Hockey Banter, Week II: Regular Season Kickoff

With the first full weekend slate of games around the corner, we take a look at the exhibition against New Brunswick, our terrible preseason game predictions, and offer a word of advice to new AD Brad Bates.

Joseph Gravellese: And we're off! Hockey season is finally, mercifully under way. After a satisfying 6-0 exhibition victory over New Brunswick on Saturday, the first meaningful puck drop is on Saturday at 7pm when the Eagles head to Matthews Arena to take on Northeastern. ARE YOU READY?

Grant Salzano: OH MY GOD HOCKEY

JG: Yeah, pretty much. It was nice to have some live games to attend and a few scores to follow, but this weekend offers up a full slate.

Obviously, it would be foolhardy to draw conclusions and make predictions for a forthcoming long season on the basis of an exhibition game against vastly inferior opposition. But that's exactly what we'll do, because we've got a blog post to make here. What did you think of the game on Saturday?

GS: "Holy crap." Where to begin? Scoring from all over the depth chart. Good, physical play. Trademark BC multi-goal outbursts. Goaltending. It was as good a game as you could have hoped for in an exhibition. And entertaining! I don't know if it was the lack of NHL, the lack of meaningful BC football, or both, but holy hell was that a fun exhibition.

JG: It was just nice to be back, really. Nice to be back at Conte. Nice to see a properly functioning team in maroon and gold. And nice to see Johnny Gaudreau lighting the lamp again. I suspect he will be even better this year. His opening goal came off a gorgeous play. It looks like he has good chemistry with Whitney and Mullane already.

UNB isn't on the level of top US teams, obviously, but they're one of the better Canadian college teams, and to completely smother them is a very good sign when we rotate through three goalies and have four freshman defensemen skating.

GS: I took part in a chat with UNB fans at some ".ca" website during the game and one of them noted afterward that they thought it had been a longggg time since they'd seen UNB held to under 20 shots. UNB is the opposite of a trap team. To hold possession like we did given the question marks at D -- against, again, yes, an inferior opponent -- was seriously encouraging.

JG: Looking at the line chart from Saturday night, what jumps out is no freshmen forwards playing. Brendan Silk was supposed to get into the game but was held out due to injury, but it looks like Peter McMullen is currently on the outside looking in. So as of now, post-Vatrano, making up for the goals lost to the pros and graduation is going to fall on guys stepping up.

Enter Brooks Dyroff. He's a senior and hasn't played much in his first three years, and he may well not play much this year if Silk establishes himself as a regular. But we've seen multiple occasions where guys get additional playing time due to an unexpected departure and suddenly become a key role player. Well, Dyroff stepped in on the fourth line and scored a goal and an assist. No matter what happens the rest of the year, it was good to see one of the best people in all of college hockey get on the scoresheet.

GS: Absolutely. Despite being up by a few goals at that point, you really saw how stoked he and his linemates were. With so much competition for playing time, you can seriously see how excited each guy is for every minute he's out there.

Favorite part of the game for me: Matheson absolutely LAYING THE LUMBER on some UNB guy coming in on goal. As clean a hit as you'll ever see and yet he was taken out so hard he landed on the ice on his back like a rag doll. I still have no idea what the penalty was. But that will be on every highlight reel for the rest of the season.

JG: Uhh... he put his arms around him and threw him to the ice WWE style. It was hilarious, and entertaining, but definitely a penalty. That said, I didn't mind it. I like seeing Matheson play with a physical edge.

GS: Huh. Grainy webstream For The Loss then. TWO MINUTES FOR BEING AWESOME though.

Maybe that was why he was on his back like he was choke-slammed.

JG: In case any readers missed it, going through line by line: Whitney, Mullane and Gaudreau comprised the top line. Thoughts? It's a classic tiny-speedsters first line, a tactic we've seen before. Mullane has been very good at being the straw that mixes the drink, playing a lot with Chris Kreider in the past; his assist stats should be boosted by playing with Gaudreau.

GS: That line is going to be ridiculous. Whitney's been my pick to really go off this year. Or, one of them, anyway. He has a ton of flashy skill. A breakaway goal against BU a couple years back comes to mind where he had the goalie going in the complete wrong direction.

I have a ton of faith in Mullane when he's on the ice. He just seems to do everything well, doesn't he?

