants it. No one is giving us a chance to win this region, I mean, you would think we've never played in this thing before. Everything these guys have been through this year- the hype surrounding their arch rivals, the over the top celebrations from Northeastern and Vermont, the seemingly insurmountable struggle in November, injuries, angry bloggers, you name it, all they wanted was a chance to play for a National Title and they earned that this afternoon. I must have had ten people say to me today that making the Frozen Four would just be icing on the cake because of how "bad" this BC team is. Just do me a favor and keep doubting him.

Obviously, Denver is going to be without a doubt the toughest game of the season. We'll get into it more as the week progresses but they have the best D core in the country outside of Chestnut Hill, led by senior stud Joey LaLeggia. They boast a talented group of forwards and are in my opinion, the best coached team in the country sans BC. We played a heck of a series vs them in late October as both games were absolute nail bitters and I expect Saturday to be the same, except we have a little bit of a home ice advantage this time around.

Let's see what the greatest coach in the history of colligate athletics has in store for the rest of the college hockey world this time around. Only this time, no one will notice.

And that is just the way he wants it.

GO EAGLES !

Denver

Rematch. Saturday at 3 in Providence.

Where Will We Be?

Boston College is in the NCAA's but now the question is who will they be facing and where? There seems to be a split amongst the "bracketologist" about where BC will be placed but here are the two possibilities.

Northeast regional (Manchester) vs Minnesota Duluth......BU would be #1 seed.

East regional (Providence) vs Denver.

We will find out for sure tomorrow @ 12 on ESPN.

Go Eagles

Friday, March 20, 2015

We're In

Thanks to wins from Michigan Tech and St Cloud State, Boston College has clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament for a 6th consecutive season.

More later.

Don't Doubt Him

I'm done talking about last weekend so let's not discuss it anymore. Good luck to the four teams participating at the Garden this weekend. Despite my original thinking, BC's season is far from over as they are pretty much assured an at large spot in the NCAA tournament. According to College Hockey News' Adam Wodon, of the 50,000 simulations the website ran, there wasn't one with BC out of the tournament but apparently, there is one that has us missing the dance. Here it is.


Obviously, I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever root for Boston University but if they beat UNH tomorrow, BC's chances of making the tournament go up even higher than they already are. If Ferris State, Colgate (over QU), St Cloud, Michigan State, Robert Morris, and BU all win their conference tournaments, then the Eagles still sneak into the field as the last #3 seed. Here is a picture of that scenario which is basically all the underdogs except BU winning their tournaments. 



So, in the end, we need to root for Minnesota (big time), Minnesota State/Michigan Tech, North Dakota, Robert Morris (doesn't matter who wins AHA for BC's case), and.................................................................. let's go to the next paragraph.

I have no idea where we will play but I would bet a lot of money that will be against either Minnesota-Duluth or Nebraska-Omaha. In pretty much every bracket prediction that has come out thus far, BC was pitted against either the Mavericks or the Bulldogs. To be totally honest with you, I don't care whether we play on the moon or in Manchester, I just want one more chance at Eichel and BU because after all that has happened this year in the media and how they treat him like he is a God, I just want one more chance to ruin their season. They can take their Hockey East titles and their Beanpots anytime they want. Who cares. All I know is that there is one man who would run in front of a machine gun to get one more chance at them.

Never doubt him.

Go Eagles !

Monday, March 16, 2015

Really Upsetting

For the second consecutive season (stunning, absolutely stunning) Boston College will not be part of the Hockey East final four as the Vermont Catamounts came into Conte Forum and defeated BC tonight 1-0 to take the best of three series. I'm at a loss for words as for what happened tonight because I thought once again, the effort was there but you just can't the horse race when you don't have the horses, I guess. It's easy for me to sit here and say that BC doesn't have enough good players to score more than 2 or 3 goals a game but look at it this way, are there not 40+ teams in the country that would not take our forward core over theirs? There is something missing here because even when you have a weakened forward group of "just" three or four potential NHL players, you should still be able to score more than one goal over the course of seven periods of hockey. Not to mention, they've got some of the best offensive defensemen anyone can ask for yet they still can't put the puck in the net! Why? Who knows.

Here are a couple of thoughts on the game.

