Joseph Gravellese: Yesterday, I penned many words about Boston College hockey's newfound strength of... well, strength. And size, and physicality. Those qualities took a big hit on Tuesday when it was announced that Steve Santini will miss through December after undergoing wrist surgery.
Make no mistake, there's no way to sugarcoat it -- it's a really, really tough loss for BC to sustain right now. In terms of a defensive, stay-at-home presence, it's hard to do better than what Santini has brought to the table.
Grant Salzano: No doubt, it hurts. But I suppose we should consider outselves fortunate that it's so early in the year and that with the long winter break, he should (in theory) come back fully healthy and ready to go for the stretch run.
BC needs to hope that it stays sharp, though, and doesn't dig a hole.
JG: True, though what really hurts is that BC has a really, really difficult stretch of games coming up through the end of the first semester. As Brian pointed out yesterday, BU, UNH x2, Michigan and Minnesota are all upcoming soon.
GS: Well, it's going to be another thing for the team to fight through.
At least, if there's a silver lining, it's that our limited forward depth isn't really affected. It sounds like Linell will stay up front (thank God) with Travis Jeke stepping into the bottom of the defensive six.
JG: And step right up, Mr. Jeke. Like Cam Spiro, Jeke is another guy who I think definitely could have been a consistent starter throughout his career if given the opportunity. He's certainly going to be thrust into the spotlight now with all the big games coming up.
The Santini injury will have a ripple effect on the entire defense, though. York had paired Santini and Hanifin which seems to have really freed up Hanifin to rush and attack. It was a great combination, and now that will have to be reconfigured.
I haven't seen enough of Jeke to have a good feel for his tendencies - nobody has. But he strikes me as a good skater, and another one who isn't afraid to jump into the play. But there needs to be some balance there and players need to be responsible and smart in their own end.
GS: I want to know how much of a mean streak Jeke has.
Basically, I was hoping Santini would put Eichel through the glass next week. Someone is going to need to step up.
JG: Heh. Well, that might be necessary because he might otherwise be unstoppable. I mean really not to go full chicken little mode but holy hell, man.
Definitely the right call to slot Jeke in there, as much as it will suck to lose Santini. We all remember the many months of yelling about Linell on defense and don't want to repeat it. But not only that, Linell seems to be finding himself a bit at forward; his line with Destry Straight and Quinn Smith even found the back of the net on Friday. So that's good, to keep that all together and not mess with the forward depth. I think Jeke is ready to contribute.
GS: Well, let's look ahead to Denver. What would make you happy this weekend?
JG: Competitiveness, and solid defense and goaltending, is priority #1 to me, I think. BC's first road trip at an elite/semi-elite opponent, they came out and laid a defensive egg in the first period.
While you can't compare the competition, the next week BC came out, limited RIT to only 3 shots, and took a 1-0 lead into the locker room. Something a little more like that would be nice.
Obviously I'm still going to be bitterly disappointed if BC looks good defensively but loses 2-1 both nights. But that would worry me less than, say, a 7-5 loss with Denver getting 35+ shots and BC having to play a lot of catchup.
But if BC is competitive and stout in both games and comes back with even just one tie and a loss I would be at least OK with it, if not outright pleased.
If BC comes back with a split, I'm happy.
Let us not forget, Denver is going up against the team that ended their season, which is some pretty damn good motivation, so that's an extra factor BC will have to deal with.
GS: That's true, and on their own ice, in their own time zone, at their own altitude. Denver is a tough place to play.
I'm with you on needing to look competitive. What I want to see is some sort of solid consistency throughout the weekend. I don't want to see us look good in one game and then get blown out in another.
I will definitely be very happy with a split. Beating Denver on their home ice even once would give me confidence that against a tough opponent, we can pull off a win -- kind of a I-need-to-see-it-to-believe-it kind of thing.
JG: Yeah, and it's something that, realistically, BC has not accomplished yet. RIT, CC and UMass... those are not good teams. It was good that BC controlled all of them but this is going to give a little more accurate picture of where BC's at right now.
You can't really put too much stock into Denver's opening weekend sweep of an RPI team that appears to be circling the drain (GO BENTLEY!) but they are coming off a split against a pretty good Duluth team, albeit a split lowlighted by a 6-1 loss.
One thing that made me optimistic going into the matchup with Denver in the tournament last year was that the Pioneers gave up a LOT of shots. Well, last weekend they gave up 48(!) in the 6-1 loss to UMD and 31 in the 3-1 win.
I wasn't too worried about the fact that Great Brittain, their former goalie, had an exceptional save percentage, because he was going up against a BC team that shot the lights out. Different story this year -- different shooters, but also a different goalie (albeit, a goalie in Evan Cowley with a .937 sv% to start the season).
GS: Whoa. 48 shots? You don't even see that in women's hockey that often. I did not know that.
Isn't Duluth not that great, either?
That's a pretty good save percentage for Cowley, but I bet it took quite a hit with the 6 goals allowed against Duluth. Although given that half of his games so far have been against RPI where they allowed 1 goal... I would guess he will regress a bit against non-awful competition.
Here's something worth keeping an eye on: Denver is has allowed the 3rd most penalty minutes in the country, and is 39th in penalty killing.
JG: That is something that could be an opportunity for BC.
By the way, I wouldn't sleep on Duluth. They're 3-3 and only #19 in the very important Poles but they've been pretty decent so far in my opinion. They lost to Minnesota, which, whatever, then they hammered Notre Dame on their own ice. Since then, they've had splits against Minnesota St. and Denver, who are both pretty solid teams in their conference.
But anyway, yeah, the larger point is that DU is a pretty good team and will be a good measuring stick for BC right now.
GS: I think that's about all there is to it. Any other hot takes for this week?
JG: BC women left a confused, befuddled and saddened Cornell Big Red in their wake last weekend. Sorry, Cornell.
GS: Yeah, Cornell had a bad time. Hopefully they win every game the rest of the year now. Huzzah!
JG: That's the plan.
GS: Maybe BC will go easy on 0-7-1 Providence this weekend... I hope not though.
Big weekend of hockey coming up -- we'll be back next week to discuss it all.