First off, I hope you all had a merry Christmas and have been able to enjoy the last few days of what has been an awesome year for BC Hockey. This week, the #1 ranked Eagles will get back on the ice as they head out to the Mariucci Classic in St.Paul, Minnesota to face the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers and the host, Minnesota Golden Gophers. The one issue heading into the tournament for the Eagles will be the injuries to defenseman Isaac Macleod and forward Destry Straight as both are questionable for the first game vs UAH but they will certainly make the trip and see if they can give it a go when game time comes around. Without Johnny G, it goes without saying that some guys are going to have to step up their games in order to win both games, especially in the second one vs the Golden Gophers. Macleod being out would hurt but freshman Travis Jeke appears to be ready to step up and fill the hole that Isaac will leave if he is indeed out. Honestly, I'm pretty interested to see how Jeke plays because in his one game this year vs New Brunswick, he actually looked pretty solid. Destry Straight however is the bigger question mark as he continues to be plagued by a high ankle sprain that he suffered vs Boston University in November. Look, I'm not going to sit here and say it's very likely that BC will be able to skate all over Minnesota if in fact Straight is out. Having two of your top six forwards out vs a team like Minnesota is certainly not a good thing. As we get closer to Saturday's game, I think we will be able to get a better picture if or if not those two will play but without them, winning two points in the Gopher State is not going to be easy.
So, how can BC win two games this week if Straight and Macleod are out ? It's simple. Guys need to step up into bigger roles and play effectively on both nights. Guys like Mullane, Arnold, Whitney, and Hayes can't just be good this weekend, they need to be excellent. On the defensive end, it's going to take a superb effort in order to keep a high powered offense like the Gophers off the board long enough to help a surely depleted offensive front. I look at guys like Teddy Doherty and Jeke (if he plays) to go out and play at a high level. It will certainly help that they have a game vs UAH on Saturday to kind of get back into the swing of things before maybe the biggest game of the year on Saturday. No, I'm not trying to overlook the Chargers but I'm trying to get the point across that playing a team of their caliber before playing a team like the Gophers, certainly can't hurt. Of course, the staff is not going to rush Straight back into playing if he can't go but having him back in the lineup, even if he's at 70-75 %, certainly boost BC's chances to win both games.
At the start of the year, I said that two injuries to BC's top six forwards would really be a killer. Unfortunately with Johnny G in Russia and Straight questionable, that could become a reality in the Eagles' biggest non-conference tilt of the season. Do the Eagles have the talent to score goals and keep up with a team like Minnesota without these guys ? Yes, they do but offense is not the issue. The issue is going to be on the blue line. If in fact Jeke goes, that will mean the defending National Champs will have four freshman defenseman going this weekend. Not saying they can't perform at a high level, but experience is something that can never be overlooked. All in all, I think this is going to be one of those weekends where, if BC wins two, people around the country are going to sit down and say "wow, they can win even without their star". It's not going to be easy (it never is) but with each guy carrying a little bit more on his shoulder, a sweep this weekend would be stellar.