Last year, Boston College and Union met on the ice for the first time in history. It did not go well for the Eagles. BC's season came crashing down in a comprehensive 5-1 loss to the Union Dutchmen, concluding what turned out to be a disappointing season. Now, a deeper, stronger BC team is preparing to face a Union team that looks even better than last year's squad. To help get you ready for the game, I re-watched video of last year's matchup so you don't have to - and I had Grant fire up the old GIF machine to take a look at where the game went awry for BC.
As a caveat, it should be said that we're not really going to see "what went wrong" for BC in GIFs of Union's goals. "What went wrong" was that Union was just a better team that was also playing much better at the time. Union was coming off their second consecutive ECAC championship - a feat that proved even more impressive by Yale and Quinnipiac's tournament runs. And they were already a deep, experienced squad - this year's much-ballyhooed 23- and-24-year-old seniors were last year's 22- and 23-year-old juniors. But since we see so little of Union, this is what we have to go off of. So into the way back machine we go:
1st Period, 5:30 - BC clangs a post
In my mind, this game was an unabashed train wreck from start to finish. So I was surprised to see, upon review, that the first period was actually quite competitive, with each team earning two power plays and Union outshooting BC 11-7. While Union looked sharper from the get go, BC was actually able to get breakouts and opportunities going in the first period, which started to happen a lot less later in the game.
Union's Greg Coburn took a slashing penalty at 3:49, setting up a BC power play, and the Eagles' top unit rolled out with Michael Matheson, Steven Whitney, Pat Mullane, Johnny Gaudreau, and Bill Arnold. Late in the power play, BC squandered a great opportunity to score when Whitney rung the post with a point shot and Johnny Gaudreau was denied on a wraparound bid:
Ahhh.... I guess we'll never know how this game might have gone differently had BC scored the first goal. When you miss opportunities like this against a team like Union, they're going to punish you. Whitney ringing the post is just sort of bad luck here; the nice stop by Troy Grosenick just shows what a key player Grosenick was for Union down the stretch last year. Grosenick is no longer with Union, opting for a pro contract after his junior year last season - but Colin Stephens has picked up where Grosenick left off.
Last year's BC power play converted at 21.1% and was one of the team's few strengths as it faded down the stretch. People call this year's Eagles a one-line team, but that was really true of *last year's* squad. When the few major weapons they had were on the ice, they needed to convert. No dice here.
Unlike this year's team - or most of BC's successful teams - last year's Eagles struggled on the penalty kill, ranking 24th in the nation with an 83.8% PK. When BC took their first penalty of the game on a roughing call against Steve Whitney at 9:03. Union quickly exploited that weakness.
UNION GOAL #1: Josh Jooris (11) assisted by Kevin Sullivan (10) and Daniel Carr (10) - 9:25, 1st (PPG)
Daniel Carr is the senior leader of this year's Union team, with 48 points on the season. On this goal, it's the play Carr makes along the wall that is key to giving Union a 1-0 lead. This GIF doesn't quite go far back enough (#grantsucks) but the BC penalty killers had just managed to clear the puck briefly out of the zone. Carr picked up the puck near the faceoff dot outside of the blue line and danced around Johnny Gaudreau along the wall. His shimmy also attracted the attention of Bill Arnold and Michael Matheson, basically keying three guys on the move of one Union player. This left Patch Alber pretty much isolated and hopeless against a series of slick passes - first, Carr's through traffic, then a nifty backhand by Kevin Sullivan to Josh Jooris, who scored his first of two on the day. Thankfully, Jooris is now a pro; BC still has to deal with Carr and Sullivan on Thursday.
The Eagles went on a power play 12:40 into the first period, but couldn't do much with it, so the first period came to an end with BC down 1-0 and very much in the game, despite it being quite clear that they were up against a formidable opponent. But Union burst their bubble really quickly in the second period and never looked back.
UNION GOAL #2: Josh Jooris (12), from Wayne Simpson (18) - 0:39, 2nd (GWG)
There are a couple of things going on here in the first shift of the second period. It's a 4-on-4, as BC and Union both took minors near the end of the first period. Michael Sit and Patrick Brown started the period, as they often did against other teams' top units - this year, the Sit/Smith/(Linell/Silk/etc) line started most games. If you're a hockey n00b looking to understand situations to look out for during the Frozen Four, a key one to watch is what the result is when BC has the fourth line on the ice. You're not realistically expecting them to score, though that would obviously be nice. What you're looking for is for BC to get the puck in deep, keep it out of danger, and neutralize any threatening players on the ice for the opposing team. A get-on-your-feet-and-cheer scenario is if they keep the puck in deep long enough to get a full line change in while the other team still has tired players on the ice.
