The Boston College hockey season is over. Joe Gravellese, Laura Berestecki and Arthur Bailin take a look back at the season that was and offer their thoughts.
1. Overall, how would you rate this season? Was it a success? How was it relative to your preseason expectations?
Joe Gravellese: Going in to the season, this was a team I expected to win Hockey East and go to the Frozen Four. This was the best BC roster since the 2012 title team, and it showed.
Obviously when you have such a good team, the hope is to win the national championship, but you can never assume that. Quinnipiac and North Dakota were just better teams than BC this year. The only real disappointment was not winning the Hockey East tournament title. Chalk it up to Northeastern destiny.
In my mind, the most important accomplishment behind winning a national title is advancing to the Frozen Four. I know this debate is had a lot and people have their various opinions on how they rank the Hockey East tournament title, vs. the regular season title, vs. even the Beanpot, and there's merit to it all, but to me the Frozen Four is bigger than all of them. It's the #1 platform for exposure for your hockey program, it allows for extra practices and experience on the big stage, and it's a great opportunity for fans. So to recover from the disappointment of HEAs and make the Frozen Four made this a positive year.
All in all, this season was a success. It was actually one of the top 10 BC seasons in terms of winning percentage in the modern era (since they joined the ECAC in the '60s). They just ran in to a better team at the end of the year.
Laura Berestecki: I would say this season was a success. I would've been happier if we'd performed a better in the Hockey East Tournament, but making it to the Frozen Four was a success for this team. I would say we did about as well as I expected at the beginning of the season ... Maybe a little worse than I expected since I am extremely optimistic, but not much.
Arthur Bailin: I think this season, overall, was a success. I would have wanted to see BC come out of the Garden Hockey East champions, but when playing against teams that are fighting for their seasons, especially when on BC's side a upper half seed is assured, those things happen. In the Frozen Four, BC got beat by a better team. No shame in that. Overall, I think a semifinal finish aligns pretty well with my preseason expectations. I thought this was a championship team, but that's, of course, a lofty goal to reach.
Grant Salzano: I feel like it was pretty close to how I expected things to go, and that was with Jeremy Bracco in the picture. I expected us to be a 1 seed, and while we weren't, I expect we would have been if we had Bracco.
Postseason wise, it's just hard to get hardware in general. But you hope to get yourself into the picture for both the Hockey East and NCAA championships by getting to the final weekend, and they did in both. Unfortunately they flamed out in Hockey East -- winning that and getting to the Frozen Four would have made this season an unqualified success -- and lost to a better team in the Frozen Four, so we're stuck with just the Beanpot. That's a good season, and yeah, probably ultimately a success, particularly given how many injuries they've had to sustain this year.
2. Superlatives: Who was BC's MVP this season? Who was the most improved player? And who was the most fun to watch?
Joe Gravellese: Thatcher Demko was definitely the team's MVP. His reliability night in and night out was essential for this team, especially as they worked through some issues in their own end, particularly in terms of clearing the puck.
For most improved player, I'll go with Austin Cangelosi. He's always been good but he really stepped up this season and became an essential playmaker for BC. I wish we got more time to watch him work with Miles Wood because that was a good combination.
The most fun player to watch when he was healthy was Colin White. Between World Juniors and the Beanpot he was next-level dominant. After he broke his rib that obviously cut in to what he was able to do. Hopefully we get a chance to see him at full strength next year.
Laura Berestecki: I'd give Demko the MVP and the most fun to watch. PLEASE STAY AND WIN MORE STUFF WITH US. Alex Tuch would be most improved for me because he really turned his season around - he started out struggling and became a really important player.
Arthur Bailin: I'm going with a dark horse here and say my MVP is Teddy Doherty. First of all, he was someone who was versatile and gave JY more flexibility in his lineup. He put in solid minutes night in and night out. What makes him my MVP is is role as captain. I was very impressed by Doherty's leadership, helping the team navigate some hiccups during the season. Nothing is more valuable than a good captain. As for most improved, I'm going to say Thatcher Demko. (PUT YOUR PITCHFORKS DOWN AND HEAR ME OUT). Demko was solid last year, but this year he was at a whole different level. Both his sv% and GAA were better this year. This improvement can probably be attributed to his offseason surgery, but man, he was special this year. As for the most fun to watch? I'll say Demko, for the same reasons.
Grant Salzano: I love me some Thatcher Demko but I don't really think he was our MVP. It's probably an unpopular opinion, but I think people tend to overstate how much a goalie matters over the course of a full season. In the playoffs, I think it matters more, simply with poise and the ability to come up big in a one-off situation under pressure, but over the course of a full season, a difference of 0.010 in save percentage is only worth an extra goal every handful of games.
I have to say that Colin White was our MVP. He was 1-3-0 in games where he didn't play, and 7 out of BC's 8 losses game when White didn't score a goal. That says an awful lot. And once White was hobbled late in the season playing with a broken rib (or whatever it was), you could feel BC start to slow down as a team.
Most improved was obviously Austin Cangelosi. 20 goals his junior season after scoring 16 in his first two combined. And he didn't ride anyone's coattails either -- you could see the improvement in his game. He was also 3rd in the NCAA in faceoff percentage. Huge.
3. Biggest positives from the season. This can be anything.. positive accomplishments, things an individual player did, developments you enjoyed, on point TSwift GIFs, anything at all.
Joe Gravellese: The biggest positive was the development of the forwards and the way the big junior class stepped up and lived up to expectations. Last year their progression was a little disappointing, but that was largely due to just not having a stacked roster around them. You saw all those guys - Gilmour, Fitzgerald, Cangelosi, etc. - really improve and contribute. The sophomores also made a jump too.
Another huge positive for me was the staff identifying two unforeseen needs at the halfway point - goalie and blue line depth - and addressing them with the mid-season additions of Ian Milosz and Michael Kim. Both worked out really well. If Milosz didn't come up big and play well against PC, BC would not have been the 2 seed in Worcester, probably, and they would not have won the HEA regular season title. And Kim ended up being a pretty solid blueliner for BC.
Laura Berestecki: The freshman talent was the biggest positive to me. Obviously Wood and White are super talented, but I was really impressed with Casey Fitzgerald. You could tell he puts in a lot of effort and I think he was better than most of us suspected he would be. Milosz and Kim were also pleasant surprises - I think Kim will become a really important part of our defense once he gets a little more confident.
Arthur Bailin: I think it was good to see the resiliency of the team. This team went through a lot of adversity, between injuries, bad losses, and he who must not be named leaving, the team had a lot of opportunity to fold but didn't. Thaet's good to see.
Grant Salzano: I'm going with the emergence of Michael Kim as a player BC could count on. It changed the dynamic of the whole team. With Kim on the blue line, Teddy Doherty was able to play forward (at least while we were healthy) and it added a whole new dimension to the offense. It also doesn't hurt that he's undrafted, so he might actually play for us for more than six months... Sigh.
At this point, with how many players are getting out of dodge, I'll throw an honorable mention to anyone on the team who decides BC is a place worth being for more than a few months.
Come back tomorrow for Part II, when we discuss negatives from the season, share some memories, and make some initial predictions for next year.