After a successful home opener against Wisconsin, BC hockey hits the road again this weekend for a pair of games in Colorado Springs against the Colorado College Tigers. CC has struggled in recent seasons and is off to an 0-4 start with two losses apiece to UMass-Amherst and UMass-Lowell. To help preview the Tigers, Joe Paisley of the Colorado Springs Gazette agreed to answer some of our questions.
You can read all of Joe Paisley's college hockey coverage, which spans both CC and Air Force hockey, at his blog over at Gazette.com.
To the Q&A!
1. CC has played four games against Hockey East opponents so far and have come up short in all four. That said, three of the four games were very close. How have the Tigers looked in their four opening games, performance-wise?
The Tigers took a considerable step forward in Saturday's loss because the entire team played a stronger, more physical game with a higher compete level. That intensity wasn't there on Friday, but freshman goalie Jacob Mehama's 52 saves—the most for a CC player since March 1997—kept them in that game. They have gotten a little better in each game, which is good news for the fans.
2. Who are some newcomers to the team CC is expecting to make an impact this season?
Nehama could end up being the starter in net while Mason Bergh, Andrew Farny and Trey Bradley have all done well so far. The season-ending injury to Westin Michaud hurts.
3. What would you describe as the team's ideal style of play should they manage to impose their will on a game? Playing at home, do you expect CC to attack, or would you expect a more defensive, trapping game plan against the Eagles?
They are very much aware of BC's offensive skills set and are looking for ways to slow them down; a trap or some variation is likely.
4. CC is seeking to rebuild after a downturn the last several seasons. What would you say are realistic goals for the team this year? Do things seem to be trending in the right direction or is the program spinning its wheels?
I picked them seventh in the eight-team NCHC and that remains a reasonable goal. It will definitely be a step in the right direction but this is going to be a long process. The coaches have brought up the bottom of the roster, but it remains to be seen if the Tigers have a couple future stars in the mix
Overall, the team is trending in the right direction; the Tigers are ahead of where they were last fall in terms of compete level, systems savvy and grit. Last fall, when trailing in the third, CC would hang their collective heads and lose. In the second half of the 2014-15 season, they still lost often, but battled to the final whistle; a trademark of a Mike Haviland team.
5. How would you evaluate the new NCHC as it enters its third year of competition? Has the change in conference affiliations negatively impacted the program at all, or have some of the issues in recent years been due to issues that still would have existed if the WCHA was never blown up?
The league has proven to be a meat-grinder as many expected and some feared.
It's a tough league to try to rebuild in thanks to a brutal nonconference schedule—something CC prides itself in—as well. Expectations among the fans are high and attendance is really important for the athletic department's budget. Joining the NCHC definitely exposed the program's cracks.
The breakup sped video streaming, national and regional TV contracts, improved web sites and other league-oriented changes. I think Mankato and Tech have benefited more than most but the investment in their programs began beforehand.
6. Lastly, any predictions for how this weekend series will play out?
I expect two close games and if CC matches their intensity from Saturday, they will give the Eagles a real battle. I predict a split at home, which would be a real confidence-booster for the Tigers; maybe more so for their wearying fans.
Thanks again to Joe Paisley for answering our questions; you can follow him on twitter @PaisleyHockey.