It really does seem like it was just October, and we were hitting the road to West Point to watch BC hockey in the season opener. But here we are: it's Friday, March 25, Worcester beckons, and we gather for what could be the very final Final Thoughts until the fall.
I'd rather not think about that.
Boston College is favored to win their tournament opener tonight against Harvard, but those of us who have been watching closely know that its no slam dunk. Harvard is a very, very good team, and BC is not playing their best hockey as of late. Can the Eagles turn it around after a 2-3 stretch and go on a run?
We begin to find out tonight.
#2-seed Boston College Eagles (26-7-5, #5 in the Pairwise rankings) vs.
#3-seed Harvard Crimson (19-10-4, #11 in the Pairwise rankings)
Date and Time: Friday, March 25, 2016, 8 PM
Venue: DCU Center, Worcester, Mass.
BY THE NUMBERS
Boston College's season-long stats are impressive. BC boasts the nation's #4 offense and #7 defense, along with the #4-ranked penalty kill in the NCAA. While the PK has remained a strength for BC, and the offense has been pretty good, BC has fallen off defensively since the Beanpot, giving up 26 goals in the 10 games since.
BC won't be able to afford defensive weakness against a Harvard team that averaged 3.48 goals per game this season. They had a bit of a dip right around Beanpot time, but enter the game 5-2 in their last 7 games played, scoring 28 goals in those 7 contests. Particularly frightening for BC is the fact that Harvard's power play has been elite this season, #4 in the country with a 27.93% success rate.
Away from the confines of the Bright Landry Center, Harvard is 11-7-2 -- 8-3-2 in road games and 3-4-0 in a hefty number of neutral site games. BC is 12-4-3 away from Conte, including a 2-3 mark at neutral sites.
The Crimson boast the leading scorer on either team in Jimmy Vesey, who has 46 points in 32 games. Alex Kerfoot (34 points) and Kyle Criscuolo (31) are the Crimson's other big two scoring threats, while freshman Ryan Donato has been solid as well (13-8--21),
THE PREGAME WATERING HOLE
Worcester isn't exactly Providence when it comes to smaller cities that pack a culinary punch, but there are enough options near the DCU Center that BC fans have usually been able to find a pretty solid gathering place. This year's BC meetup spot is the Mezcal Tequila Cantina, across the street from the DCU Center. #SomosBC
GIF OF THE GAME
Let's be honest, we're probably not rolling in to Worcester with the kind of swagger we usually do. On the other hand, we didn't really two years ago either, and yet the Eagles bounced back from conference tournament disappointment by slicing through Denver, then edging UMass Lowell in a great game to get to the Frozen Four.
Does BC have a similar two day stretch in them here?
I feel pretty confident that they can win tonight, at least. This is a real litmus test game for these seniors and for the team. They played a GREAT game against Harvard just under two months ago, limiting their chances and grinding out a win in a big game. It would show some serious regression if Harvard's offense runs rampant tonight.
Whether they can go any further, I really don't know. Providence potentially beckons, and they certainly are rightly the favorites to advance out of this regional.
But of course, this is hockey, so we could easily be looking at Harvard vs. Minnesota Duluth tomorrow. One game at a time.
We must bow to two new overlords this week: Northeastern, and the Gifford Cats.
Remarkably, after a year long prediction contest, the Gifford Cats had the most points at the end of the season, as Toby the Cat was the only entrant to correctly predict the entire Hockey East semifinals, picking UML to knock off Providence, NU to beat BC, and the Northeastern Huskies to win the whole dang thing. The cats blew past the previous top 4, AJ, Grant, Joe and Laura, to snatch the win in the final weekend.
By virtue of picking Lowell in the other semifinal, Grant finishes as the human prediction winner.
PJPJ23 and princisb also passed seasonlong leader JPDot on the final day by picking UML, while JPDot had Providence. PJPJ23 and princisb split the honors by leading JPDot by one point at the end of the season.
The focus now shifts to BC Interruption's annual bracket pool - $10 to enter. You have until the puck drops on the first game this afternoon to join, so email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
As for our cat overlords, they picked Quinnipiac to win the national title, but they do have BC winning tonight.
In the other tournament game in Worcester tonight, they pick Minnesota Duluth, perhaps unsurprisingly setting up a matchup between animals in the regional final rather than between a human and a color.
Joe Gravellese: Boston College 5, Harvard 3
I don't see BC keeping Harvard contained for the final 40 minutes like they did at the Beanpot, but I do think that a wide open game can play to the Eagles' benefit IF they don't make the kinds of horrendous mistakes they made last Friday night at the Garden. I'm looking to Miles Wood and Alex Tuch to really just demonstrate why they're future NHL guys and use their speed and skill to take this one over and carry BC in to the next round. From there, maybe the confidence will start to build up.
Needless to say, Ian McCoshen is going to be one of the most important factors in this game as well. How will he bounce back from last week? He's been a rock for BC, so I suspect he'll be just fine.
Bonus Providence vs. Duluth prediction: Providence 3, Duluth 1 - it's the CORSI BOWL! Two teams that are really good defensively, that possess the puck a lot, and are just generally very solid. Something's gotta give. I'll give the edge to PC and their home region advantage.
AJ Black: Harvard 4, Boston College 2
March Sadness continues.
Grant Salzano: Harvard 4, Boston College 2
I'm just not feeling optimistic. It just doesn't look like they're going to lock it down and go on a run. In the early game, Duluth 3, Providence 1. I have UMD as the #4 seed to make a deep run this year. They've had a strong second half.
Laura Berestecki: Boston College 3, Harvard 2
Keeping the faith. In the first game, Providence 3, Duluth 1.
John Fidler, the artist occasionally known as Coach: Boston College 5, Harvard 3. BC gets back on track. But is it short lived? Providence's defense and effort will shut down the Bulldogs in the other game: Providence 3, UMD 1.
Arthur Bailin: Boston College 5, Harvard 4, and Providence 3, Duluth 1.
Caleb Childers: Boston College 4, Harvard 3, and Providence 3, Duluth 0.
This is it. The tournament is here. How are you feeling? Feeling good? Share your thoughts in a comment here. Let's go BC - keep the dream alive!