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Hockey Banter, Week VIII: Unmitigated Disaster

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Though to be fair, only the cool teams lose to Holy Cross

Graham Beck, BC Heights Sports

Joseph Gravellese: Okay. Let me get a few distinctions out of the way really quickly so I can properly express my opinion on last Friday's game.

1. There have been plenty of times through the years when I've seen BC play a bad hockey game. For whatever reason, they didn't have their best game. Or maybe they're in the midst of a slump and just can't seem to get it together.

But there have been very, very few times where I've actually wanted to hurl from watching the game, and I almost felt compelled to leave early. I can count those occasions on one hand, and this was one of those times.

2. I think fans tend to overuse terms like "not showing up," "bringing it," etc. I think that most of the time, questioning a team's effort is unfair. I understand that a game at Agganis Arena is going to have a different intensity level to it than a game against, say, Harvard... or Holy Cross. I get that it's a long season, and that given the vagaries of human performance, performance is going to vary from time to time.

But........ it became even more perfectly clear from BC's third period dominance that they simply did not come to play in the first two periods.

I don't know if there was some holiday hangover going on, or if they thought they could just show up and win without having to do much of anything, or what. But I've got to call it like I see it: they didn't show up. If they did, they would have won that game easily, even playing poorly. Period.

To say that's the worst team I've ever seen beat BC is a major understatement. Holy Cross deserves credit for playing a great game, but that simply shouldn't happen.

That being said -- it's November, so hopefully this can be a teaching moment for the team. They certainly seemed rightly frustrated when their late bid for a tying goal failed. Hopefully they carry that feeling with them, because they've got a huge weekend coming up.

Grant Salzano: I think what we're seeing is the result of having a young team with high-end talent. There is going to be inherent inconsistency from that more than you would have out of your typical team.

JG: I'm not going to let that comment slide by, though.

"Inconsistency" can account for getting pasted at Alfond. "Inconsistency" can account for, like, losing to Vermont. Not Holy Cross, though. That was an egg.

GS: Oh it was definitely an egg, no question. A rotting, revolting, disgusting egg. But like you said, I think they thought they could show up and just coast to an easy win.

In fact I would go so far as to say the Army game is the reason we lost to Holy Cross.

JG: I kind of had that thought.

I guess as fans we were all thinking the game would go the same way the Army game did. RPI suggests Holy Cross was a lot closer to Army than to a decent Hockey East team.

GS: That Army game was so dominant, and the team, to some extent, actually got scolded by some fans for being "too good" in that game.

I don't think that's the entire story, but do I think it was a factor? Absolutely. Because look at what happened the last 10 minutes of the game. If they play like that for 60 we have another 11-0 game.

JG: Without a doubt.

If they gave half of that in the first period, they win the game.

And I hate to say stuff like that. But in this case, it's 100% true.

GS: Now there are issues with the D in general, really. But not issues that should have us losing a game to Holy Cross. But to your point, I think it really was a good teaching experience. It was astonishing to me the effort that they put into the last ten minutes.

I mean, guys were skating like men possessed going to pucks along the boards.

JG: And the frustration they showed when the final whistle blew -- I haven't seen them look that frustrated after a regular season loss... maybe ever. And rightfully so.

GS: Good. Hopefully they were pissed.

JG: And hopefully they remember how pissed they were. Because that should never happen again.

BC is now stealthily on a two-game skid. Everyone's still feeling good for now, but we've got a gigantic two game series with UNH coming up and if that doesn't go well, we'll have three weeks to stew over it.

GS: They aren't going to play "mad" against UNH, I don't believe in that sort if thing. But the effort they showed in the 3rd period only to come up short... they are going to remember what "playing hockey" feels like.

I cannot imagine having to sit through three hockeyless weeks after a 4 game losing streak. Nuh uh.

JG: Indeed. It would be like watching the end of the Syracuse football game on loop.


JG: So... this is serious business.

This is BC's only crack against a very good UNH team this year, and I expect it to be one of the most intense series of the year. Since the BU and Notre Dame games are split up, I'm guessing this will probably be *the* most intense home-and-home of the year.

UNH is finally playing the way I've expected them to play all along, coming off a two game sweep of Colorado College.

GS: UNH was my early pick for conference dark horse, and for a while they made me look like an idiot. Sweeping CC in Colorado is nice, but CC isn't really all that great.

UNH is pretty stacked with talent though. This should be a good couple of games.

JG: Now, you mentioned there are some issues with the defense and other things that go beyond simply laying an egg against Holy Cross.

Let's talk about it.

I think Teddy Doherty needs to be given a chance to get some more playing time.

