Our hockey writers share their thoughts on the 2017-18 season after a disappointing end to the year...
How would you rate this season and why?
Laura: I would give this year a B-. We all knew that this was going to a rebuilding year, especially once we learned that Eeli Tolvanen was not going to be joining the team. At the beginning of the season, I predicted that the team would be a little better than people expected and would be an NCAA bubble team - and both of those things are true. However, I also said that for this season to be a success I would want the Eagles to a) make the Hockey East semifinals, b) make the Beanpot final, and c) make the NCAA Tournament ... and BC only went 1-for-3 on those. Despite that, I think Coach York and his staff did a solid job with a young team that does not have a standout star player.
Arthur: I’m going to rate this season a C+, with the caveat that I’m grading this on a BC hockey level curve and, relative to other seasons, this is a disappointment. However, this season was on the high level of the bottom of the curve, because the team achieved a lot more than I think we all expected. To barely miss out on the NCAA tournament is nothing to sneeze at, especially with this roster. However, going winless out-of-conference was really disappointing, and any season that doesn’t end up in an NCAA tournament berth is disappointing. I’m sorry, but it is.
Steve: I’ll give it a C. Walking away with a Hockey East regular season trophy is nice, even in a down year for the conference, but there were just too many lows for me to really call this a successful season. From the ugly start to the season, to the Ice Vegas Tournament, to another last place finish in the Beanpot, there was a lot from this season that just didn’t go well. To be sure, the last few weeks of the season were great, closing with six straight wins before bowing out to BU in the semifinals made for a strong stretch run that again, did end in a trophy. But I was hoping to see a little bit more from the team earlier in the year, and for a number of reasons, that didn’t happen.
Peter: I am going to rate this season a solid C. It was a very uncharacteristic squad for York to work with this year given that there were no true seniors on the team. Going into the season, I knew that BC was not going to have an extremely noteworthy year. Nevertheless, the team flashed a lot of promising upside especially with respects to the incoming class. Additionally, the team looked extremely poised and well-matched with the rest of the Hockey East teams and kept many games interesting and winnable. Furthermore, I have a lot of optimism with this team in the coming years and I think that they can become quite a dangerous weapon in the NCAA.
Grant: This season’s probably B-. Winning the regular season title is no small achievement, regardless of the fact that the league had a (very) down year. Hardware is still hardware, and the ability to play a conference season’s worth of strong hockey and come away with that trophy is not nothing.
Still, it was tough to see BC look outclassed against some of the top teams. Going winless out of conference was pretty shocking, but I guess that was a perfect storm product of having a tough non-conference schedule and falling on our faces at the worst times.
What is the biggest positive takeaway from this season?
Laura: I think just the heart and grit that this team has. These guys played in some rough games, and you could see when they got tired, but they kept fighting to the end. This will serve the Eagles well as this team ages up and gains continues to adjust to the pace of NCAA hockey.
Arthur: There are some wonderful young players that are going to mature so well in this program. Logan Hutsko is a legit player that I hope continues to develop. Also for what it’s worth, with all the struggles BC had on offense this season, the Eagles were still 17th in Corsi For %, so the Eagles still managed to both maintain possession and generate chances better than their opponents.
Steve: Some of the kids can really play, and all of them should be here for a while. Logan Hutsko is a stud and Jacob Tortora never looked out of place playing in the top six. I had half forgotten that Chis Grando was a freshman because of how solid a player he was in all three zones and by how much Jerry York clearly trusted him. Aapeli Rasanen is going to be an absolute force down low after an off-season of training and even Casey Carreau and Michael Karow flashed some signs of potential as the season went on. There may not be any Hobey Baker winners in this group, but there is certainly the sign of a core that could do some real damage going forward.
Peter: By far it was the freshman class. For having this be their first year in a highly competitive hockey division, the newbies appeared to adjust quite rapidly and the team chemistry looked to strengthen very well as the season progressed.
Grant: It seems like this is a team with a will to win and good heart. Early in the season, it felt they were out of it if they were losing in the third period, but we saw a good number of third period comebacks. If the team sticks around and no one heads to the pros, an infusion of young talent plus a good experienced core should give us something to really look forward to.
What concerns you the most for next season / what do you think this team needs to work on the most?
Laura: BC needs every single player on this team to make progress in the offseason. Shooting and passing accuracy needs to improve, defense needs to get tighter, and goaltending needs to get more consistent. Without an offensive superstar, everybody needs to pull their weight and this team can’t have anybody sliding backwards in terms of conditioning or development.
Arthur: Talent. This season was a valiant effort for this team with the talent they had, but a lot of its shortfalls came from just a general talent disparity, especially against some of the stronger out-of-conference opponents. But the fact remains that there is a talent disparity that BC needs to focus on.
Steve: It’s an obnoxiously easy answer, but the team needs to score more. Up and down the lineup, there just weren’t enough players who were consistently threatening to score, and that played a major role in the early and mid season struggles that the team had. Christopher Brown had 8 goals on the year, JD Dudek had 7. Both played basically the entire season on the top few lines and both got powerplay time, but Brown’s point total fell by eight from his sophomore campaign while Dudek’s dropped by six. BC couldn’t afford to have two of their top forwards have down years, especially with so many freshman being asked to play and contribute from day one. For a team that has had some truly prolific offenses in recent seasons, hopefully BC can find more ways to score next year.
Peter: This team still needs more non-conference exposure. While the team did get some big wins in the Hockey East this season, I still think this team will struggle against some upper-tier out of conference opponents (i.e. Denver, St. Cloud, Wisconsin etc.). The team made pretty much all of their division matches competitive, but the second the team faced a squad outside the east coast the team looked like they had never put on skates before. If this team wants a run at the NCAA championship in the upcoming seasons, they are going to have to get more exposure to how the rest of the NCAA operates.
Grant: The lack of a clear elite top-end go-to guy was a concern. The teams that had those guys were able to handle us pretty well, and we didn’t have that counter-attack. The incoming freshman class looks promising, but those young players are still question marks. And given our history of the last few seasons, we need to make sure those guys even make it to campus to start with.
What is your favorite memory from this season?
Laura: The 4-1 win at Northeastern. Everyone else decided to go freeze and watch BC football at Fenway, especially since the Eagles were not favored to beat Northeastern. So I went to the hockey game by myself (sad!) but then got to watch the Eagles totally dominate the Huskies and it was magical.
Arthur: Beating Providence in the early part of the season was a big deal, and I think it gave a lot of us some hope for the season.
Steve: Logan Hutsko’s individual effort goal against Maine in BC’s 6-3 win. Goal of the season that showcased everything that should have BC fan’s excited about his future in just a few seconds of game time. Speed, strength, and hands were all on display and the goal deserved its spot on Sport Center’s top 10.
Peter: Although they lost, the first match of the Battle of Comm Ave versus BU at Conte was a fantastic hockey game from both sides. Just a pure, psychical and classic hockey match that was entertaining from start to finish. Not to mention it was the 275th meeting between the crosstown rivals, just to add a little more vintage flair to the ambience.
Grant: This is tough, because there aren’t that many super-exciting moments this year. The two late season overtime wins over Merrimack and Lowell are the big ones – so having to pick one, I’ll go with the Lowell win. It’s not too often that you start getting up out of your seat to leave because the game is just about over when out of nowhere with just seconds to go you pull off a miracle, out of nowhere goal. That was a pretty cool moment.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of the roundtable tomorrow and make sure to share your thoughts on the season in the comments!