Hockey Banter, Week XVII: More Trophies

Dave Arnold -- Boston College Athletics

And yes, it's pretty sweet that we beat Syracuse last night.

Joseph Gravellese: Another week... another two trophies, with the men and women locking up the regular season titles. The Eagles were pushed up in Vermont but came through both times, showing their ability each night to play a tough, physical game and crack open a stout defensive team.

Grant Salzano: It was interesting to me that the games ended up rather close. Because they FELT close, but we had multi-goal leads. And then Vermont MADE it close. Know what I mean?

About halfway through both of those games, you'd look up and see we were up by 2 or 3 goals and wonder how it happened.

JG: I do know what you mean. BC never felt like they were dominating, per se. But... they demonstrated a tendency that came out well in the Beanpot semifinal against BU. This is my armchair QB thoughts and I'm curious if there are others out there who agree with me -- but it looked like BC played a patient game sort of as a way to counteract what their opponent is usually looking to do (sit back and pounce when opportunities arise). The Eagles didn't put themselves in position to get hit on counter attacks very often in the BU game or in the Vermont games.

They knew they could rely on lethal finishing when they did have grade A chances. They've been able to rely on that all year; we've noted how high BC's shooting percentage is.

GS: You're right, I haven't noticed too many odd-man rushes lately.

Lowell and Vermont are different animals entirely. I'm really looking forward to these games.

JG: For sure. Lowell is a defense-first, hard team to play against. In fact, I was calling Finland "UMass-Finland" while watching them play against Russia. Same sort of deal. Disciplined, smart, well-coached, very good, and very tough to break down. They don't allow a lot of opportunities and when they do, Connor Hellebuyck is there to shut them down.

This series is intriguing in that Lowell has a LOT to play for. They are in quite the dogfight for Hockey East position and are clinging to a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament.

GS: They're definitely a good team. Any idea what is at the root if their step back from last season? 1 seed to 2 seed isn't exactly a Terrierable collapse, but they have still been something of a disappointment.

JG: Well, they dug themselves in a hole early in the season, much like they have in the past two years.

That said, they haven't actually taken a huge step back.

Last year, they went 26-10-2 prior to the NCAA tournament -- 22-10-2 prior to NCAAs.

This year, they aer 20-7-3. Odds are pretty good they'll end up with a very similar record.

The biggest difference is that instead of being able to sew up the HEA regular season title on the last weekend of the season, they got zoomed past by BC... but that had more to do with BC than Lowell.

In addition to BC, the other 1-seeds have had dominant seasons the likes of which we haven't seen much of lately. Minnesota and Union have been pretty relentless all year.

GS: This is true. Though Lowell hasn't exactly set the world on fire lately. They are 5-0-1 in their last 6 after taking care of UMass and Merrimack, but other than those bottom feeders, they've been just "good."

I guess the biggest difference in their second half is that they haven't lost to Sacred Heart. Who knew they would be Hockey East trendsetters?

JG: You are selling Lowell short, I think.

They only have 7 losses all year. 2 of them were to Quinnipiac. They lost at Alfond. They had a really strange, unlike-them collapse at Providence where they gave up 4 goals in the third period to lose.

If you go use CollegeHockeyNews' fantastic, handy-dandy customizable pairwise calculator, you'll see that if they had beaten Sacred Heart, they would be 4th in PWR. Behind only the three aforementioned thoroughbreds.

They beat Michigan, they swept Notre Dame, they swept UNH... they've been a damn good team. Comparing their season to BC's might make it look just "good"... but they've been just a tick behind the very elite teams since the Sacred Heart game.

GS: I think Lowell is really, really good -- I guess mostly I'm just disappointed that they aren't better. They were pretty much everyone's clear favorite to win it all this year.

Disappointed is a weird word because obviously I'm glad it's one less team BC has to fight with for #1 overall, but still. I have no problems with Lowell. They're a hard team to root against. For example -- this isn't the kind of series where I'm worried about a bunch of goons taking shots at our guys. Looking at you, PC.

JG: Well, I don't know how much better you expected them to be.

Last year, they had 34 points in 27 games (1.26 PPG), which was enough to win the league outright. This year, they have 22 points in 16 league games (1.38 PPG). The difference is BC being just ridiculous.

GS: You're probably right haha... Well, can't complain about that.

JG: Ha. Well, yes. I agree that Lowell is an easy team to like. They play a totally opposite style of hockey as BC, but I would call both styles examples of hockey the way it's meant to be played.

Full disclosure, I am probably starting a grad program at night at UMass-Lowell in the fall, actually. So I might already be thinking through riverhawk-colored glasses. But I've always had a soft spot for them and for Northeastern as other teams I like pulling for in Hockey East.

(Probably helps that those two have had noted run-ins with BU.)

In terms of why they've been able to find success this year, I think you need to look at Norm Bazin continuing to blend an experienced roster with a youth movement. You look at their senior leaders like Joe Pendenza and Derek Arnold who have been very good for Bazin's whole tenure after being recruited by Blaise MacDonald... then you add in the fact that 3 of their 5 top scorers are freshmen and sophomores.

