Hockey Banter, Week XXIV, Part I: Men's Hockey East Championships

via Graham Beck, BC Heights Sports

In part one of this weeks Banter, we look at the upcoming BC/BU Hockey East semifinal and talk some more Hobey.

Joseph Gravellese: Some of the most legendary games in BC-BU history have happened at TD Garden. But in recent years, matchups in the Hockey East tournament have been a bit more rare.

The last time the Eagles faced the Terriers this late in the season was the fateful day in March of 2009 when BU put an end to BC's season in the Hockey East semifinals.

The Eagles will be hoping to hand BU a similar fate on Friday. This is sure to be one of the most anticipated matchups in a long, long time. You ready?

Grant Salzano: So ready. But also so nervous.

JG: Nervous because of normal pre-tournament jitters, or nervous because you really think BU has come on strong enough to knock off BC on Friday night?

GS: I still don't really feel that BU has been coming on "strong." It's mostly a combination of pre-tournament jitters and pre-rivalry game jitters.

Being the favorite in a big rivalry game is scary.

JG: Agreed. And obviously BU has the extra inspiration of keeping Parker's last season alive, while BC deals with yet another health setback for Coach York (as though we haven't had enough of those on the ice this year).

GS: Though it does sound like York's second surgery went well. Just gotta hope for the best with that I suppose. Sad that he won't be on the ice to end Parker's season.

Or maybe BU's season won't end tomorrow... and Parker beats BC, and York ends Parker's season in the Frozen Four or something.

...

JG: You bite your tongue. Seriously. Go outside, turn around three times and spit. And curse.

I'm looking at it as a positive, that Cav/Brown might be the ones to put out Parker's fire. Sort of a message to BU that our next generation will beat you, too.

GS: Oooh. I like that.

JG: But on a less hypothetical/emotional note: to what do you attribute BU's winning streak? Do you just chalk it up to weak opposition or do you think they're finally playing up to their talent level a little more?

GS: I mean, they beat Northeastern. That's... neat. Sweeping Mack I'm a bit impressed with. They're decent.

I don't know, I still don't think BU is that good. Interesting that their 4 game winning streak right now is their only streak greater than 2 games all year.

I think we're a better team than them but it's impossible to gauge this after not playing them for like 8 months.

JG: That is interesting. I DO mostly chalk it up to opposition. I'm not as high on Merrimack as you appear to be. Once again they rode some big home wins to moderate respectability.

GS: They certainly faded down the stretch.

Last I heard, Noonan (separated shoulder) was 60-40 to be playing in the game tomorrow. How much of an impact can he really be if he's not totally healthy?

JG: Well, they started their winning streak without him, so it's tough to say. We know he'll be good for either drawing a penalty on BC or picking up a diving penalty, so there's that.

GS: Ha! Preach, brother.

JG: Ultimately the key for BU, as it so often tends to be in these games, will be special teams. BC's power play looked pretty sad-sack against Vermont on Saturday when the Hockey East refs essentially handed us a 60 minute power play drill.

Given BU's discipline issues, and HANSENNNNNNN, I'd expect special teams to play a big role on Friday night.

GS: It always seems like it will be. They'll be fine. I think maybe having too many power plays against Vermont might have hurt us a bit, in a way. We probably used the second unit more than we'd have liked to, which is a bit of a steep drop from PP1.

As long as they can keep the PK on lockdown I think we should handle BU. You're right though, these BC/BU games tend to turn into 3 on 3 street hockey.

JG: I agree. As much as it will be a high-intensity, high-emotion game, I ultimately see BC as being distinctly better right now, and on a nice little upswing to boot. The Eagles should win this one by a couple of goals. 4-2 or so.

GS: I'll call it 5-2. Hopefully we can put it to bed early, too.

Gaudreau continues his Hobey push. He's on a hell of a tear right now, huh?

JG: Well let's be careful for the same reason I'm careful about the BU uptick: he's on a tear in four games against Vermont.

GS: Yes, but maybe that's just what the doctor ordered. Loosen him up a bit.

JG: Though as we've been fond of saying throughout the Slump -- all it took was a game against Slovakia to get Gaudreau going again for the big WJC push. With his confidence back, I expect him to be a big factor at the Garden.

Lest we forget, last time Gaudreau played at the Garden, he was a big factor in BC bringing home the hardware.

GS: Absolutely. I think the time has come. He's certainly put himself back into serious talk of winning the Hobey, anyway.

A 6-point game will do that.

JG: This weekend is the closing argument for Hobey voting, yes? I think he's pretty solidly in the Hat Trick, he's going to need to be Hockey East Tournament MVP to make himself the favorite again, I believe.

GS: Well, the Final 10 are announced today. I believe NCAA regionals are included in consideration, no? I seem to remember seeing highlights for the 10 finalists during the regionals between periods ever year.

