Hockey East Wraparound: BC looks great sooner than expected; Should Lowell be worried?; Northeastern is 4-0!
|10.22.13 at 9:05 am ET|
Going into Friday night’s game between Boston College and Wisconsin, the story was Jerry York. After having the ceremony postponed twice last year — once because of York’s eye surgeries and once because of a snow storm — BC finally got to honor the man who became college hockey’s all-time winningest coach last December.
As expected, the ceremony highlighted York’s incredible accomplishments, the ones that make him the greatest coach in college hockey history. The 937 wins in his 42 years as a head coach (460 in his 20 years at BC). The five national championships (four at BC, one at Bowling Green). The 10 Frozen Four appearances in the last 16 years. The nine Hockey East tournament titles in that same span.
But, just as York wanted it, the spotlight didn’t stay on the BC coach for long — both literally because the ceremony was pretty short, and figuratively because of how the game unfolded. The focus quickly shifted to the contest at hand, and more specifically, how the Eagles played in that contest.
They absolutely dominated Wisconsin, who entered the weekend ranked second in the country. Destroyed them. Obliterated them. Outshot them 49-21 en route to a 9-2 victory.
Whenever there’s a blowout like this, it’s tough to figure out how much of it is the winning team being great and how much is the losing team being bad. The safe answer, of course, is that it’s both.
“There’s no way we’re seven goals better than the Badgers,” York said. “Everything we did tonight kind of turned to gold. … It could be a completely different game if we played tomorrow against the same team. But this particular night, everything was going just how you diagram it. Some of the plays we made, both defensively and offensively, really had me excited behind the bench.”
The Badgers didn’t play well at all. Their defense was porous. They couldn’t sustain any sort of offensive attack. They seemed to lose every battle for loose pucks. Their goalies were hung out to dry for much of the game, but they didn’t come up with too many big saves either. The fact that they went on to lose 7-3 to Boston University the next night makes it pretty clear that, regardless of their potential (and they still have a lot of it), the Badgers simply aren’t one of the five or 10 best teams in the country right now, never mind the second best.
But to just chalk up this blowout to Wisconsin playing poorly would be a disservice to BC. Even on their worst night (and Friday was probably that), the Badgers are still better than a lot of teams. It still takes an extraordinary effort to dominate them the way BC did.
For the second game in a row, the Eagles looked like a team that’s clicking on all cylinders — a frightening thought considering York’s teams usually don’t get to that point until sometime in the second half of the season. After losing a close one at Michigan to open the year, the Eagles have now outscored Rensselaer and Wisconsin — two teams expected to compete for NCAA tournament spots — 16-4 in their last two games.
All four lines scored a goal Friday night, as did three defensemen. In the last two games, BC has gotten goals from 13 different players. And for the second straight game, the Eagles’ talented freshmen played a big role, as they combined for four goals and nine assists.
“We’re still trying to formulate our team — how good we’re going to be, where we’re going to go with this team,” York said. “I think this was an initial look at, ‘Hey, there’s a possibility we could be a very good team.’ I liked the play of all 18 skaters that were in front of Brian Billett. I thought they all played well.”
Look, it’s not going to be this smooth all season for BC. It’ll hit some bumps along the way. Its freshmen will go through some growing pains. But the fact that the Eagles are already showing this kind of potential so early in the season, when most of us figured it would take some time for them to jell, is pretty scary for the rest of the league.
BU adds to Wisconsin’s misery
The Terriers didn’t dominate Wisconsin quite as much as BC did — they actually got outshot 43-26 by the Badgers — but they still came away with a 7-3 win on Saturday night. The offensive outburst was especially encouraging considering BU had been held to one goal in a loss to Rensselaer the night before.
The Terriers showed a lethal quick-strike ability, as they scored two goals in 18 seconds midway through the second (although they then gave up a goal 21 seconds after that) and two goals in 2:07 midway through the third to kill any comeback hopes Wisconsin may have had. BU’s new second line of Matt Lane, Cason Hohmann and Robbie Baillargeon had a terrific night, as the trio combined for three goals and six assists.
We knew this weekend was going to be a tougher test for the young Terriers than their opening weekend, so a split shouldn’t be too surprising. Bouncing back on the second night against a Big Ten team should give BU some confidence as it heads to Michigan to face two more B1G teams this weekend.
Should Lowell be worried?
The River Hawks got swept by Quinnipiac and are now 1-3-0 on the season. They’ve dropped from No. 1 in the country before the season to No. 18 in this week’s poll. They’ve been held to one goal in each of their three losses.
It’s still not time to panic, but these struggles shouldn’t be totally dismissed either. Yes, Lowell started 2-5-1 last season and still managed to win Hockey East and make it to the Frozen Four. But that team also went on a ridiculous 24-3-1 run from mid-December through the end of March. No matter how good the River Hawks end up being, it’s not very realistic to expect them to do that again.
The good news is that the conference schedule hasn’t kicked in yet, so the River Hawks can still accomplish all their league goals as long as they figure things out in the next few weeks. The bad news is that if they struggle at other points in the season and can’t get rolling like they did a year ago, they could end up regretting this slow start more than they did last season.
UMass opens some eyes
It was a bad weekend for one Massachusetts state school, but a great one for another. After losing to BU and Lowell on opening weekend, the Minutemen righted the ship with an impressive sweep of Michigan State, outscoring the Spartans 8-3 on the weekend. It’s worth noting that Michigan State projects as a middle-of-the-road team, but it’s also worth noting that most of us didn’t expect UMass to even be middle-of-the-road.
The most encouraging sign for the Minutemen was the play of goalie Steve Mastalerz, who stopped 62 of the 65 shots he faced. As it has been for the last few years, goaltending is the biggest question mark for UMass this season. Mastalerz did nothing to alleviate those concerns when he allowed seven goals in the first two games of the season, but this past weekend was certainly a step in the right direction.
Northeastern is 4-0!
That sounds great and all, but Alabama-Huntsville and Holy Cross — the two teams the Huskies have played so far — are pretty bad. Still, when you consider that Northeastern won just nine games all of last season, a 4-0 start, regardless of the level of competition, is noteworthy.
Kevin Roy is doing a great job of reminding everyone that he’s really, really good — the sophomore winger has five goals and four assists already. Linemate Braden Pimm has four goals, while freshmen Mike Szmatula and Zach Aston-Reese have seven and five assists, respectively.
Goalies Derick Roy (Kevin’s brother) and Clay Witt have identical .946 save percentages in two games apiece, but we won’t learn a whole lot about them until they face some better teams. They’ll see a little tougher competition this weekend when they travel to St. Lawrence, and then they’ll really be tested against BC in two weeks.