I don't mean to pick on anyone in particular, because the whole game sucked. But MacLeod and Linell were both minus on the day, and they're both down near the bottom of the team's plus-minus chart (MacLeod is +1, Linell is even).

The only minus players, in case you're wondering: Spiro is -1 in 1 game, and Silk is -1 in 12 games.

I don't think it would hurt to see Doherty spell one or the other in coming games.

GS: Well, that's a pretty big disparity from our top guys to or bottom guys. And I'm really not sure how you fix it?

I guess give Doherty a shot but... I mean honestly, I just don't know.

At least we can score almost at will.

JG: Well, you can't "fix" it. No team is going to be equal from top to bottom.

But I do think Doherty showed some promise last year, but he's only really played this year after injuries and suspensions. It's odd.

He does have a +2 in 5 games, though, sample size.

If you haven't played around with the stats page on College Hockey Inc., you should. As I look at the defensemen, something that I need to give Linell props for: He's #3 among BC d-men in shots (23) and #4 in blocks (16).

Nobody questioned his ability to contribute on the offensive side of things, but the shot blocking stat surprised me.

GS: #4 in blocks isn't that surprising though, when you factor in the fact that the bottom couple of guys tend to rotate in and out of the lineup.

JG: That is a decent point.

What's striking is that Matheson and McCoshen are way, way ahead of the field in both offensive and defensive categories, with 29 and 22 blocks, respectively, to go with their d-corps-leading 31 and 30 shots.

GS: Well, that makes sense too, seeing as how they are far and away our best D-man options.

JG: And then the ultimate defensive question is in goal, and it wasn't a happy return for Demko.

We're right back where we started from after both guys gave up 5 goals in their last appearance; they'll both get a crack against UNH, I think, and it will be a big week in the goalie battle. With Billett at .911 and Demko at .899 after the last two games, now neither one is particularly eye-popping statistically. They're 12th and 13th in Hockey East, respectively.

So that remains wide open.

GS: Yikes. Well, I think it's more on the D than anything. The eyeball test on both suggests they'll be okay.

JG: Kinda. Shots on goal don't tell the WHOLE story, but BC is 4th in HE in terms of least shots allowed per game. (Though that may be skewed by the Army game.) And yet they're both suddenly low on that list.

I do agree that the eyeball test says they're both good goalies. But it would be nice to see one of them steal us a game. You shouldn't need to count on Demko standing on his head to beat Holy Cross, but if he did, maybe BC wins on Friday.

GS: We'll see how they look this weekend.

On the other hand, the women's hockey D has slowly and quietly started to tighten things up. In last 9 games have allowed 1, 1, 1, 3, 1, 2, 2, 2, and 1 goals.

JG: Indeed -- that was an absolutely crucial series against Cornell. They HAD to come back with at least a win. And now they pretty much HAVE to beat a very good Harvard team to keep the at-large hopes alive.

The only ranked teams BC is likely to face the rest of the year are Harvard and BU.

GS: Fortunately that should be 4 games, depending on how the Beanpot shakes out.

Right now their goal should be just to face an eastern team in round 1 of the tournament. Avoid Minnesota until the finals and let the chips fall where they may.

JG: Uh, right now, their goal should be to just make the tournament, bro.

BC is currently tied for 9th, with limited opportunities to face highly ranked teams. If they lose to Harvard and BU in the next two, they could be forced to play their way in at the HEA tournament.

GS: Well honestly, if they can't beat BU in the Hockey East tournament to get in at a minimum, they don't even deserve it.

JG: Well, good point.

GS: Hockey East is borderline B1G this year (See what I did there?).

JG: But, BU is not a bad team. I know, you say that they suck every year. But they've been in the Frozen Four what, two out of the last three years? And have made the national title game twice.

So we can't just assume they will be a pushover in March.

But as it is: yes, it's very realistic to think that BC can get up to 6th or 7th.

GS: They didn't suck the last few years but their roster was supposed to take a huge hit this year. Much like Quinnipiac's men's team, it just DOES NOT COMPUTE.

JG: They'll need to pass QU, BU and Robert Morris. Doable.

And that would give them Harvard or Cornell in the NCAA QFs. Two teams we know they can compete with.

So the #GetThatStar quest isn't over. But the recent upward trend will have to continue on defense. We know they can score goals.

GS: I think the month long break will do them good. Skarupa has been getting hacked like crazy. She must be pretty beat up.

JG: I also think that mentally, things got off the rails for them a bit after the UNH game. They weren't playing with the confidence we saw in the first few games.

So hopefully they can go into the break with some momentum and then come back really ready to go for the second half.

Plus, it'll be your birthday for the game against Harvard. So they're pretty much legally obligated to win, I think.

GS: Indeed it is. Hockey doubleheader birthdays are the best birthdays.

JG: Until next time...