And as for Gaudreaubey Baker... he's dece.

JG: Definitely. He's a heady player, and I think he will really grow into his leadership role this year, which will improve his production as well.

We've seen the diminutive lines have their effectiveness reduced sometimes over the course of a grinding, trap-filled Hockey East season, but they tend to be our best weapons come tournament time.

The second line could be the difference between having an elite team and a very good team this year, assuming it stays as is: Kevin Hayes, Bill Arnold, Destry Straight. Three guys with incredible upside.

Straight was someone I expected big things out of last year, but it took him awhile to adjust to the college game. He had a nice game on Saturday and scored BC's second goal.

GS: LOL at that being our second line... Bill Arnold is already a top-tier all-around player, as evidenced by him being on the USA World Juniors roster.

Kevin Hayes is a serious threat to jump to the NHL.

Destry Straight came on well at the end of last year. He quarterbacked a beautiful two-on-one goal with Kreider against Minnesota in the semifinals last year. You can really see his skill maturing.

Seriously those are our top two lines? That's unfair.

JG: I'm a big Arnold fan. Obviously, he's already an established elite player, but I think he could be even better. I'll pick him as my breakout guy, someone who we could see near the top of the national scoring charts at the end of the year.

Now, unlike last year, we don't really roll three full lines of NHL star potential. But there's a lot to like in our third line: Quinn Smith, Michael Sit, Danny Linell. A lot of people, myself included, said those guys remind them of guys like Kyle Kucharski, Matt Lombardi, Matt Price, etc. -- players who will play together for four years and contribute as solid role players. On a championship-contending team, they will need to be a real threat.

Linell, in particular, strikes me as someone who could easily be a top 6 forward depending on how you shuffle the lines. He's got some flash.

GS: Definitely. And three guys tremendous upside as well, who you could easily see as having Lombardi or Almeida-like upperclassman years out of nowhere. They may not have the flash of the top line guys, but they absolutely have their role on the team.

JG: And then the aforementioned fourth unit had Cam Spiro, Pat Brown and Brooks Dyroff. Spiro will be playing a lot more this year, so we'll get to see what he has right away. We'll see who's starting on this line on Saturday; maybe Dyroff has earned himself a spot even if Silk is healthy. Nobody would begrudge him that.

GS: Definitely not. He's the kind of guy you love to root for.

JG: Then on D... it was weird to see a defenseman in the starting lineup wearing #4 and have it *not* be Tommy Cross. But Teddy Doherty played a solid game and impressed me with his poise in his first game as an Eagle. We have some really talented freshman d-men this year and it should be fun to watch them develop.

In net... Milner and Billett weren't tested too often, but each made a few nice saves. Barone got in a stint and also shut out UNB. All good signs.

GS: At D I think Matheson's going to be a guy that the Terriers are going to absolutely despise. If his choke-slam on a hapless Varsity Red is any indication, looks like he plays with some physicality. That was unbelievably awesome.

And MILNA KEHD! Dude's never going to lose another game, ever.

JG: Speaking of the Terriers, they won, but spent so much time in the penalty box that it was beginning to look like a late-night party at Agganis Arena.

.........................Too soon? Are we allowed to write that on BCI?

GS: I would be disappointed if we didn't!

JG: Excellent.

Well, when you put BU and a not-so-great Canadian team on the same ice I guess we shouldn't be surprised to see triple-digit penalty minutes. Parker said he was glad his guys "played like a team."

Hey, whatever works.

GS: They probably played like a team in the penalty box a couple years ago too.

JG: ...

GS: MOAR PENALTY BOX JOKES

JG: In the games that counted, our predictions looked pretty dumb: Merrimack beat Union, and Maine lost to Quinnipiac... ouch. They also tied New Brunswick. Guess maybe I was right to SELL! last week.

GS: UNB actually scored a goal just after the buzzer sounded against Maine as well. Not looking too good up in Orono.

JG: Also, Northeastern lost to St. Francis Xavier, lololol. Let's enjoy laughing at that now before they inevitably somehow beat us on Saturday, since they always seam to beat us at that godforsaken arena of theirs.

GS: I'm starting to think even their usual Matthews Magic isn't going to be enough at this point. Not being sharp clearly won't be an issue after what we saw against UNB. I don't think it's unfair to say UNB is probably a better team than NU.

