In anticipation of Friday's Boston College vs. Colorado College first round NCAA Tournament game, I was fortunate enough to swap notes with Joe Paisley. Joe is in his second year covering college hockey for the Colorado Springs Gazette (Air Force and Colorado College), and writes for the Gazette's CC Hockey blog Eye of the Tigers.
In exchange, I answered some questions on BC for the Gazette.
BC Interruption: Colorado College finished the WCHA regular season with a .500 record, and were one of the last teams into the NCAA Tournament field. What did CC have to do down the stretch to make the NCAAs? In other words, did the Tigers finish the season strong, or do just enough to get in?
Joe Paisley: They definitely finished strong which is good because they were in no position to back into the NCAAs like they did in 2007-08.
For the first time in recent memory, the Tigers started to play better hockey late in the season. They also played arguably their best game of the season in a 4-3 loss to No. 1 North Dakota in the WCHA Final Five semifinals in St. Paul.
Sophomore goalie Joe Howe showed the form that made him an INCH all-rookie goaltender and the Tigers used their speed on the forecheck to offset the usual size disadvantage on the NHL sheet. CC's home ice, World Arena, is an Olympic sheet.
BCI: What is the strength of this year's CC team? Who are the players that will cause the most problems for the BC defense on Friday?
JP: The overall team speed is an asset along with depth at forward. All four lines have shown an ability to score in different ways. Freshman Jaden Schwartz is as good as advertised. He has good vision, hands and savvy. He makes the guys around him better, especially the first power-play unit. Other players to look out for is Nick Dineen on face-offs, leading scorer Stephen Schultz and senior wing Tyler Johnson who looks to have healed from an earlier upper-body injury.
BCI: What do the Tigers have to do to be successful in this game?
JP: Use their speed on the forecheck to slow down the BC transition, force some turnovers and put pressure on Muse. That work by the forwards will keep the pressure off the four CC defensemen who log a lot of minutes.
That same speed needs to be used to penetrate to the front of the Eagles net where Dineen and Rylan Schwartz are most effective. Defenseman Gabe Guentzel gets a lot of assists on redirects, especially on the power play, which needs to click.
BCI: Shifting gears a bit. I've come out against the Big Ten Hockey Conference so I'm curious. As someone who covers a non-Big Ten WCHA program, your thoughts on the shifting college hockey landscape and the BTHC?
JP: Right now, with only Michigan in the NCAAs, it seems to be a tempest in a teapot. But this will give the Big Ten an edge in recruiting (TV does wonders), which is why the WCHA is talking about developing its own TV network, or more likely, a more regular TV deal with the regional networks. This will hurt the CCHA, unless that rumored "super conference" between the WCHA and CCHA takes root. I'm just hoping Huntsville holds on long enough to fill a hole in the CCHA and keep college hockey going in the South.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got in this one, and who is your pick to come out of the West Regional?
JP: On paper, BC has the edge, but CC is playing good hockey right now. It will be an upset for sure, but the Tigers look plenty capable of winning Friday and advancing to St. Paul. CC is my pick.
For more information on the Colorado College Tigers hockey program, be sure to check out the Colorado Springs Gazette blog Eye of the Tigers.