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Boston College Hockey: Eight Things We Learned From The Opening Weekend

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A look back at the Army and RPI games.

Dustin Satloff for BC Interruption

1. The Eagles are feisty this year:

Friday night's game at Army was an extremely physical affair, with the game even descending into the collegiate version of a line scuffle late in the third period after an Army player tackled a BC player during a scrum around the net. Throughout the night, BC was not afraid to take or receive heavy hits, nor were they shy about confrontations after the whistle, or stepping up to defend Thatcher Demko when opposing players got in his face.

BC's fiery nature also came through in other ways. On Friday night, it was hard not to notice how fired up the entire BC bench was after each goal. On Sunday, a BC player broke his stick over the post in frustration as time expired on the Eagles' tough 2-1 loss. It's clear that the Eagles were playing with a lot of drive this weekend and were more than eager to get this season underway.

2. Hockey is bananas:

We knew this already, but college hockey is just going to be incredibly hard to predict all year long. Here are some results from the weekend:

#1 BC...lost to unranked RPI
#2 Duluth...lost to unranked Bemidji
#3 BU...lost to unranked Union
#4 North Dakota...tied unranked Maine
#5 Denver...lost to unranked Air Force
#6 Minnesota State...got swept by #10 Omaha
#8 Harvard...didn't play
#9 Minnesota...lost to unranked Vermont
#11 Miami...went winless vs #7 PC
#12/13 Mich and Yale...didn't play

#10 Omaha, #14 UML and #7 PC are the only highly ranked teams who had a good weekend. So how would you vote if you had a vote in the USCHO poll? North Dakota tied a Maine team who is expected to be pretty mediocre this year at best, and moved up to #1. Good luck predicting what's going to happen any given week...it's just not possible.

3. Thatcher Demko is elite.

Not Joe Flacco elite, but elite. Demko was outstanding in both games for BC and really couldn't have done much of anything about at least 2 of the 3 goals he allowed this weekend. Much like in his one period of play against UNB, Demko was most notable for the way he made most decent chances look easy. He didn't have to make any spectacular saves, because he was already in the right position. Demko is going to be very, very good all year, I think.

4. Zach Sanford is probably BC's best player right now.

Sanford looks like he's ready to make the next step at the collegiate level to a potentially dominant player. Where he goes, chances follow. He scored two goals on the weekend and was also 2nd on the team with 7 shots on goal in the two games. Unsurprisingly, when BC couldn't seem to find the back of the net on Sunday despite so many chances, it was Sanford who came through and threw the Eagles a lifeline.

5. Casey Fitzgerald is legit.

Fitzgerald had two points on the weekend, scored a PPG on a nice blast from the point, was an effective power play quarterback, had six shots on goal, and led all defensemen with a +2 rating. He looks poised and confident with and without the puck. He's going to be a good one for BC all year long.

6. BC is generating more chances.

BC created dramatically more scoring opportunities than their opponents did in both games over the weekend. In the Army game, shot attempts were 68-36 in favor of BC. In the RPI game, it was 92 (!!)-41, with RPI blocking an astonishing 45 shots. Full credit to the Engineers for that.

I know it wasn't necessarily against elite competition but BC generated a lot more chances than they did last season. Just to pick a few games completely at random against not great competition:

HE Quarterfinal vs Vermont game 1, shot attempts were 55-50 BC;
In BC's win at Merrimack, Merrimack out attempted BC 72-31
In BC's win at Dartmouth, attempts were 72-68 in favor of Dartmouth
In BC's win at Notre Dame, attempts were 63-50 in favor of BC
In BC's early season win over AHC's RIT, attempts were 60-44 BC

Even looking at some other games where BC played well, they pretty much never had that many more shot attempts than their opponent. I think the only time was BC's second game at Notre Dame, the one where Cal Peterson made like 350 saves.

Admittedly, two games against uneven competition is not enough time to really judge statistics, but for whatever it's worth, BC led the nation in even strength shot attempts percentage (AKA corsi), with 67.3%. Last year, their percentage was 52.9%. I definitely suspect BC will keep generating more chances than they did last year, just by virtue of having far more weapons at their disposal.

7. BC seems one killer pass away from having more goals.

So why did 92 attempts only translate to one goal on Sunday? A good chunk of the credit goes to RPI's shot blocking and another goes to goalie Jason Kasdorf, but I do think part of it is that BC sort of seems one killer pass away from scoring more goals. It felt often like BC would force a pass against the grain or through traffic that would lead to a shot block or a turnover, particularly on the power play.

On Friday night, the issue was moreso "home run" passes that could have sprung a great scoring chance being just a tick off of being tape to tape. BC narrowly missed a few more breakaway opportunities against Army that could have made the score more lopsided. In theory, a month or so into the season, those passes will connect and will lead to more goals.

8. There's an open battle for the last spot on the blue line.

It looks like JD Dudek replaced Brendan Silk on the fourth line due to injury on Sunday, but Travis Jeke and Josh Couturier were each given a chance on the blue line and as far as we know, both were healthy, so it's just a positional battle. Both were even in +/-, neither registered a point and they had one shot on goal each. Neither separated himself from the other; we'll see who the coaches choose on Friday against Wisconsin.