JG: I'd be happy to let the Varsity Reds into Hockey East instead of UConn so that we can find out.

GS: I would be all for that. Fredericton was a hell of a road trip. They're a team with some history and talent.

JG: NU has some talent on their roster but it's going to take them a cohesive unit.

By the way, speaking of Northeastern... today's fun fact, brought to us by one of our good friends from NU, Nick Pollard: Jake Newton, who left Northeastern after his freshman year to turn pro a couple of seasons back, is now playing in the Italian Serie B hockey league. An official Northeastern athletics website press release listed that and actually wrote "stay in school, kids."

Ah, oops, I'm being informed it's "Serie A2," not Serie B. Either way... rough.

The HC Eppan Pirates do have a great logo though.

373499_194089550636847_1466978543_n_medium

GS: They put "Stay in school, kids"?! Troll on, Huskies.

JG: Yes, yes they did.

The women's game was awful last week so let's get through it as quickly as possible: We lost 4-2. BU completely shut us down in front of the net with stifling defense, BC couldn't generate any second chance opportunities, and we took way too many freaking penalties. It stinks that they have to wait another week before they can get an official win on the board, as they only have an exhibition game this weekend.

GS: feel like such a whiner about the fact that we didn't get to warm up with an exhibition or some scrub team but it is what it is. Why couldn't we start against Colgate?? I feel like our season starts with them like ever other year. Also, they are AWFUL. Holy hell. They've started their season off getting outscored 26-1.

JG: Eek.

GS: It was crystal clear that we came out with some rust -- like we both predicted last week -- and improved as the game went on. BU did get a few goals against the run of play late with odd-man rushes. But whatever. I hate that effing team.

JG: A good point though. Granted, it was BU's opener too. But it was not an easy way to start the season. The whole first few months are a gauntlet though, so it is what it is.

In positive women's hockey news, Merrimack will be adding D-I women's hockey and joining Hockey East. Awesome news for the women's game. Your move, UMass.

GS: That was a serious surprise. I never would have seen that coming. I can't imagine that team is going to compete at all for quite a while. But you can never complain about the increase in exposure for the sport.

JG: Before we get to our predictions for this coming weekend's games, we need to address a game we picked last week: Alabama vs. Alabama-Huntsville. Grant, your prediction of a tie was a teeny bit off as UAH squeezed by the Tide, 12-1.

GS: ... Maybe they just had a bad game?

JG: BAMA Hockey proudly posted the scoresheet from the game on Twitter, as it was their first game against a D-1 opponent (they are a club team). This prompted a fun twitter conversation culminating in a big discussion: who would win an aggregate series if BC hockey played Alabama hockey, and then BC football played Alabama football?

GS: I think it would be pretty close.

Make it happen, Bates. The York-Saban Trophy.

JG: I'm going to have to play Debbie Downer here (big surprise. Folks, you'll get used to this being my role in these conversations).

There's no way our football team scores a single point against BAMA.

And even if they take it easy on us they'll put up like 38 points. Would we hang 38 on BAMA hockey? I guess it's possible, if Huntsville scored 12. But I don't see it happening.

I do agree that we should institute the York-Saban trophy ASAP, though. Playing BAMA in an exhibition would be more fun than playing St. Thomas More, or University of Toronto.

GS: It depends. If we're going to be Harvard Monday through Friday and Alabama on Saturday, maybe we need to just make sure both games are on Saturday and we'll tie in both?

JG: Uhhh...sure.

GS: Roll tide.

JG: Roll tide.

Predictions for the weekend:

Let's start with BC-NU. I'm gonna have to predict a loss, since I can never go to Matthews Arena and feel like we're going to win. Something stupid usually happens. One year NU beat us 1-0 after a puck got stuck in a puddle when we were carrying it out of our zone and it ended up right in front of the net for NU to stuff home. Ludicrous. I'm thinking something like that happens again.

All the NU fans run riot and burn things down. Their season then proceeds to go down the crapper and they'll look back on this one as the high point. Rinse, repeat.

GS: Not unreasonable. No matter how awful they are, the early season game at Matthews is just maddening.