First off, give Vermont and their staff all the credit in the world. They played so hard throughout the whole weekend and in my opinion, they deserved the series win. I don't know if they played harder than we did because I thought we played very hard but they executed when they needed to, we didn't. I thought their penalty killing was exceptional. They kept us to outside for the entire game and as they say, you need your best killer to be your goaltender and Hoffmann certainly was tonight for the Catamounts. It's amazing how many times we have run into a hot goaltender this season.

As for our lines, the top three guys were better but you could tell that UVM's size and strength was wearing on them, particularly Sanford. He had such a good game on Friday that they really zoomed in on him and got it to a point where he wasn't nearly as much of a factor as he needs to be. Tuch, after two tough games, was much better as he seemed to have the puck on his stick almost the entire game but in the end, no points for him on the weekend. I thought the line that struggled the most was the all senior line of Straight, Smith, and Sit which is unfortunate because that is the last time they will ever play in Chestnut Hill. Vermont's first line outplayed them for a large majority of time on the weekend. On defense, I thought Hanifin was solid as usual as were McCoshen and Savage but other than that, it just wasn't where it needed to be. Too many turnovers, too many careless plays at the offensive blue line, I mean, how do you allow a breakaway like that at that time in the game? Very frustrating to say the least. Everybody knows how upset I get when they lose and sometimes I go on these unwarranted rants but tonight there is nothing else to do but to tip your cap to Vermont. They just played better than we did and we didn't play half bad. Other years, our 70% game will beat pretty much every team in this league. This year, our 70% game won't beat many, if any, of the teams in this conference. Of course, that will all change next October.

Everyone has been texting me or emailing me about BC's NCAA chances. Put it this way- I would be absolutely shell shocked beyond belief if we are not in the tournament. There is a 99% chance we get in so I wouldn't lose too much sleep over it. Yes, it is going to feel VERY awkward walking into an NCAA game as a giant underdog but I can promise you this, not one team in the country wants to see the maroon and gold in the NCAA tournament. I have learned a lot in my time watching BC Hockey but one thing that stands out more than any other is that never doubt Coach York. Are they going to win the thing? Probably not, but are they going to be more prepared and more fired up that any other team in the tournament? Yes. There is a formula which we can use to win a couple games in this thing but it is going to take an enormous amount of work, effort, and luck. Let's see what he's got up his sleeve this time around.

Go Eagles.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

We're Going Three

Thanks to a pair of power play goals and an assist from Brady Shaw, the Vermont Catamounts picked up their second win of the season at Kelley Rink, defeating BC 3-1 and forcing a decisive game three tonight. First of all, tip your cap to the green and gold, I thought they came out and did a great job of weathering the storm before capitalizing on the two big chances they had. Truth be told, BC should have been up a goal or two after the first ten minutes but unfortunately, they just couldn't get anything by Hoffman. Amazingly enough, Vermont's two goals were basically living images of each other. Each time Shaw came off the half-wall, cut towards the net and fired one by Demko who seemed a tad off tonight after a solid outing on Friday. I'm not sure how those shots got by him but I also know that someone should have at least tried to block a shot. Every time we had a power play, their guys sacrificed the body to block a shot yet when we went on the kill, no one felt the need to prevent a shot from getting to the net.

The second period was another one of those in which BC outplayed an opponent for nearly the entire twenty minutes but once again, they couldn't get much by an opponent's goaltender. BC was able to convert on a 4 on 3 power play thanks to a great play by Ryan Fitzgerald, someone who played one of his better games in a long time last night. BC's second line generated a ton of quality chances, the third line had the puck in the zone every shift, the fourth line had some shots, but the first line had one of their worst games of the season. Actually, I thought Gilmour played pretty well but for whatever reason, the other two guys weren't playing nearly as well as BC needs them to be. I thought Vermont did a very good of being physical with Sanford all night long as it seemed he was worn out by the end of the game. Someone tweeted out that Tuch has just one shot in the two games so far which is surprising because he had been playing so well coming into this weekend. Hopefully he can find his groove tonight.

The third period was basically the same movie we had watched in the second, except there was absolutely nothing to show for it this time around. We had the puck in their zone the entire time which included a power play with 6 minutes to go but we just couldn't get anything by Hoffman. I thought the effort and chances were there but in reality, this team has got to start scoring more goals. We can't be outplaying teams so badly and not having any goals to show for it on the scoreboard.

