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Hockey Mailbag: On the tournament, BC’s power play, and more!

COLLEGE HOCKEY: FEB 10 Beanpot Tournament - Consolation Game - Boston College v Harvard Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello hockey friends, happy Wednesday! We are just a few days away from the second to last weekend of men’s Hockey East regular season play, and from the start of BC women’s hockey’s postseason.

Let’s get to some questions, and talk about the Eagles and the hockey picture down the stretch:

1. “So, how does the Hockey East Power Index work?” (We got a few variants of this question, and someone also posted it as a Fanpost on the innocent hope that someone would actually have an answer).

If you’ve been on Twitter at all to see us griping, unfortunately you know that the answer to this question is “we don’t know.”

And in fact, based on conversations with sources connected to other programs in Hockey East, it sounds like the coaches haven’t even been told the full details of how the Hockey East Power Index is calculated.

In the words of our resident math geek Grant Salzano:

“From what I understand, it’s sort of a modified version of the RPI that uses a different way of calculating strength of schedule (essentially your opponent’s HEPI rating is how it’s calculated, instead of your opponent’s winning percentage and opponent’s opponent’s winning percentage as it is in RPI). From there, there’s a home-away weighing, as well as weighing for overtime and shootout wins.

We can make guesses as to what those weights are, but, unfortunately, no one at Hockey East has been willing to share that with the public. So here we are.​”​

I would like to be able to tell you that if BC runs the table in its final 3-4ish games, they will finish first, but we really don’t know, especially with BU likely playing more games than BC down the stretch.

2. Do a men’s hockey Bracketology!

We already did!, though it is dated by a week.

Not a ton has changed from a big-picture BC perspective from the last bracketology:

-We still figure Hockey East will get 4 teams in if the season ended today (BC, UMass, BU, Providence). Northeastern will need to beat some top-end teams and UConn will probably need to go on a little run to have a shot; everyone else is at-large or bust. Providence is definitely surfing the bubble and their fate will depend on how the committee evaluates HEA vs other conferences. BU needs to keep winning.

-I guess you can never say never without Pairwise, but BC is pretty much a lock to make it barring something truly bizarre and catastrophic.

-If BC wins Hockey East, we strongly suspect they will be either #1 or #2 overall seed.

-The biggest change from last week is that we now know Albany NY will be the fourth regional site, replacing Manchester NH (we speculated it might be Springfield MA and put BC there in our bracketology last week).

It doesn’t really make much of a difference whether a top-ranked BC takes the bus to Albany or Bridgeport, which are fairly comparable distancewise, and there won’t be much of a ‘home advantage’ anywhere.

3. How will overtime work for the NCAA tournament?

Good question on the heels of our post complaining about the OT rules but never fear - the OT procedure is the same as it ever was for the NCAA tournament, unlimited 5 on 5 OT until someone wins.

One bummer to confirm, because there is still some confusion over this, is that as of now, the NCAA rules committee has in fact killed unlimited OT at the Beanpot moving forward. They’ve pretty much mandated 5 minutes of 3 on 3 and then a shootout. Let’s hope this is fixed before next year.

4. How realistic are BC women’s hockey’s chances of winning a trophy this year?

They’re not a favorite, but they’re not a longshot either.

As the #2 seed in the Hockey East tournament, in order to win it, they’ll have to pretty much do stuff they’ve already done all season — keep winning against teams at the bottom/middle of the Hockey East pack, and then go win a game against Northeastern at Matthews Arena.

BC will certainly be an underdog at Northeastern against a team that has national title hopes and a ton of talent, but the Eagles did in fact win at NU the last time they played there, and looked good doing it, completing a season series split with the Huskies.

The national tournament is pretty much the same dynamic. There isn’t one king kong team the way there has been in the past, where BC would go in to a game against Wisconsin as such heavy underdogs that they would need a miracle to win.

BC’s final weekend against BU was “meh,” blowing a lead at home and grinding out a road win, but in general the Eagles have played very well, and have only lost one game since the halfway point of the season. They certainly have a shot at making some noise.

5. BC’s powerplay seems to finally be clicking - what changed?

If only there were a more detailed tactical explanation to offer beyond “they have Alex Newhook back” we would offer it up, but really, he’s been a total game-changer for the power play unit.

BC has played in 19 games this year and has 12 power play goals.

In the six games over three weekends since Alex Newhook returned, BC has 8 of their 12 total power play goals *for the entire season*!

Of those 8 goals, Newhook was on the ice for 7 of them, and has scored 4 of them.

Given how many good players BC has, it’s a little odd that it took one player specifically to go from having one of the worst power plays in the nation (4 for 48, 8.3%) to a very good one (8 for 25, 32%), but that’s what has happened so far.

If you take a look back at Saturday’s game against Maine, on BC’s first power play they didn’t score, but had a ton of opportunities from all over the ice as the defense did their best to key in on and shut down Newhook.

Later in the game, Newhook was able to curl back and unleash the kind of open shot from up high that nobody is going to stop.

BC has lots of good players, but few with that specific skillset - and in particular, neither Matt Boldy nor Logan Hutsko necessarily thrived in the role of rotating up to the point on the power play with the option of either using their shot or moving the puck back down low.

Putting Newhook into the power play setup lets him drift up high and use his shot and his maneuverability, opening up space and drawing the attention of defenders, while letting Matt Boldy focus on getting down low and using his playmaking skills and ability to drive to the net.

If the power play keeps up as a useful weapon for BC, it will more than make up for the depth dropoff BC has suffered from losing Logan Hutsko and having some of the freshmen hit a bit of a wall in production.