The similarities between last season and this season are almost eerie as the college hockey season resumes in 2017.
Like last year, Boston College got off to a hot start, albeit against a weak schedule (current SoS rank is #21). Also like last year, the Eagles struggled to stay healthy, and dropped a few games with key players absent (North Dakota, Notre Dame). And like last year, the Eagles went in to a midseason tournament missing a bevy of players to World Juniors, and came out without a win.
After last December’s 0-2 mark in the Florida College Hockey Classic, BC came back #16 in the pairwise rankings - the wrong side of the bubble, given that there will be a minimum of 1-2 autobids in the tournament. This year, BC is #15.
Last year, the missing players due to injuries and the World Junior tournament didn’t burn the Eagles, because they responded upon the return of their players with an electric stretch of hockey in January.
The Eagles, missing Thatcher Demko and filling in with just-out-of-juniors Ian Milosz, put up a 7 spot on defending national champion Providence in their first game of the second semester, then rallied for a 4-4 tie the next night in Providence. BC finished the month with a 4-0-3 record, and crucially picked up three huge pairwise wins against BU, PC and Notre Dame. A strong February pushed BC up the national rankings and landed them a spot in the Worcester regional, where they advanced to the Frozen Four.
This year’s team is much less star-laden than last year’s, but we know how good and deep they can be when healthy. They face roughly the same schedule as they did last January, with slight modifications. They have one game against Providence (Saturday, at Fenway); a home-and-home with BU; two against UMass and UConn at home; then a huge tilt to close otu the month against Notre Dame on January 28.
A strong January will likely secure BC’s tournament spot. As of January 4, BC has a 60% chance of qualifying based on playoffstatus.com’s rankings. A struggle through January will leave BC in a tough spot as the final month of the regular season rolls around.
A shorthanded Boston College came close to nicking huge points against North Dakota and Notre Dame. With a full (or close to full) roster, will they be able to thrive in this crucial stretch? We start to get answers on Saturday.