Having said that, I can't not predict a win here. It'll be close for a bit but I think we pull away. Let's call it 4-1.

What are the odds I get ejected from the game because of the trumpet?

JG: Poor, since you won't be dumb enough to play it during the actual game, I hope. We'll discuss this later.

GS: Maybe I'll hold off until our empty-netter.

JG: Before they take us on, NU opens up its season tonight against Merrimack. I'll say the Mack takes that one, because that's what NU does.

GS: TIE. Book it. 2-2.

JG: Maine takes part in the Ice Breaker this weekend, facing the Irish in the opener Friday night at 7pm on NBC Sports Network, then playing either Army or Nebraska-Omaha. Logic seems to dictate that they'll lose to Notre Dame, then beat Army in the consolation game. Since there's no way any respectable D-I sports program ever loses to Army in anything, obviously.

GS: Since that's logic, it's not what will happen.

...But I'll predict as such anyway. Maine loses to Notre Dame 3-0 and beats the United States Army 2-1.

JG: St. Cloud State visits UNH for a two game set this weekend. If this matchup happened in the NCAA tournament the universe would collapse upon itself. Thankfully, it's October, so I expect both teams to win both games.

Book it.

GS: Nah, St. Cloud's going to be Umileated (see what I did there?) by the Wildcats. I think a sweep is in order. UNH fans get super pumped. But fear not, all will fall apart in due time.

JG: Quick hits: UML over Vermont on Friday in Lowell (natch); PC over Sacred Heart & UMass over UConn in some hockey #MACtion on Friday; Providence beats BU at Agganis on Saturday night, with Mauermann and Army scoring goals to help my Hockey East fantasy team. GS: I.... agree with every single one of those.

That was boring.

JG: How about the BC women vs. the Boston Blades? Kelli Stack energized by a return to Conte ice will be too much to overcome, methinks. Blades, 6-4, on a Stack six-point game.

GS: I actually think BC will win this one. Stack will definitely be on the scoresheet and Schaus will be awesome. But I think we squeeze a couple by. 3-2 BC? That sounds about right.

JG: The pick of the action in non-Hockey East men's play this weekend looks to be a two game set between Michigan State and Minnesota in Minneapolis. I think the Gophers take three points on the weekend. You have your eye on any other games going on?

GS: I'm all aboard the Minnesota bandwagon until proven otherwise. I'll give them the sweep.

Lots of good teams playing patsies this week. It's too bad Penn State is playing a horrible, horrible team in American Int'l because I'd like to see if they've got anything for some of the more mid-pack teams here in their inaugural season.

I think Penn State will do well in their first weekend. 3 or 4 points. AIC is just awful. UConn-level awful. They usually battle for the bottom of the RPI ratings.

JG: Well then, that's just about a wrap for the week. Except for one more very important thing...

Brad Bates...

Hey man, welcome to BC. I'm cool with you. It's all good. You know hockey, so you know the drill: Let Jerry York do his thing. Hey, you even stopped by hockey practice on your first day on the job, something GDF literally never did. Good stuff.

Now, that being said...

One of these days, in about 50 bajillion years, Jerry York will retire.

And I want you to listen to me very carefully.

If you hire your old Miami (D'OH) chum Rico Blasi to take the reigns of America's Greatest Hockey Program, there will be blood. THAT IS ****ING ALL.

GS: Don't you dare do it.

JG: Going from Mr. Clutch to Mr. Bean would be just too much for my heart to bear. Not to mention the arrogance we've seen on display from Rico, only to see the arrogance bubble popped in spectacular fashion in multiple NCAA tournaments. Just.. no. No no no no no no no no no. I don't think we need to discuss this any more, so the case should be closed. Welcome to the Heights!

GS: Also, make sure you make good on Flip's promise of air conditioning in Conte. I don't care if he said it because he knew he was on his way out and knew how it would cost a fortune. Just make that happen. Kthx.

....Blasi does look like Mr. Bean, doesn't he?

JG: Ohhh very, very yes.

Rcouiq_medium

GS: MIND = BLOWN.

JG: Well that's about all for this week. We'll be back again next week to discuss how wrong our predictions were and partake in some more reactionary over-analysis. Hopefully we'll be talking about BC's 20-game winning streak. Until next time... Go Eagles.

GS: HOCKEY!

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