October 26, 2012

Hockey East Journal: Eagles turn focus to this season

By Andrew Merritt

CHESTNUT HILL – Boston College will play, at minimum, 2,040 minutes of hockey this season. That’s if the Eagles don’t make the postseason, of course, and given recent history, that seems like a categorical impossibility. 

BC raised a championship banner to the rafters for the third time in five years. (Dave Arnold Photography)

So a single 100-minute section of that time, in the end, shouldn’t matter much. When it’s the first 100 minutes of a new season, though, and you’re the defending league and national champions, you’d kind of like it to go better than this: Six goals allowed, one scored, 47 shots allowed, and one season-opening loss to a non-playoff team in 2011-12.

So when the Eagles went into the locker room after the second period of Friday’s game at UMass, the captains and coaches wanted to have a chat. The defending champs were five periods into their title defense, but they were looking like they might have trouble even getting back into the playoffs.

“That first game, I felt like we were a little shaky out at Northeastern, I don’t think we played to our potential,” BC sophomore Johnny Gaudreau said.

Indeed, the Eagles were shocked in the Oct. 13 season opener by a Northeastern team that had one win in its first 10 games last season. After two periods in Amherst, they were down 3-0, in danger of getting steamrolled by a UMass team that barely snuck past the Huskies to claim the last playoff spot, before losing in two games to the Eagles in the Hockey East playoffs.

“That first two periods last night at UMass-Amherst, we were still a little shaky,” Gaudreau said, “but going into that third period, in the locker room, our captains and our coaches talked to us, and ever since then we’ve been playing our best.”

Indeed, whatever was said in the dressing room at the Mullins Center during the second intermission on Friday worked, because the Eagles went out and scored four goals in the third period, including two in the final five minutes, to force overtime. Three and a half minutes into the extra session, Gaudreau cinched it for BC’s first win of the year.

Twenty-four hours later, there was no such drama. After raising their 2012 NCAA Championship banner to the Conte Forum rafters, the Eagles manhandled Northeastern in a 3-0 beating that felt all but over after Kevin Hayes and Gaudreau each scored in the first 10 minutes.

“Probably in the middle of the game [Friday] night, we really started to play better hockey in all three zones, and it carried over into tonight’s game,” BC coach Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.) said Saturday.

The wake-up call in Amherst had an obvious effect. The Eagles were sharp Saturday, and even though they were mired with the Huskies in a penalty-laden affair, they didn’t afford their visitors a lot of opportunities to get back in it.

“Northeastern right down the road from us, they’re always rivals,” Gaudreau said. So them beating us at their home opener, I guess we most definitely didn’t want them to take the home opener from us and get the W against us on the road, so I definitely think there was a little chip on the shoulder.”

With last year’s banner hung with BC’s other four championship flags, the Eagles finally started playing for this season.

“The banner, I think, was the end of last year’s championship. It’s in the back of our minds; we want to win another one, but I mean, we’ve got to let that go,” Gaudreau said. “We can’t be thinking about last year, it’s a whole new season. I think the captains have put that to our team so far, to make sure we all know that the last season’s over, and the new season’s begun.”

Player of the Week

Pat Mullane, senior, Boston College

Gaudreau might have made a bigger splash over the weekend with the game-winner against UMass and another goal and assist the next night against Northeastern, but Mullane (Wallingford, Conn.) scored twice in 70 seconds to pull the Eagles out of a 4-2 hole against the Minutemen, set up Gaudreau’s clincher, and added two more assists the next night against the Huskies.

Games of the Week

UMass-Lowell vs. Boston College, Friday, 7 p.m., and Sunday, 4 p.m.

The home-and-home between two of the league's biggest stories of 2012 starts Friday in Lowell, and comes just as the Eagles are starting to heat up, while the River Hawks are coming off their first win of the season. It also features possibly the league’s two best goaltenders in BC’s Parker Milner and UML’s Doug Carr.

Power Rankings

1. Boston College (2-1-0, 2-1-0 HEA) – After a sluggish start, the Eagles more than untracked themselves, and now look a great deal more like their old selves. They’ve also got four straight games against bottom-5 Hockey East teams coming up before a big clash with Notre Dame on Nov. 9.

2. New Hampshire (3-0-0, 1-0-0 HEA) – Casey DeSmith allowed a goal 43 seconds into the Wildcats’ game against BU on Oct. 20, but shut the door the rest of the way as UNH scored four unanswered to pick up their first Hockey East win.

3. Boston University (1-1-0, 1-1-0 HEA) – After a nice start, the Terriers got smacked around by UNH on the road. The BU power play is also 0-for-7 this year, after being one of the league’s best units last year.

4. Northeastern (2-1-0, 2-1-0 HEA) – The Huskies’ best start in years was stalled by BC’s surging offense, with a 3-0 shutout at Conte Forum quickly tripping up NU’s momentum.

5. UMass-Lowell (1-1-1, 0-0-1 HEA) – Former UML standout goaltender Dwayne Roloson joined the River Hawks as a volunteer assistant coach while he waits out the NHL lockout. The free agent brought his alma mater a little luck, too, as Lowell rebounded from a 5-1 loss to Denver on Oct. 19 to beat Colorado College 3-1 the next night.

6. Merrimack (1-3-0, 0-1-0 HEA) – In the Warriors’ long trip to Alaska – their first action in more than a week – they were outscored a combined 9-5 in a pair of losses to Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage in the Goal Rush Tournament. Mike Collins had goals in both games and Dan Kolomatis had a three-point weekend, but that was it for highlights.

7. UMass (1-1-0, 0-1-0 HEA) – The Minutemen got the jump on BC on Oct. 19, with newly minted captain Rocco Carzo scoring two of their first three goals, but the Eagles fought their way back in it and won on Johnny Gaudreau’s overtime strike.

8. Vermont (0-0-1, 0-0-1 HEA) – The Catamounts were idle over the weekend, and get back at it with a pair of games at Merrimack this weekend, their first action in 14 days.

9. Maine (1-4-0, 0-0-0 HEA) – The Black Bears are simply plummeting thus far this season, and mustered just one goal in two games against St. Lawrence – at home, no less – last weekend, getting outscored 10-1.

10. Providence (1-2-0, 0-1-0 HEA) – The Friars went to overtime in both of last weekend’s games against Miami last weekend, and lost both – the first in a shootout. They’ve got Maine at home this weekend in the “Something’s Gotta Give” series of the week.

Andrew Merritt can be reached at MerrittNEHJ@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @A_Merritt.