The Boston College men’s hockey season has already been full of ups and downs, as Greg Brown’s Eagles lost some rough games, but ended the semester with a pair of ties against a ranked Providence team and then a completely bonkers 9-6 win over a ranked BU team on Jerry York night. Here’s how we’re feeling about the season so far - let us know what you’re thinking in the comments!
How does BC’s record right now compare to your expectations coming into the season?
Laura: They’re about where I thought they would be. In my heart, I always believe this team is going to win the majority of their games, but realistically I expected them to hover just above .500. However, I never would have expected that 9-6 win over BU to end the semester!
Curtis: Right around where I thought they might be! 6th in Hockey East, competitive with most teams in the conference without any bad losses. Hockey East is very strong this season and they are holding their own, which is pretty impressive.
Steven: Pretty much right in line with what I was thinking. Maybe you want to see one or two of those games that went to a shootout turn into an overtime win but a record just above .500 felt about right a few months ago and it feels right now.
Maithri: I think this is probably right where I expected them. Overall their 6-5-4 record seems pretty on par for a team I expected to be Just Okay this season.
How are you feeling as the team heads into the second half?
Laura: Cautiously optimistic that their record will stay around where it is. There are some really tough teams coming up, but also some games against the dregs of Hockey East that should be winnable. And that BU win gives me hope that BC could pull off some upsets, especially when Cutter Gauthier returns from the WJC.
Curtis: That BU win has got me pretty optimistic. This team has showed a lot of grit and I think they can give almost anyone a good game. I don’t think they’re quite a tournament team, though.
Steven: You kind of have to feel at least a bit optimistic coming off that 9-6 win over BU right? I don’t think anyone is looking at this team as a title contender, but they’ve mostly gotten better as the season has gone on so maybe they’ve got a bit of a run in them in the second half.
Maithri: I feel okay! I’ve seen a lot of growth from this team in the past few weeks — something I’d expect as the freshmen get acclimated to college hockey and as the entire team gets acclimated to a new head coach. I am really interested (perhaps... cautiously excited?) to see how this team performs in the second half with this experience under their belt — I do think they’ll be playing their best hockey in February.
Has your definition of what would make this season a success changed since preseason?
Laura: At the beginning of the season I said that I didn’t have a specific number of wins that would make this season a success for me - I just wanted to see consistent improvement. And I think we have definitely seen that, particularly on the power play. So as long as there are no backslides, I’m happy.
Curtis: Not really, especially given the strength of the conference this year. Finishing somewhere between 5-7 in conference standings was my barometer for success and they are on track to do that.
Steven: Not really. I said in the preseason that I’d be happy if they could push for a top four spot in Hockey East and they’re competing for that right now. It’s not the loftiest of aspirations but I still think it’s a fair goal for this team.
Maithri: I don’t think so! In our preseason roundtable I said that my definition of what would make this season a success was that the games felt exciting and energetic. This team does look better than I had expected in the preseason, but I think that would still be my baseline for success.
Who is your MVP so far this season (and why is it Cutter Gauthier)?
Laura: I mean, Gauthier came right in and started making an impact with almost no adjustment period. He leads the team in offense and all of his goals are beauties.
Curtis: This man is instant offense. He can score a goal at any moment and change the dynamic of a game. With a struggling defense, his scoring is much needed to keep the team afloat at times.
Steven: I was more excited to see Cutter play than I’ve been for any BC freshman in a while and I still don’t think I realized how good he was going to be.
Maithri: Yes it’s 100% Cutter Gauthier — he’s seriously SO fun to watch. There’s almost always a guarantee that he’ll either score, assist, or generate a high quality chance when he’s on the ice. It’s really incredible how quickly he’s adjusted to NCAA hockey and how much he elevates the team. I’m excited to see how he elevates his game at World Juniors and how he improves next half.
This is a bit of a cop out, but other than Gauthier I’d say the entire junior class is having a pretty good start to the year. Nesterenko, Kuntar, Ambrosio, and Powell are having especially good seasons so far, and I don’t think I can choose just one of them as a second-MVP. We knew that the juniors would have to really step up this season, and I think they’ve answered that call for the most part.
