Hockey Banter, Week V: Whack-A-Mole & Women's Hockey vs. BU

Todd Huxley Smith

In this weeks installment, we discuss the game-by-game issues for the men's team, bemoan the women's team's split against Minnesota-Duluth, and make some predictions.

Joseph Gravellese: So, another four point weekend for BC. Are we over the doom and gloom from the season opener or what?

Grant Salzano: I've sensed kind of a weird feeling among BC fans around the interwebs. People feel good that we've been winning but everyone seems to have found something to complain about -- and, honestly, with reason.

JG: Yeah, I agree. It's mostly a combination of a) needing to find things to talk about and b) being spoiled by how good and how deep BC's teams were in 2010, 2011 and 2012. This season will be a different animal, but it's looking pretty solid so far.

I think what makes me most positive thus far is that the problems seem to be a bit like whack-a-mole, popping up here and there from game to game, but they've shown flashes of addressing all of our concerns. Not enough scoring from beyond the top line? Hello Hayes, Arnold and Straight lighting it up Sunday. Defensive concerns? Shutout on the road at Lowell. How are we going to do in tough road environments with a young team? Huge comeback at one uMass, shutdown win at another.

GS: That's a really good way to put it. So far the only thing to not get mentioned so far has been goaltending, as Milner has really looked great. Hopefully he's not the next mole that pops up.

JG: Actually, I lied, one thing has been a problem pretty much every game. Penalties. So many ****ing penalties. The F***.

GS: ALL OF THE PENALTIES

JG: Seriously, it's getting ridiculous. Some of it is your garden variety Hockey East ref hackery (Free Matheson!) but there seems to be a serious discipline issue. Call in TOB to straighten them out?

GS: Matheson has been playing physical, which I like, but I guess it's just going to be adapted to the Hockey East refereeing. Doherty did get burned a couple times against Lowell and got called for a couple hooks. Maybe we can chalk it up to some of the young guys adjusting to the league? Although Wey seems to be in the box quite a bit as well for some reason.

JG: Maybe we are doing it on purpose to try to set up 4-on-4s since those are money in the bank goals, it seems like.

I mean, we've taken our fair share of penalties in recent seasons as well. Gibbons spent his share of time in the box, and Steve Whitney. And of course Petrecki. So it's not entirely a 2012-13 issue. But it's something to keep an eye on as we watch this team develop.

GS: Fortunately the D has been LOCKED DOWN to cover for us. Which is really a pleasant surprise.

JG: Speaking of Doherty... kid had a hell of a game on Sunday. I'm already starting to feel a certain ease when he's out there and has the puck.

It takes a while to get used to the guys out there and their positioning, but after a while you get a sense of when someone has a play covered defensively, or has a chance to set things up offensively. I'm already feeling a bit of that watching him, if that makes sense. He's poised.

The talent jumps out at you with Matheson but he's the more raw of the two at this point.

GS: I agree. Nice to see someone step up to replace the other half of Cross/Dumoulin that we lost last year.

JG: It's hard to understate how big a loss it was to see both of those guys go. Very few programs could sustain losing two D of that caliber.

GS: On the ladies side of things, we came into a huge, huge weekend against slumping traditional power Minnesota-Duluth saying we really needed to take 3 points out out of the weekend. We were fortunate to come away with the split after dropping game one.

Are we out of the tailspin yet?

JG: No. I am officially Still Concerned. This weekend is huge. We've got BU at BU tonight, then the Terriers again on Saturday at Conte. You hate to be dramatic and say the season is riding on a series on the first week of November but the women have a lot less of a margin for error with just the eight teams making the national tournament. Not to mention hopes of finishing top four and hosting a tournament game again.

Getting the split against Duluth was gutsy and important. A few years ago even beating them at Conte one out of two would have been a milestone. but if we've turned the corner to national power we should be expecting to at least split with a down Duluth.

GS: It's funny because it really does feel like the season comes down to the games against BU. There aren't going to be too many opportunities to pick up big Pairwise wins the rest of the season.

It's important to remember that we are winding down what has been easily the most brutal start to the season any team has had so far. Losing game 1 to BU was rough, but splitting Duluth and splitting UNH was... not the end of the world.

JG: Oh, no doubt. Unbelievably difficult schedule. When your "easy" weekend includes a trip to the Whit...

Yeah. If they'd beaten BU in the opener then split the next two weekends I'd probably feel entirely different about things.

GS: If we split BU, it feels like yet another season of BC women's hockey waiting to turn a significant corner. If we sweep BU -- currently sitting at #3 in the country -- it's an entirely different feeling. We're looking at a winning record against an absolutely brutal stretch of hockey. Things start to look pretty good.

JG: Yeah, this is just a huge weekend. BU is 7-1-0 and looks incredibly legit right now. As much as we hate them and all, you have to hand it to the season they've put together so far.

GS: I will hand them nothing. I just don't buy that they are that good. I will give them the split against Cornell and the win over Northeastern. But holy hell, the rest of their schedule was just.... among the worst possible. RPI? Union? Maine? Robert Morris?? I even forgot that RMU had a women's team.

JG: By the way, despite the early spotty start, we need to give a call to super frosh Haley Skarupa. She leads the team in scoring right now (3-2--5) and seems to be getting better each week. Now, let's hope they put it all together beyond her. Would be nice to see Alex Carpenter really explode this weekend. For those unfamiliar, she's one of the most talented players in the country. (And yes, she is Bobby Carpenter's kid.)

GS: Skarupa looks like she's the kind of player we really needed to emerge from this recruiting class -- a top-notch scorer who would make an immediate impact.

The talent is clearly there but the results have left me slamming my head into the wall in frustration.

