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Hockey Banter, Week X: Back In The Saddle

At long last, hockey season returns with the 2nd half and a trip to Dartmouth for the Ledyard Classic.

Walter Rossini

Grant Salzano: Hockey is back!!

Joseph Gravellese: It is!

And BC is playing...Brown!!!

GS: YaaaAW AWWW

That's okay. That's a good thing. It's still hockey, and we'll hopefully be able to ease into the 2nd half with most of our blue line trolling Canada.

JG: Even without the services of Tuch, Hanifin, McCoshen and Demko you have to imagine they'll be able to beat a pretty poor Brown team.

GS: You would think. Last year was pretty easy, right?

JG: Ha. Brown was OK last year though. This year they are pretty abysmal.

Brown is pretty bad in every statistical category. But you know what stands out the most? Their penalty kill % is just 67.4%...woof.

So...power play goal? Maybe?

GS: 67.4%??

I did not know that. That is exceptionally bad.

JG: Yep. 31-for-46.

GS: So, expect that to go up after they play us.

JG: Yeah, probably. What I'm hoping is that, being without 3 integral power play players, BC is forced to come up with a new approach this week that somehow yields results.

GS: So here's my question to start things off. Who do we have left on the blue line? Will Santini come back for the game? I know he was sticking around Team USA this week despite being cut.

Okay, that was two questions.

JG: I have to believe Santini is good to go. He was medically cleared to play in WJC but the coaches just didn't think he was ready. It would be awfully handy to have him this weekend and break him back in.

Otherwise you're looking at: Doherty, Matheson, Savage, Linell, Jeke...McMullen, I guess.

GS: They could just roll 5, too, although with us playing Brown it could be a chance for McMullen to play.

JG: It's just two games so I suspect we'll see a short bench and BC loading up on the top lines and defense pairings given the depth issues here.

I mean I'm sure everyone will dress either way. No reason to go below the number of players you're allowed to use. McMullen can go at forward is well. But I suspect the fourth line—whoever is on it—won't see much time.

GS: With Santini in there and rolling 5 you have a serviceable blue line.

JG: Yeah, absolutely. Santini makes a big difference. This weekend and every weekend.

GS: Definitely.

JG: Here's what I'm curious about. Some of the forwards started heating up a little bit before the break. Do we see that continue this weekend?

I'm looking at you, Cangelosi.

GS: A few guys looked good before the break. Cangelosi of course but our Destry to some extent as well. Looking back I'm surprised to see he had only had 1 goal in 4 games.

I think we're starting to see the team put it together. I really do. Had we swept UNH there would be a lot of optomism.

JG: I agree—as long as we are realistic about what "putting it together" looks like.

It means improving, it means scoring some goals and it means getting on the right side of the bubble.

GS: Correct. Exactly that.

Getting into the tournament is within reach, but they need to keep the upward trajectory to get there. The good thing is, if they make it, they'll be hot.

Also, no one looks like a "team to beat" this year.

Except Jack Eichel. And he has to play with guys who were like 30th in KRACH last year.

Correction: 40th

JG: It's true. I was looking at where Hockey East teams are in KRACH. It's very "middle heavy"—BU at 7 is the highest. Then there's a cluster in the teens and BC at around 21.

And we witnessed BC playing BU with our own eyes. And it was no mismatch. If that's the best Hockey East has this year we aren't out if it by any stretch. The only Hockey East game where we really got worked I thought was Lowell.

GS: And really that's par for the course with Lowell. They play us tough for some reason. Partially because they're good but they just seem to match up well against us.

JG: I still think that by the end of the season Lowell will be humming and will be Hockey East's best hope at the national title.

Though they're still an underdog.

GS: Well, everyone is an underdog. Anyone in the tournament with the possibility exception of the AHA champion could feasibly win.

JG: There are a few strong teams out west. But who cares about them.

Hey, we haven't really talked about Dartmouth yet. That's a big goddamn game on Saturday.

GS: Yes it is, another team, like Michigan, just above us in the Pairwise. Winning these "even" matchups is critical.

And we're short-staffed.

JG: They've got some solid wins, too, including a W over BU. That's going to be a tough game.

I really can't say I feel too confident about it. Dartmouth's a very good defensive team, limiting foes to about two goals per game.

GS: No, I don't feel good either. But it would go a long, long way toward getting us into the Show.

They're only 21st in scoring (Granted, we're 19th), and that was bolstered by 8 goals against Sacred Heart in their last game. Before that, they were all the way down in 36th.

So, with us missing our best defenseman and NHL prospect goalie, that's encouraging.

JG: Okay. That makes me feel a little better.

Also, we could theoretically have our guys back on Saturday. Not that I want or expect the US to lose to Denmark or Switzerland but yeah.

I wonder if it'll be Billett or Barone this weekend. Billett is apparently back.

GS: I have absolutely no idea on the goalie. Would I even want Billett to play, having been away from hockey for so long?

I'm not sure.

JG: And yet he was the #1 goalie and co-#1 for a decent period of time. So it's a tough decision.

Let's each make a bold second half prediction.

I predict Tuch is going to go on a Chris Kreider-like tear upon return from World Juniors.

GS: Okay. Reasonable.

I predict that BC will at some point put together a winning streak of at least 5 games. And that does *not* include the 2 gamer we're on now.

JG: Okay. I like that our bold predictions are optimistic.

I'm also predicting that Harvard is gonna make the Frozen Four. That way people who spent $170-$270 on Frozen Four tickets get to have their experience enhanced by the sounds of the Harvard pep band.

GS: Well I think we both feel like there's something there. There's a lot of young talent still developing, and Santini is back.

JG: Agreed. I think things are moving in the right direction. The "bottoming out" really was back in that hectic one week span where they lost to UConn, BU and Harvard, shortly after losing in OT to Denver.

If you put that stretch aside, they've been decent, if not great. They're 5-2-1 since that losing skid.

GS: It's true. Which is why I think we're sitting lower in the Pairwise than our talent will end up.

So, time for the team to prove us right.

JG: Start by beating a couple of Ivies.

See you on the Ivy League Digital Network.