It’s one of college hockey’s mildly amusing spectacles: in-season tournaments that feature the consolation game as the televised, night game, because the host and marquee program lost on day one.
That’s what happened this weekend in the IceBreaker, as the Denver Pioneers were surprisingly tripped up by Ohio State 3-2 last night on their home ice. As a result, the Pios will take on Boston College, who was also upset 2-1 by Air Force.
Ohio State and Air Force will play at 6 PM ET for the IceBreaker crown. Then, the fans will file in and watch two blue-blood programs play for third place; the nightcap at 9 PM ET will be televised on Altitude2 and streamed on NCHC.tv.
The interesting thing about this game from a BC perspective - and for both teams, really - is that a game against Denver, while challenging, offers an opportunity to make this a truly successful weekend with a win. 1-1 with a win over Ohio State? That certainly would have been fine. But coming home 1-1 with a win over Denver would feel like a huge score. But coming home 0-2 would be a tough start for this young group as they try to get their legs under them this season.
While BC will no doubt be frustrated to have thrown away a third period lead in last night’s loss, there was plenty to feel positive about coming out of the game. BC outshot Air Force 38-26 on the game and particularly controlled the first two periods, outshooting the Falcons by a 28-13 margin. In the third period, things went sideways for BC thanks largely to taking too many penalties. BC was killing a 5-on-3 when Air Force scored their game winner with under 9 minutes to play.
Of course, beating Denver will be no small task. The Pioneers are rightly considered among the favorites to return to the Frozen Four. Denver will also come in frustrated to have not won last night, having out-attempted Ohio State 74-45 last night including 55-33 at even strength. Stars like Dylan Gambrell and Will Butcher (who somehow still hasn't graduated) will put a lot of pressure on BC's young defense and goaltender.
So, it’s on: a big game for both teams, and it’s just October 8. Welcome back, hockey season!