Somehow, someway, we’re already back to hockey season. The Eagles kick things off with a preseason game against Holy Cross on Saturday night before the regular season starts for real on the following Friday. There are some new faces, some reasons for optimism, and some big questions facing this team as puck drop rapidly approaches. Here’s a quick run down on some of the main things to watch for as the season gets started.
A NEW FACE BEHIND THE BENCH
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. For the first time since 1994, Jerry York will not be on the bench as the head coach of the Eagles. After York announced his retirement back in April, BC hired Greg Brown as his replacement, bringing back one of York’s former assistants to take his place.
For the short term, at least, this is probably going to feel a bit weird. For myself and many others, Jerry York is the only men’s hockey coach that we have known. It’s a bit unfair to call Greg Brown ‘the new guy’ here at BC - he played for the Eagles for three seasons and spent over a decade behind the bench as an assistant - but that’s kind of what happens when you replace someone who’s been on the job for almost three decades.
In terms of the on ice product, however, there’s plenty of reasons for optimism. Brown was a part of a number of successful BC team’s in his time as an assistant coach from 2004-2018 and he coached the Dubuque Fighting Saints to a 40-16-6 record in his first and only season as a head coach in the USHL. Brown is reportedly very good at managing the player-coach relationship and making in game adjustments based on the flow of the game. He also has three assistant and associate coaches (Mike Ayers, Brendan Buckley, and Brooks Orpik) who have been with the team for a while. It will be interesting to see just how quickly Brown is able to get his team buying into his style of play and just how far that can take them if they do.
AN EXCITING NEW PIECE UP FRONT
One of the things that BC was clearly missing last season was a truly elite player at either end of the ice. They had some nice pieces, and a few players had some great seasons, but they missed the game breaking talent that Alex Newhook and Matt Boldy had brought in previous seasons.
That shouldn’t be a problem this year if things go according to plan. Freshman Cutter Gauthier was the number 5 overall pick at the NHL draft back in July, joining Noah Hanifin and Bill Guerin as the all-time highest drafted Eagles.
Gauthier is a strong skater who can absolutely fire the puck. He had 34 goals and 31 assists in 54 games with the US National U18 team in 2021-22, but he is not an offense only player. He’s incredibly strong defensively and he’s working to become a full time center at the next level in order to get the most out of his 6’3” frame.
Gauthier has already said that he plans to be a one-and-done player for BC before going pro with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he’s talented enough that his one year as an Eagle should be absolutely electric to watch. He’s probably already the most talented player on the roster, and if he can put everything together while centering the first line, things could be pretty fun.
JUNIOR CLASS NEEDS TO TAKE A STEP
One of the keys to potential success that was brought up before last season was how much of a step some of the key sophomores could take. In one way or another, Nikita Nesterenko, Colby Ambrosio, Trevor Kuntar, and Eamon Powell had all impressed a bit as freshmen, and if they could take another step forward, BC could be in a decent position.
That’s not quite what happened, unfortunately, as Nesterenko, Ambrosio, and Powell all took steps backwards in terms of production and never really broke out in the ways that we may have been hoping. To his credit, Trevor Kuntar did actually double his points output from his freshman season, but even he was unable to put up more than nine goals on the year.
We all know what the story of last year was by this point. Offensively, it was Marc McLaughlin and Jack McBain (and to a lesser extent Patrick Giles) basically carrying the team on their back and hoping someone else could chip in at some point. With those three moving on, the Eagles are looking to replace almost half of the goals they scored last year, on a team that wasn’t scoring much to begin with. Gauthier will help with that, but we absolutely need more out of this group of players, or we could be getting more of the same story for a second year.
LAST RIDE FOR MARSHALL WARREN
It was absolutely easy to ignore last season with how hard this team was to watch at times, but Marshall Warren is an extremely fun player to watch. The senior defenseman nearly double his career best in points with 21 last season and has been named captain as he heads into his final year.
Warren is a very good player all around, but watching him skate up ice and lead the rush was one of the more enjoyable parts of the 2021-22 season. He’s noticably improved on his skating since his freshman season (when it was already considered a strength of his game) and he’s great with the puck on his stick. And once or twice a game, he’ll get the puck in the neutral zone with some space and decide he wants to see what he can do with it, and it’s always an exciting watch.
Warren has a pretty tough job ahead of him this year, as the leader of a defensive group with a whole lot of questions surrounding it, but he’s been a blast to watch for three seasons now, and hopefully he’s able to close things out just as strong.