Boston College hockey picked up its ninth straight win on Saturday night at UNH, but the celebrations didn't last long: shortly after the game ended, the team reported that Chris Calnan would miss significant time with an upper body injury sustained in a post-whistle second period scrum. The Boston College Hockey Blog suggests it's a separated shoulder (not confirmed), which, if true, would put Calnan out until about late January. That wouldn't be a total nightmare, especially with the mid-season break looming - but this stretch without Calnan will put the Eagles' depth to the test.
This is where the departure of Jeremy Bracco starts to really sting the Eagles. The problem wasn't so much losing his potential offense as it was really stretching out BC's forward depth. With Brendan Silk out with yet another long-term injury (the poor kid can't seem to catch a break on the health front), BC already was slotting in a 7th defenseman as their last forward following Bracco's departure. Now with Calnan out, BC may need to get creative.
For whatever reason, it often feels like BC carries a smaller roster than many other Hockey East teams, with fewer scratched players at the ready in case of injury, suspension or departure. That works out OK as long as everyone stays healthy and enrolled, but it doesn't take too much to tax the lineup's depth.
Peter McMullen and Chris Shero are the two non-dressing skaters for the Eagles, so one of the two will be thrust in to the lineup. Shero has yet to play as an Eagle; McMullen, a senior, has 19 appearances in his four years and 1 point. When he has played, his line or d pair has occasionally been skipped, with Jerry York opting to mostly roll three lines or 4/5 defensemen. This is not a knock on either one of those players; they're walk-ons, and not expected to put up big numbers. But it demonstrates the lineup predicament for BC now as one of the two (likely McMullen) will dress in every game for the next couple of months.
The other big problem is that the power line of Miles Wood, Austin Cangelosi and Calnan is disrupted; they had been the #1 unit so far and BC will need to find a new go-to line. However, that shouldn't be too much of a problem given the amount of high-end firepower on the roster.
There are a few different scenarios for how BC can fill out the lineup sheet. The one that would cause the least disruption would be to slide Chris Brown (or JD Dudek, but based on past experience, it's probably going to be Chris Brown) up to the third line, with McMullen playing in the fourth line and the fourth line being used sparingly.
Another option would be to replace Calnan on Cangelosi/Wood's wing with another one of BC's top forwards - maybe Gilmour or Tuch, or maybe Fitzgerald, though I doubt BC would want to mess with Fitzgerald's line's chemistry right now - and backfill with Brown.
So something like:
Wood - Cangelosi - Tuch
Fitzgerald - White - Gaudreau
Gilmour - Sanford - Brown
Dudek - McMullen - Jeke
I think I prefer this option because it reloads Miles Wood's line as the #1 scoring threat and could also serve to really get Tuch going too. Two monstrous, fast players on each wing of the shifty Cangelosi could be a matchup nightmare for most Hockey East teams.
Once again, this setup would likely see BC largely rolling three lines, though that would be OK - BC just successfully navigated through a busy part of the schedule, but doesn't have a 3-games-in-7-days scenario until the Beanpot.
I shudder to even suggest this and doubt it's a possibility, but BC could also do what they did last year when they were in desperate need of forward depth and move Doherty up to forward, while rolling 5 defensemen. This would allow BC to keep rolling four solid lines, but I have no interest in disrupting a good defensive corps or messing with Doherty, who has been off to a solid start so far in his senior year.
Those seem to be BC's options. They should be able to survive this stretch, though they're going to be short-staffed through matchups with Notre Dame, Providence (possibly three times) and BU (twice). They're going to be tested, and everyone's going to need to step it up.