After witnessing firsthand the trouncing Boston College received at TD Garden on March 22 at the hands of the Boston University Terriers, I would have been the first to say that this Eagles team does not look capable of repeating last year’s magical championship run.
That was before I pondered the situation further.
The Eagles played a solid, even dominating, first thirty minutes of hockey against BU until midway through the second period when a few mental mistakes led to the evaporation of a 2-0 lead and the eventual implosion of Parker Milner as he faced breakaway after breakaway after breakaway.
Before BU blew off BC’s barn doors with five unanswered goals and an empty-net tally to win by a score of 6-3, there was a lot to like about this BC team. The breakout was swift and well-executed, offensive zone penetration looked fluid and effortless, and BC was owning BU in both the turnover and shot departments.
By the end of the first period, the Eagles were even rolling all of their four lines, a sure sign of confidence and control over a game.
Then, the second period happened.
BU took advantage of their few opportunities and left a stunned BC team looking uphill headed into the third period, down 3-2.
In an effort to spark the offense, Assistant Head Coaches Greg Brown and Mike Cavanaugh rotated winger Danny Linell back on defense where, in his defense (pun intended), he is not best utilized. A few shifts later, Linell was turned around at the blue line leading to yet another BU breakaway and subsequent goal.
With Linell back on defense, his line of Patrick Brown and Brooks Dyroff was taken out of action for the most effect. Combine that with the very limited ice time seen by the fourth line, and that is a lot of minutes for the Mullane and Arnold lines up front. The defensive combinations were also tampered with when Linell was slotted back there.
Add all this to an off night by Parker Milner, and you have got yourself a recipe for destruction.
This upcoming Easter weekend, however, has other things in store for a BC team with something to prove and little time to prove it.
With Jerry York recovering from his second detached retina in the past three months, it makes one wonder just how much longer he is going to coach. That should be motivation enough for this Eagles team, especially the senior class of Mullane, Dyroff, Milner, Patrick Wey, Patch Alber, and Steven Whitney, who will want to support their coach as well as go out with a bang after having won their fourth consecutive Beanpot tournament. This means an extra jump in the step of Mullane, Whitney, and Dyroff, a little extra physicality from Wey and Alber, and a little extra concentration from Milner.
A game without defenseman Michael Matheson or winger Johnny Gaudreau in the box is a rarity, but the game against BU is almost certainly not duplicable. The two combined for a total of eleven penalty minutes in the Hockey East semifinal, leading to three BU power play goals.
When I considered the possible influences on the game – playing for Jerry, bouncing back from an ugly loss (characteristic of this BC team), and the senior class’s added impetus of playing in their final tournament – they all pointed toward one thing: a strong showing in Providence, Rhode Island in the Frozen Four.
While this BC team is certainly not as deep as last year’s squad – first liners Pat Mullane and Johnny Gaudreau were getting third line minutes just a year ago – circumstance may be in the Eagles’ favor.
And circumstance, it seems, has reared its head in BC’s fortunate placing in the Frozen Four bracket.
Slated to play BC first is Union College (21-12-5). Union’s performance this year was bloated by their conference games against the weak programs of Dartmouth and RPI, against whom Union went 5-1-1 during the 2012-2013 season.
This Union team is led up front by senior forwards Wayne Simpson (16 goals – 17 assists – 33 points) and Kyle Bodie (9-24-33), and bookended by Philadelphia Flyers prospect, sophomore Shayne Gostisbehere (7-18-25) on the point. Only three players have more than ten goals, so this Union club can get its scoring from many different sources. Junior goaltender Troy Grosenick has played extremely well between the pipes all year long, posting numbers close to those of Milner.
If BC can get by Union, and I strongly believe that this BC team can get past most teams in this tournament when playing at their full capacity, they will most likely face Quinnipiac (27-7-5), who plays this weekend against Canisius (19-18-5). Quinnipiac, though ranked number one overall in the nation, is another beneficiary of an easy schedule – having also faced RPI as well as Cornell on multiple occasions, going 5-1-1.
Presumably, Boston College can make it out of their bracket with only the likes of Miami of Ohio and Minnesota (projected opponents in the Elite 8 and Frozen Four) standing between them and a second straight NCAA Championship.
Despite all the bumps, bruises, breaks and detached retinas that this team has suffered, they may surprise us all and play their most inspired and fundamentally sound hockey when it matters most, in March and April.