Hockey East tournament MVP would, I think, put him solidly ahead of the field.

JG: Who else do we think will be in the Hat Trick (or thereabouts) and warrants keeping an eye on?

GS: I think you'll see Greg Carey for St. Lawrence in there as the leading goalscorer but he's really not a threat to win with his season over. And Danny Kristo seems to be a lock over at North Dakota.

I don't think Quinnipiac's goalie is going to make it. They've really struggled lately.

This seems, at least to me, to be a race between Gaudreau and Kristo.

I'm interested to know what you think here.

JG: Kristo is the favorite, I think. The Hobey voting tends to skew west. And there's a decent chance another eastern guy squeaks into the Final 3,which will Ralph Nader the hell out of Gaudreau's vote even more.

But Gaudreau has the opportunity to make a statement in what will be some highly publicized games. First, BU, of course, and then, in all likelihood, BC having to take down a red-hot Lowell team in a battle to see who will be a 1 seed in NCAAs.

GS: I don't buy that argument.

Saying the Hobey voting skews west seems... weird. I know only one eastern player has won since Mottau (BU's Gilroy, barf). That's kind of ridiculous looking at it that way. But still. I don't think the east usually has that 'stand-out' player.

As for an eastern player Nader'ing Gaudreau... that's just not going to happen. Mostly because it factually can't -- there isn't a vote after the Final Three are announced, unless I have this wrong. The Final Three are just the top 3 vote getters of the 10 finalists, and they announce the top vote getter of the 10 finalists as the winner.

And in fact, after a quick look around on the Google machine -- that is correct. The winner is chosen from the 10 finalists.

JG: Aha.

Okay, that allays those concerns somewhat. But I still foresee Kristo as the favorite. Of course, he has some big games to come as well.

GS: Well it really comes down to -- these two have put themselves into position, and whoever can lead their team the farthest (before the voting) will win it.

And that's how it should be I think.

JG: Agreed.

Really quickly: UMass-Lowell dispatched Maine and Joey Diamond had a most poetically just ending to his career.

GS: Let's not waste valuable Banter space on that kid. His career ended aptly with his ejection. Enjoy flipping burgers or something.

Lowell looked good though. They're a hell of a team. I hope we see a BC/UML final, I really do. Good, physical -- clean -- hockey. I enjoyed all three games against them this year.

JG: Agreed. Both fanbases would go into it feeling like underdogs, which would make it an interesting night.

I hope that's what we'll see, and I think that's what we'll see.

I do ultimately foresee Lowell winning the trophy, as much as I hate picking against BC. But they're the real deal right now.

GS: I don't have a problem with that. But this BC team is really hard to pick against at the Garden...

That's the kind of non-analysis I usually hate, but you know what, screw it.

JG: It's the kind of non-analysis we do best.

Journamalism.

GS: The senior class has NEVER LOST AT THE GARDEN.

JG: Yeah, that's a B.F.D.

That's right up there with the Parker storyline on reasons why this weekend could be historic. I don't think the sheer ridiculousness of that is being discussed enough.

GS: 14-0. In 14 of the biggest games of their career. I can't even fit my head around that.

JG: That'll be right up there with 2 (3??) national championships in the biographies of these seniors if they pull it off.

It should be a really fantastic weekend. I really, really can't wait.

GS: 16-0 in the Garden would never be topped, ever.

God I am so excited. I don't know if I'm going to make it.

JG: Looking at the PWR, I thinkkkkkk BC is pretty likely to be a 1 seed with a Hockey East title and mostly likely to be a 2 seed with making it to the final and losing. They could drop a bit by losing to BU, but would probably still be a 2.

Do we have a Rooting Guide for the weekend?

#GoBrown, of course: if they manage to win two games and win the ECAC they drive the brackets haywire and could give BC a ticket to Providence to face the Bears in the first round.

GS: I'm pretty sure we're a lock for the last #1 seed if we win, and will actually be #3 overall with a Miami loss. We can still end up a #1 seed if we lose in the finals, but I don't think that combination of results is going to happen.

Really just win and we take care of where we'll end up. Yes, root for Brown as well. And root against UConn just because.

Finally -- root against North Dakota, for Hobey purposes.

JG: Also, because to hell with the [redacted].

One last topic to touch upon:

As we all know, Friday night could be Jack Parker's last game. I know you aren't going to be at the Garden, but imagine you will be there with me. BC wins, and the PA does an announcement as Parker is walking off the ice, noting the last game of his storied career. What's your reaction?

GS: I'd be singing "Hail, Alma Mater" with the band.

JG: Good job averting the question.

I clap, respectfully, but don't think I'd stand. For his career alone, even if you hate his team as I do, he deserves a standing O. BUT because he ultimately deserves a lot of the accountability for the behavioral issues of the past few years, I can't justify the full standing-O sendoff for a rival.

GS: I averted nothing.

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