For the second straight weekend, the Boston College men’s hockey team had to settle for a split in a series with a Hockey East opponent that, at least on paper, they probably should have been able to sweep. BC took down Merrimack on Friday night by a pretty convincing 4-1 score, but Merrimack bounced back on Saturday to knock off the Eagles 4-3. We’re now 10 games into the season, so it’s not really that early anymore, and we’re starting to get an idea of what is and isn’t working with this year’s team. So let’s take a quick look back at this past weekend and the first ten games as a whole and some of what we’ve learned to this point.
THIS MIGHT JUST BE WHO THEY ARE
So let’s start with a quick look at some of the more noteworthy results of this season. So far, BC has had a few pretty decent looking results with wins over Northeastern and Denver to go along with a season opening shootout win over Quinnipiac. They also have some losses that range from frustrating (the last two weekends against Vermont and Merrimack) to downright baffling (the 6-2 loss to Bentley back in mid October).
On the one hand, there’s still a long way to go in the season, and with so many new faces on the team, it’s entirely possible that they can continue to build some chemistry and make a push later in the season. Two of the defensemen playing significant minutes are freshman and there’s a number of grad transfers that are still probably adapting to a new style of play - this might just be something that takes some time.
On the other hand...isn’t this kind of exactly what we expected? Or maybe should have expected? BC had two game breaking forwards last year in Matt Boldy and Alex Newhook. They also had a goalie in Spencer Knight who could steal them a game on basically any night. All three of those guys are gone, and while the team did its best to replace them, that was always going to be a nearly impossible task. Guys like Jack McBain and Marc McLaughlin are playing what might be the best hockey of their careers and Eric Dop has had his moments in net, but it’s hard to watch this team and not notice a drop off in talent at the top of the roster.
So maybe that’s just the kind of team we’ve got this season. They’ll have some moments, but they might not have the consistency that we’ve come to expect of the last few seasons. Again, we’re only 10 games in, but it seems like there have been enough uncharacteristic losses that we can probably say they are more than just blips on the radar.
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Something of a positive surprise through ten games this season would have to be the power play, which has been clicking pretty well after some real struggles over the last few years. So far, the Eagles are 7-for-29 on the power play, good for just under a 25 percent clip.
One player that I think deserves some praise for that strong start would be Jack St. Ivany, who has four assists on the man advantage so far this season. I thought St. Ivany struggled on the power play last season, both with his puck movement and in some of his decision making, but he’s certainly taken a step forward this year. St. Ivany is also impressively at a point per game pace right now, with a goal and nine assists in his ten games.
The penalty kill, however, has hit a bit of a rough patch. They’re conceding at basically the same rate that the power play is scoring (7 goals allowed in 30 opportunities) which would be well above last year’s 86 percent kill rate. Some of that is goaltending (I swear I’m not trying to pile on Eric Dop), but they’ve also been letting up more easy zone entries to let their opponents get set up, which is a bit of a concern. BC’s penalty kill usually does a great job at slowing teams down in the neutral zone, but that hasn’t happened quite as much this year. At the same time, three of the power play goals that they have allowed came in the same game against Vermont, so maybe it’s not quite as bad as it seems. I think they’ll improve a bit going forward, but I don’t know if they’ll look quite as dominant as they did last season.
DEPTH SCORING A CONCERN?
BC’s top two lines are scoring at about the kind of clip that you’d want to see, and they’ve gotten some decent contribution from their defensemen, but the bottom six hasn’t really chipped in much to this point, with the exception of Patrick Giles. Giles himself has five goals, while the rest of the bottom six has combined for two. Mike Posma got the first goal of his collegiate career on Friday night while Matt Argentina has the only other goal from way back in the second game of the season. Sam Sternschein has been kept off the board while skating with the third line, and the fourth line from this weekend of Casey Carreau, Connor Joyce, and Gentry Shamburger have combined for just two assists on the season.
That’s a bit concerning, even with Giles getting off to a hot start. The best BC teams usually has four lines that can all chip in, but we haven’t really seen that this year. There’s plenty of time for that to change, but it’s at least worth monitoring going forward.