What player has surprised you the most in a good way so far?
Laura: Eamon Powell has stuck out to me as someone who has been improving over the season. He’s picked up some points, is very speedy, and when he’s having a good game he’s all over the ice.
Curtis: Hreschuk and Gustafsson are two underclassmen that are already becoming solid defensive rotation guys. Gustafsson is especially impressive as a freshman, while Hreschuk will likely be the best defenseman on the team next season (if he isn’t already now).
Steven: Eamon Powell has looked like the best defenseman on this team almost on a nightly basis. It’s very nice to see him bounce back after a bit of a difficult sophomore season.
Maithri: Lukas Gustafsson. Not only has he been having a great season defensively, but he also is fourth on the team in scoring with 12 points in 15 games. I feel like he is quietly having a great freshman season and I’m very excited to see how he continues to improve this year!
What is your biggest concern with this year’s team?
Laura: I mean, I’d like to see more consistency on defense and passing and goaltending, and I’d like to see less of players getting visibly tired as the game goes on, but I wouldn’t say I am concerned by any of that. I don’t love to see it, but I think it is just indicative of this rebuilding process. This roster is playing how I would expect them to, and I am confident that they’re building a good base for next season.
Curtis: Defense is still a huge issue. They just don’t have the depth right now. They’ve got about 4 quality defensemen (Warren, Hreschuk, E. Powell, Gustafsson) and then a whole bunch of nothingness, and even those quality players have their flaws. It’s something that can be fixed over time with recruiting and roster turnover, but for this season it’s going to continue to be rough.
Steven: More than 20% of their goals for the season came in their 9-6 win over BU. There’s no good reason to think that they won’t continue to struggle to score as the season goes on, especially with Cutter missing a few games for World Juniors when the schedule picks back up.
Maithri: Unfortunately, still the defense. There are far too many defensive breakdowns, especially in their own end. I’m sure they’ll begin to clean it up, especially under Greg Brown, but it’s been a concerning trend in several games this first half.
How happy are you with Greg Brown as a coach so far?
Laura: I was always pro-Greg Brown, so I am biased here, but I think he’s doing everything he needs to do. The team is showing improvement, particularly in areas like special teams. They have had ups and downs, but have played competitive games against ranked teams, including the wild win against BU. Brown seems to have a good rapport with them players, and Paul Carey seems to have been a good addition to the staff as well. I think Coach Brown has this team headed in the right direction.
Curtis: Extremely happy. For one, the powerplay looks unrecognizable from the past few years. I am no longer *worried* when we have a man advantage. Imagine that! He also has the team playing with more urgency and hustle these past few weeks, especially against BU and PC. It’s not going to be a drastic overnight improvement, but his tenure is looking very promising.
Steven: Reasonably happy so far. He’s made some much needed adjustments to the power play that has them looking dangerous pretty consistently. He juggled the lines in a way that really seemed to work against BU and the team has been able to grind out some results against good opponents the past few weeks. It’s not pretty, but they’ve only lost one game in their last eight, so progress is at least being made.
Maithri: I’m pretty happy with him! The team has been playing better hockey in the recent weeks leading up to the semester break, which I feel like a testament to the players responding and adjusting well to him. I think he’s been steadily improving as a coach as well, and it’s great to see how he makes adjustments either between games or even mid-game to give the team a bit of a spark.
Which song from your Spotify Wrapped playlist best describes how you feel about the season so far?
Laura: This is difficult because my Spotify Wrapped is mostly just Taylor Swift and angry girl music, but I’ll go with Hard to Kill by Bleached because the team has been showing that they’re not going to be easy to beat? I don’t know.
Curtis: Brightside by The Lumineers
Steven: I don’t have a Spotify Wrapped, please don’t bully.
Maithri: In honor of Dua Lipa being the GOAT I’ll say Levitating. The lyrics don’t really apply at all but this team has made me happy and that song makes me happy.