That's been the theme in each of Bazin's prior two seasons, both of which ended with Lowell fans thinking they were bringing back a serious core of players who would keep the program moving forward.

Also, it helps to have one of the best goalies in the country, even if some dopes think Omelette is better.

GS: So how does a probable lack of Matheson change BC's lineup this week? More Linell on the blue line?

JG: At this point, despite the continued beating of heads into walls, I think we need to just accept and understand that Linell is going to keep playing defense. We aren't seeing Jeke.

Maybe next year, but not this year, barring some sort of injury disaster.

So yes, expect to see Linell on the blue line again. And Straight at forward. I am not really a fan of either choice, but I guess the results have been quite fine.

The "good" news with Matheson's injury is that BC just went through this with McCoshen being out and adjusted just fine. I would say that McCoshen has been more valuable than Matheson even this year.

GS: That's probably accurate, though they bring totally different skill sets to the table.

JG: This is also a fine time for him to be out for a little while as it would take a pretty epic series of events for BC to fall out of a 1-seed (though they still need to lock down #1 overall). So if he misses these games, it's okay, as long as he comes back rested and healthy for the postseason.

GS: I think we are almost mathematically assured of a 1 seed at this point. But #1 overall is going to be even more critical.

JG: PlayoffStatus.com says 99>%, yeah.

In terms of being #1 overall, playing around with the CHN grid is kind of tough to do because you can't treat the Minnesota and BC results in a bubble, but I put in BC going 1-2 against Lowell, Lowell and ND, and Minnesota going 5-1 in their last 6 against Penn State x2. Ohio State x2, and Michigan x2, and that would keep BC in 1st going into the conference tournaments.

(This obviously ignores Union, and teams moving up and down impacting RPI, etc. So take it with a giant grain of salt.)

GS: Wow, that's great. It helps that our strength of schedule isn't taking a rest.

JG: This is already getting pretty long but I'd like to touch on two things that have been hot topics on Ye Olde BC message forums.

1) Debunking the idea that BC is a "one line team" -- it's easy to just look at the eye-popping numbers the top line has put up and think that everyone else has sucked, but in fact, they've been pretty good, but have just been eclipsed by the top unit's epic production.

Why don't you share with our BCI friends the numbers you posted on USCHO about this.

GS: Certainly --

Here is the original post on USCHO.

Basically, our secondary scoring is right up there with the best in the nation. It's just that our first line is so ridiculous that it makes them look not that great.

Kind of like BC making Lowell look not that great when they've been one of the best teams in the country.

JG: Now I'm not saying BC couldn't use an even bigger explosion out of Cangelosi and Fitzgerald, or especially the bottom two lines. Odds are pretty damn good we are going to need those guys in the bottom 6 to have a big game during at least one point of the postseason run if we are going to win more trophies. But they haven't been bad at all. It's nothing like last year where the team really was carried as far as it was by Whitney, Mullane and Gaudreau.

2) Recruiting.

Lots of stuff going on here, maybe this could/should be its own post during the bye week forthcoming, but it's been an interesting week with Tanner MacMaster decommitting from BC and Wood decomitting from Brown.

Despite initial rumors, the two moves weren't connected, per se; the MacMaster thing was happening anyway. But BC is definitely in on Wood, per the Kid, and that would be a pickup that would make next year's class even more stacked.

I want to reiterate your comments on Tuesday in congratulating MacMaster on the commitment to Quinnipiac (and congratulating the Q on landing such a good player).

This is definitely a situation of no hard feelings and hoping it all works out for everyone.

GS: Yes, absolutely. I have a feeling Quinnipiac is here to stay.

I'll spare our readers the usual WHY DID WE NOT INVITE THEM TO HOCKEY EAST rant.

JG: I really hate speculating on the grades and motivations of children but supposedly the word on Wood is that he wanted to stick with Brown but had an admissions issue. (Admissions/academics was apparently the hurdle for MacMaster and BC as well.)

If BC does land Wood and he clears BC admissions, I think it's a heartening sign that he had the willingness/desire to stay committed to the Ivy League, though it didn't work out. (The same can be said for a lot of non-athlete BC students, frankly.)

BC fans have continuously floated the pipe dream of Jack Eichel -- potential #1 NHL draft pick -- decommitting from BU and flipping to BC. There's no evidence to support this, but it sure would be nice. However, the issue there is that Eichel is a guaranteed one-and-done.

Wood might be more in the 3-4 year mold. Let's see if he ends up on board. Supposedly, it's down to BC and BU. No brainer, eh?

GS: You would think!

I don't want Eichel at all as a one and done. Maybe it's just me. I'd rather he stay down the street.

JG: You will regret that when he scores a hat trick in the Beanpot. There's a difference between a top 10 NHL draft pick (Hanifin for instance) being a potential one and done -- guys who are NHL locks -- and lesser prospects who think they are better than they are bolting early. Anyway, should be interesting to keep an eye on.

As should the games this weekend. Go Eagles!

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