BC Hockey vs. Northeastern: Good, Bad, and Ugly

@BChockeynews

Thoughts on a dog fight of a weekend (See what I did there?)

I'm starting this off with a disclaimer that I personally have a strong dislike for Northeastern. It's something that's rooted inside of me along the lines with my dislike for Harvard. Even though BC's major hockey rival will forever be Boston University, I readily admit that for me, BC-NU is a game I actually circle.

So when BC swept NU this past weekend, I was pretty happy about it. That they made a mad dash comeback on Saturday and erased a 3-1 lead was even better. That the Huskies completely, unequivocally choked the weekend away and were swept was satisfying to me because I felt that they had an undue national ranking. They hadn't beaten anyone, and the fact that they've gone from 5-0-0 to 5-3-0 makes me revel in the fact that even though they're definitely improved, they're still Northeastern, and Northeastern finds ways to lose games.

I guess that begs the question of why I'm here. Is it to rub salt in the wounds of the weekend? Absolutely. Is it for sick pleasure to have schadenfreude thanks to this weekend? Yep. I'm not even denying it. While Grant and Joe talked about how Northeastern wasn't that bad, I'm still drawing from one thing and one thing only - it doesn't matter how you play, it's how many wins you get. And BC just had themselves a four-point weekend.

Now excuse me while I gloat a bit and give you the GBU lowdown:

The Good

That comeback on Saturday. Oh what a beautiful thing it was. Down 3-1 in the second period, BC managed to turn on the afterburners and come storming back just before the game was half over. They scored at 7:50 and 12:51. It showed the potential of BC if they could show up for a full 60 minutes. When this team gets rolling, they're going to be impossible to stop. Along the way, they got some help from goaltender Clay Witt getting that deer-in-the-headlights look, and Johnny Gaudreau's tying goal was something that still gets me to chuckle. But in the end, BC exposed the flaws in Northeastern's defense. And it showed that BC is never really out of any game.

BC's offensive teamwork. There's a big part of me that wants to think that BC has the talent to win on talent alone. But just putting on the jersey doesn't work, especially against the competition they'll face. Adam Gilmour's game-winner was the system in place. A first shot is saved, bounces back for the rebound, and he's in the right place. But before that rebound is put back, BC had multiple options. Patrick Brown's original shot could've been a feed for Gilmour if he didn't want to shoot, in which case Witt would've been out of position. That type of option building is the work of knowing where to be and where to go.

Likewise, the shorthanded goal was one of the team effort plays I've ever seen, mostly because it was awareness that NU was in the process of doing something stupid. The dump pass back to space is an example of Quinn Smith have an EA Sports awareness rating of about 173, while the defense failed to step up. They got bunched into one spot, and nobody stepped up to challenge the empty puck or stop the shot. Watch the play again, and you'll see Braden Pimm (#14 for NU) defend a passing lane by stick his stick out at the last second, not following the puck, and going in slow motion. Whoops.

The best offensive move is teamwork in front of a defense on its heels. Two good examples for what can happen if BC is moving.

The Bad

Not putting away NU. Let's take a look at Hockey East for a second:

Top-tier: UMass-Lowell, UNH, BC, Notre Dame, Providence

Middle-tier: BU, Merrimack, Vermont

Lower-tier: UMass, Northeastern, Maine

The argument can be made that teams will fluctuate through the middle and lower tier. I think Vermont is improved, and I think Maine is in a rebuilding process. I don't think Northeastern is that bad but they didn't beat anybody other than St. Lawrence (who isn't on par with Hockey East's top tier). BU and Merrimack are going to beat top-tier teams. But if you're in that top-tier, an elite group that's expected to contend for league and national titles, you have to walk into the games against the "lower six" and expect to win.

Even if BC struggles when they play at Matthews, I'm of the opinion that the Eagles need to walk into this games expecting to win, punch the clock, do their job, and leave. A loss or a tough game against these teams will only open up the door to take away and hamper them before they can play the upper-crust teams. And since league games are at a minimum this year, they can't risk it. Look at Notre Dame getting swept by Vermont. That deeply hurts them in the race for Hockey East's top seeds, and it's only November! Notre Dame now has a slimmer margin of error against some of the other teams; BC, for the time being, retains a larger margin of error for not getting caught.

The Ugly

Calnan's contact to the head - Honestly, it was hard to find a ton of bad and ugly in a four-point weekend, and anytime you're talking about the fact that BC "didn't win big enough," I think that's speaking volumes. But the ugliest part of the BC game is their eight penalties for 27 penalty minutes on Saturday. Chris Calnan got an early trip to the locker room for contact to the head, and following his penalties, Mike Szmatula scored to put NU up by one. Calnan had been skating on the top line, and forcing a coach to adjust his lines mid-game is something that nobody wants to see. Yes, BC was able to come back from it, but in the end, that's something that needs to get cleaned up when they play the league's big boys.

It's onto BU this upcoming weekend, and the game's at Agganis. I've spoken with friends of mine who work for the BU athletic department and the hockey program in particular. There's an excitement down that end of Comm Ave. that this will be the first David Quinn-Jerry York matchup. And while the Parker-York headline is gone, from a hockey standpoint, I'm excited to see how Quinn handles his first taste of the Green Line Rivalry, and I'm gearing up for what should be a fantastic hockey game. While this is something BC should be expected to win, I go back to my earlier point that at some point, those middle tier teams will beat upper tier opponents. And nothing's taken for granted when these two get together.

BC-BU. Does it get any better?

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