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BC Hockey vs. Lowell: Q&A With Lowell Sun's Shawn Hutcheon

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A look ahead to Friday night's Hockey East season opener between the Eagles and the River Hawks

Justin K. Aller

BC hockey takes to the ice for the first time in real competition Friday night against UMass-Lowell in a big early season Hockey East game. The Lowell Sun's Shawn Hutcheon answered some questions about the new-look UML team to help get us ready for the game:

1. Expectations for Lowell seem to be kind of a mixed bag - on the one hand, they lost the most successful generation of players in program history. On the other hand, the coaching staff seems to have put in place a system that has made Lowell a force to be reckoned with in Hockey East. What are expectations like for this season for those closest to the program?

The expectations of those closest to the UML team are to see the team make steady progress each and every day. There are quite a few new faces in the line up and it will take a little time for everyone to get on the same page. The upperclassmen have done an outstanding job in teaching the systems to the new players and what it means to be a River Hawk.

2. Last year, Lowell became well known for playing an outstanding defensive system with multiple layers, combined with the ability to quickly counter attack and hit teams on the break. Do you think players will be expected to play in to a similar style this year, or was that more a result of the players the team had, with things likely to change this year, style-wise?

Head Coach Norm Bazin recruits players who can play "Lowell hockey." He will tweak his systems a bit from year to year but the new players are expected to play the aggressive, defense first, style of play that Lowell has become known for playing.

3. What's the state of the goaltending battle right now? On a related note, why do you think it is that Lowell continues to churn out outstanding goaltenders? It seems like they're constantly putting goalies into the NHL.

It looks as if UMass transfer Kevin Boyle will get the bulk of the playing time in goal for UML. He's a junior and will be backed up by two freshmen (Jeff Smith and Olli Kalkaja). To me, the reason the River Hawks put so many goaltenders into professional hockey is because of the coaching they receive while at the school. They undergo the same style of coaching as pro goaltenders and that has them very well prepared after they move on from college hockey.

4. Which freshmen are expected to be key contributors this year? Has Lowell experienced a recruiting bump from their recent success?

The freshmen who have made good impressions thus far have been defenseman Tyler Mueller and forward C.J. Smith. They come to Lowell with very good hockey resumes and could become two of the top rookies in Hockey East this season. I believe UML has seen a bump in recruiting due to its back to back Hockey East championships. As everyone at BC knows, players want to play for winning teams and UML is attracting some of the top recruits now.

5. BC struggled on the penalty kill on Saturday night against University of New Brunswick in an exhibition game. Lowell's power play was pretty good last year (20.8%, 3rd in the conference). How much have they lost from their power play units? Is this expected to be a strength of the team?

UML lost power play specialists Joe Pendenza, Christian Folin, Derek Arnold, and Scott Wilson. Going into this season, they will be replaced by veterans, who know the system and are expected to step right in and see that the power play remains a successful one.

6. Last year, UMass-Lowell moved to D1 for all sports. What will be (and have been) the positive and negative impacts of this move on UML hockey specifically?

Moving into DI has been a blessing to the school in that, it certainly has enhanced recruiting for all of its teams. On the other hand, there is a period of adjustment taking place within the teams. The athletes are growing into the promotion, if you will and could see some success this year. The athletic department has worked long and hard to see UML become a full-fledged DI school and are very proud to have achieved that status. It certainly has helped with recruiting for the hockey team as every athlete wants to be associated with a DI program.

7. Now to put you on the spot: what do you think we'll see happen on Friday night? And how far do you think BC and Lowell can go this season? Both lose a ton from the rosters that produced a heavyweight bout for the hockey world back in March.

I totally agree with you. Both hockey teams lost a boatload of talent from last year but each have replaced what was lost with high end recruits and in Lowell's case, transfers. The UML/BC rivalry has become one of the fiercest in all of college hockey and I expect it to remain alive and well for years to come. Also, I expect both teams to finish in the top five of Hockey East and return to the NCAA tournament.