It was a season of extremes for BC.
The Eagles had a rough start and seemed to struggle to find their identity. An 0-4 stretch in November put the Eagles all the way down in the high 30's in the Pairwise and most started to write off the season.
Then things turned around. BC ripped off a 9-1-1 stretch, including a very impressive win against the Terriers at Agganis Arena in the midst of a 7 game unbeaten streak. The Eagles climbed all the way up to the tournament bubble, and thoughts of a Boston Frozen Four started dancing in BC's heads.
But it was followed by an extended stretch of extreme mediocrity. BC never could turn the corner, hovering around the bubble, losing tough games, never really dominating anyone, and their season slowly faded away.
Saturday afternoon, it all ended at the hands of the Pioneers, with Denver taking control early and pulling away in the third to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals by a score of 5-2, sending the Eagles back to Chestnut Hill disappointed.
Two questionable penalty calls early in the game on the Eagles got things going for Denver. The Pios scored on the second power play and dominated the flow of play for the majority of the period, but a bomb from Michael Matheson tied the game with three minutes to play in the period.
But Denver regained all of the momentum in the closing seconds of the first period. The Eagles had a defensive breakdown in front of Demko and Denver scored with just 7 seconds on the clock to retake the lead 2-1 and give the Eagles a swift kick to the gut after clawing back even.
And BC would never recover. A scoreless second period gave way to a wild third. Denver scored to go ahead by 2, and the Eagles, unfortunately, seemed to have the wind taken completely out of their sails. Denver kept playing and BC didn't, and the end result was a wide open "breakaway" for the Pios a minute later in which the Eagles left the slot painfully open for Grant Arnold, who scored Denver's 4th to make it 4-1 and effectively put the game away.
Ryan Fitzgerald would score to get one back on a late power play, but Denver would tally the empty net goal to finish the game at 5-2, sending the Eagles on a long, reflective bus ride back to Chestnut Hill.
In all, the Eagles got a lot out of what was, by their standards, a thin lineup, and it was impressive that they managed to climb their way into the NCAA tournament...and as a 3 seed, no less. But at the end of the day, while there was a lot of talent among the underclassmen, there was also a glaring lack of finishers—and experience, in fairness, when you look at the names that carried BC through the season—and BC never really did have what it took to make it to the Garden to the Frozen Four.
Now for the waiting game, as BC fans will now have to see if any of the young stars jump ship to the pros, and hope that all of the high-end recruits make it to campus. The potential is there for a legendary BC roster next season if all the pieces stay together, but there are a lot of questions about who will come to campus and who will stick around for another season.
Thank you to the seniors for what was really a fun ride. It stings now, but this was a very likeable, hard-working team, and while the early ending to the year is disappointing, watching the players develop and find their identity over the course of a long season was a much-needed reminder that you don't have to win every trophy every year to be able to appreciate Eagles hockey.