In the end, this is do or die tonight. Everyone keeps saying that we're in the NCAA tournament no matter what but I am not buying it one bit. If we lose, we drop to 13th and there will almost certainly be an upset or two in the conference tournament finals next weekend. If we win, we move up to 8th and have a chance at potentially being a #2 seed in Providence or Manchester. Let's forget about the pairwise for a second though. Let's think about the Hockey East tournament. This is Boston College. We don't not make the final four of our own conference tournament, let alone for two straight seasons. I refuse to believe that Coach York will let them lose this game tonight. He knows this team has the capabilities to beat anyone in the country but he also is aware that a lose tonight could signal the end of another season and BC's NCAA tournament hopes. He's going to go in there and get them fired up to play but it's not his fault that the top guys are not putting the puck in the net. These are the types of games where your best players are truly your best players. We need that tonight. Let's see what they got.

No notes. Game 3 @ 6.

Go Eagles

Friday, March 13, 2015

Eagles Take Game One


Photo from The Heights
I am going to keep this one short because I've got to get up bright and early tomorrow but BC recorded it's third straight solid game en route to a 4-2 win over Vermont in game one of their Hockey East quarterfinal series. Of course, the two guys that immediately stood out were freshmen Zach Sanford and Noah Hanifin, both of whom were absolutely terrific all night long. BC came out with the same type of speed and intensity they brought to South Bend only this time they were rewarded when Hanifin went end to end before roofing one top shelf past UVM goaltender Mike Santaguida 10 minutes into the game. Of course, the goal will probably be on Sports Center tomorrow morning but anyone can talk about the kid's skating ability and skill. If you ask me, it's his decision making that has improved so much from opening night to this point. He knows when to take it and go, he knows when to get it deep, he knows when to pinch at the offensive blue line, and he knows where to go with the puck on a breakout. After Hanifin's goal, BC spent what seemed like the final ten minutes of the period buzzing around Vermont net but unfortunately they had nothing to show for, until the second began.

The Eagles opened the middle stanza with a complete assault on the UVM net and were rewarded with three goals in the first four minutes, two of which were from Zach Sanford and the other from Ryan Fitzgerald (on the power play). Hanifin and Alex Tuch were rightfully two of the most talked about freshmen in the country outside of Eichel but no one said anything about Zach Sanford. To be honest, I didn't even think he would crack the lineup in July before Milano decommited. He has proven just about everybody wrong. Unlike 99% of BC's recruits, Sanford wasn't someone who was coveted by the big guns such as BU, Michigan, or Harvard. He had a couple of minimal offers from UNH and Lowell but outside of that, not much. What a steal he turned out to be. He makes so many smart plays with the puck, they can put him in any type of situation, and he is starting to develop into a prolific producer for this club. Imagine what will happen next year. On the downside, BC let Vermont back in the game after a shot from outside the blue line somehow sneaked by Demko followed by bang-bang goal less than five minutes later. Credit Vermont, they battled hard after Fitzgerald made it 4-0 but I also loved the way BC's goaltender got in his groove after UVM's second tally. They had a couple of large scrums in front of our net and two power plays to end the period but Demko was there to make all the stops in order to lead his squad to victory. He won't get any consideration for the big awards but if BC does some damage in the NCAA's (and they could do a lot more than damage), then this kid deserves all the accolades you can possibly give out. He has been so good all year long.

In the end, I thought BC did a nice job of getting to the locker room up a pair of goals after two and then going back to their style of play in the third. It was more structured, less shots, less grade A chances, and less penalties. They're doing a better job, with a couple exceptions, of getting the puck out of their zone and creating odd man rushes through the neutral zone. However, while the win is nice, there is still work left to be done in order to clinch a spot at the Garden next weekend and more importantly, a spot in the big dance in two weeks. With Providence's loss to UNH, the Eagles jumped from 10th to 9th in the pairwise. Being above PC when it is all said and done could have major implications as to which team goes West and which stays home.

Why BC won- 

1. Hanifin and Sanford were by far and away the best players on the ice.

2. Penalty kill looks absolutely phenomenal. No room at the points anymore. It's attack, attack, attack.

3. I thought Demko came up huge at the end of the second and early in the third.

Negatives- 

Bad crowd. Hopefully they can get some more students to the game tomorrow.

Players of the game- Hanifin and Sanford

Next- Vermont tomorrow @ 7.