JG: A reason for optimism, by the way: for all of our (mostly your, haha) beating of the national championship hype drum, the Eagles are a really young team. Only one upperclassman (Ashley Motherwell) in the top seven scorers so far. It's definitely been frustraing to see them drop a bunch of these close games though. I will be in the house tonight at Walter Brown and hope to see a win.

GS: That's part of the reason the schedule really played against us this year. Had we gotten a chance to open against some weaker teams like BU did and play the tougher squads later in the year, you'd probably find a much more battle-tested group of kids that would be more likely to play up to expectations.

JG: I'd have to agree with that. It gets a little easier after this week.

We'll dig a little deeper into the world of men's Hockey East beyond BC tomorrow as we'll be posting the November edition of Hockey East Buy or Sell, but before we head to predictions for the coming weekend, any other thoughts from the men's games this weekend?

GS: It was just nice to see them light the lamp a bit more. Wonder what the 'problems' are that will pop up this weekend...

JG: We aren't going to waste our time talking about the poll this week, right?

GS: Not at long as someone's trolling the polls by giving UNION a first place vote...

JG: Former BC recruit Frank Vatrano committed to UMass. I'm pretty sure we're mostly echoing one another here by saying we hope he resolves his clearinghouse issues and has great success at UMass.

GS: Not against us, of course, but against everyone else. Seemed like it was a pretty unfortunate situation for him when he left and I think we all honestly felt pretty bad for him. Glad he kept his eligibility and will pick it back up next year.

JG: Mullane and Gaudreau are 1 & 2 in Hockey East scoring right now, with Mullane (8 points) just ahead of #13 (7). And oh yeah, Kevin Hayes (6) is tied for third. Not too shabby. Though Gaudreau will want to move up to the top here so we can sell more #GaudreaubeyBaker shirts.

GS: He will. Boy, the excitement level just picks up when he gets the puck, huh? As Husky Hockey News was kind enough to point out...

JG: AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111111111

I just want to point out, by the way, that I am unaffiliated with the trolling that has Grant Salzano's name on it, specifically. kthx.

GS: I proudly claim all responsibility.

JG: Oh speaking of the Huskies -- and, again, more on the rest of Hockey East tomorrow -- Madigan decided he'd seen enough of Rawlings during Friday night's game at UNH and yanked him for Mountain. Uhh...headlines from 2010 all over again?

GS: MOUNTAINNNNNNNNNNNNNN... YOU ARE THE SIZE OF A MOLEHILLLLLLLLLLLL

JG: As extra salt in the wound. USCHO did a front page feature this week on Jon Gillies.

GS: Womp womp.

JG: Finally can I just say BCInterruption Photo Gal Amy's work has been a stellar addition to the site. Peruse the photo gallery from the Lowell game. Just saying.

On to predictions. BC-BU women. Home and home. Your call?

GS: I'm going with the sweep. Why? Because I so desperately need to see it. Even if we split we're probably looking at a 6-8 ranked team nationally at the end of the year I think. A sweep and I still think we can hit top 4.

If we get swept, we're looking at Defcon 1 on the Heights. And in my living room.

JG: If we get swept, I predict that I need to travel to Connecticut with a defibrilator.

GS: I can't even consider getting swept. I hate BU's women's team just as much, if not more, than the men.

JG: My prediction is three points. A win on the road, to get us all excited about the sweep, and then a tie at home. Because HOckey Jesus works like that.

GS: We've got another Friday/Sunday series for the men. At Maine and home against the UMass Vatranos. Who you got?

JG: I think you'll give me some crap for this one, but I think that it's a law that we need to find something to grumble about and another four point weekend would make everyone too happy too early in the season. So yes, I'm going to say hapless Maine somehow ekes out a fluky point against us on Friday night despite getting dominated and outplayed.

Then we will kick the crap out of UMass on Sunday. I'm thinking a touchdown, this time ewith the extra point added on.

GS: God, Maine is just so bad. Not winning that game would leave us more than just scratching our heads. I think it's more likely we drop a point to UMass, honestly.

But we won't.

I'm calling a pretty solid 4 points this weekend. I just don't see any way we lose either of these games.

JG: 6-1-0 would definitely look quite nice come Sunday evening. Here's hoping you're right. Have any predictions for non-BC games?

GS: BU fans are going to have a rough weekend.

JG: The Terriers travel to North Dakota for a two game set on Friday and Saturday. That'll be must-see TV assuming both games are on FCS. I agree that NoDak will have the upper hand in that one.

GS: Must see TV because the Fighting [Redacted]s are going to [redacted] the crap out of them.

JG: Obligatory BU penalty box joke goes here, etc. etc.

With two games against Vermont and Merrimack, respectively, I can see PC and NU scoring four point weekends and continuing their strong starts.

GS: Who knows with Vermont lately though. Apparently they have the completely unexpected ability to hang in there in games here and there.

No other Hockey East teams play out-of-conference games this weekend other than BU/ND -- give me a national matchup that you've got your eye on.

JG: I've got my eye on Harvard, actually. They've got home games on Friday (Brown) and Saturday (Yale)...

GS: ...BULLDOGS, BULLDOGS, BOW WOW WOW... ELIIII YALEEEE, baby...

JG: Once again Harvard's got some preseason hype and are ranked in the USCHO poll; we'll see if they have some results this year.

GS: "Once again"?!

JG: Yes. Every year the last few years we've heard about how great Harvard's recruiting has been. But it doesn't take long for them to fade. So yes, I'll have my eye on those games.

GS: Well I think that about wraps us up.

JG: Sounds good.

GS: Stop by tomorrow for Hockey East Buy Or Sell, and if you're in the area, hit up Walter Brown Arena or BU's online stream tonight to hopefully see the BC women take down the Terriers.

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