That is decidedly not what happens here,
A few seconds before this GIF begins, Isaac MacLeod carries the puck into the zone down the left wing; he's stripped of the puck, but is there to shovel it back in. Instead of going around the boards he pushes it toward Michael Sit in the middle, but Sit is stripped pretty quickly. This is where our GIF begins, with Pat Brown recovering but losing the battle for the puck against Union's Jooris.
Jooris immediately turns up ice and dishes to Simpson, who, as one of last year's top scorers for Union, attracts the attention of several BC players. with Sit and Alber keying on him. Nobody really notices Jooris finishing the play by going hard to the net, including Isaac MacLeod, who ultimately needs to be aware of Jooris making that play. Instead, he, too, is focused on Simpson; Simpson makes an outstanding back-door pass to an open Jooris that MacLeod isn't able to disrupt, despite kicking at it; Jooris then has a pretty easy finish to make it 2-0.
The next shift basically ended the game. Johnny Gaudreau tries to dangle through two mountainous Union defensemen (okay, I guess anyone looks mountainous next to him):
but nothing doing. Then Union comes right back down the ice, and, well...
UNION GOAL #3: Cole Ikkala (3) assisted by Max Novak (14) - 1:04, 2nd
Simply put, Milner needs to make this save. There's not much more to it. This is a pretty harmless shot from a player who isn't known as a sniper. Good for Ikkala, who caught Milner napping. That was pretty much lights-out for the Eagles, who were probably never going to score 3 goals against this Union team if they had 180 minutes to do it. But it would only get worse.
If BC was going to get thrown some sort of lifeline in this game, it would be on the power play, and they had a chance in the final five minutes of the second period to go on the PP and maybe take some momentum into the locker room when Matt Hatch went off for hooking at 15:46. But Steven Whitney - who was a tremendous player at BC, but was good for at least one penalty a game, it felt like - negated that power play with a hook at 16:29. Once Union went on to the power play, Shayne Gostisbehere made sure the only thing BC was thinking about in the locker room was what they were going to have for Easter dinner the next day.
UNION GOAL #4: Shayne Gostisbehere (8), assisted by Daniel Carr (16) and Matt Hatch (6) - 18:16, 2nd (PPG)
I think Gostisbehere probably should have been in the Hobey hat trick this year. His presence as a puck mover makes Union such a dangerous team on the power play. He's also an outstanding overall two-way defenseman and an excellent pro prospect, having been a key player for the US's 2013 gold medal world junior team. This season, he has 21 assists, leads all defensemen in shots on goal, and the nation in the lucrative category of "best plus-minus for a player not on BC" at +28. Here, he shows off his power by just blasting home a goal that turned out the lights on BC's 2012-2013 hockey season.
UNION GOAL #5: Daniel Ciampini (10), assisted by Greg Coburn (19) and Wayne Simpson (19), 5:19, 2nd
But wait, there's more. If you call within the next 20 minutes, we'll throw in yet another Union power play goal while Whitney is in the box after a goaltender interference penalty (a pretty lame penalty call, I thought, but at this point...).
Pretty simple stuff here, Ciampini (Union's #2 goal scorer this season, with 19 goals) does a nice job of keeping his stick on the ice (DON CHERRY UPDATE: ALL YOU KIDS OUT THERE, TAKE A LOOK AT THAT EH? GOING TO THE NET WITH HIS STICK ON THE ICE LIKE A GOOD CANADIAN BOY EH?) and easily directing that one home; Alber doesn't do much to disrupt this fairly easy goal, and that' all she wrote for the Union offense on the day - a 5-spot against BC.
BC GOAL #1, YAY!: Johnny Gaudreau (21) assisted by Pat Wey (12), 16:02 3rd
Unlike this year, when Johnny Gaudreau could have basically stopped playing in early February and still led the nation in scoring, the gap between Gaudreau and last year's King of All Things Intangible from St. Cloud State was just 8 points, so it was perfectly reasonable to give Drew Leblanc the edge last year on the strength of his comeback story, his WCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, and for leading his team to the Frozen Four while BC faltered. This goal was Gaudreau's last salvo in the 2013 Hobey race, and it was a nice one. Because Union has to respect Steven Whitney going to the net, Gaudreau gets just a teeny-tiny bit of time and space to operate. As we all know by this point, that's pretty much all he needs to make things happen.
So that was that for BC hockey last year - a season that started out with such promise following the '12 title and a hot start. But the long grind of a college hockey season exposed their flaws gradually throughout the year; then Union demonstrated their flaws on television for the entire ESPN-U watching world to see - a poor penalty kill, undisciplined play, a leaky, error-prone D, a goalie that took a huge step down from a historically good 2012 season, a team that often looked rattled when things started to turn on them, and an offense incapable of getting much going beyond the top line.
BC has done an outstanding job of addressing many of these weaknesses in 2013-14, and we'll get a chance on Thursday evening to see how they'll stack up against the team that punished them to end last season.