Thursday, October 10, 2013

A BC Interruption

Sunday's game in Chestnut Hill against Boston College is the first time the Engineers and Eagles have met since the 2007-08 season and the first time they were scheduled against each other since the 1996-97 campaign. It's been a while.

So we sat down with Joe Gravellese of BC Interruption to learn more about the Eagles in their natural habitat - we answered some of their questions as well, which they'll feature on their blog.

WaP: So, Union, huh? What's up with that? (We hate those guys.)

JG: That stunk. We just got completely overrun by a better team. It happens. Last year's BC team was just not very deep. If they didn't have "Boston College" on their sweaters, nobody would have been surprised by that first round bow-out. The Eagles had two of the best forwards in the nation, but not much after that. They were also so young and easily rattled defensively that opponents' goals tended to come in bunches. It did not make me feel much better to see Union get rolled by Quinnipiac the next night.

WaP: So, Lowell, huh? What's up with that? (We are ambivalent about these guys.)

JG: Lowell has been building into one of the top programs in the conference over the past few years. They actually had one of the best teams in 2009 and should have won the league title, but some referee shenanigans killed them in that game. They've gotten much, much better in the past few years under the leadership of Norm Bazin, who for my money is the second best coach in the conference (after Jerry York, natch). They return most of their top scorers from last year, and Connor Hellebucyk, so they should be right in the mix, nationally.

WaP: What can you tell us about Thatcher Demko? He seems to be the talk of the nation when it comes to incoming goaltenders. Is the job his or does he have to earn it still?

JG: Well, he's not starting on Thursday night against Michigan; that honor will go to junior Brian Billett, who had mixed results occasionally filling in for Parker Milner the last few years. So obviously he's going to have to earn the job. I suspect we will see him on Sunday against RPI. He played in the exhibition game and looked as-advertised: poised, confident, and very big. He's a big kid to begin with, and he makes himself big in the net. BC fans are very excited about what he brings to the table. He's the highest pedigree goaltender we've had since Cory Schneider. (Though the two goalies we've had since, John Muse and Parker Milner, won national championships. I know, we are spoiled.)

WaP: Were you surprised to see Johnny Gaudreau return for his junior year?

JG: Not really. One of Jerry York's strengths (vis a vis, say, BU, to pick a program at random) has been recruiting players who buy into the idea that the team, the school, and the education are important - they're not just a stopping point to work on your game before launching into your pro career. As a result of this recruiting philosophy, you see a lot of top-tier players who stay at least three seasons. The third year is the key, because usually those players will take some extra classes the summer before they leave, then come back the summer after they leave and finish their degree. Nathan Gerbe and Chris Kreider are two recent examples of players who went this route. At this point, I expect the top BC players to stay at least three years. I think part of York's recruiting process is screening for players who he knows will buy in to that idea.

WaP: What's your take on the addition of Notre Dame to Hockey East, and on UConn's accession next season?

JG: Well, we hate both of those teams. So I guess it will be fun, for rivalry purposes. Obviously, Notre Dame brings a lot to the table in terms of name recognition and TV exposure. (UConn brings nothing to the table.) What I didn't like about the Notre Dame move, though, is that it shattered the awesome smallness of our league. It was entirely contained within New England, every game was driveable for fans to go on the road to watch their team, and all of the programs had some level of historical tie with one another... In Boston, we tend to get a little parochial about, well, everything, but especially college hockey, so I didn't like how dramatically the footprint of the league changed. With that said, it's time to get over it. Notre Dame is one of the best programs in the country and the games against them will be must-see affairs. They will also solidify Hockey East as the best conference in the land. (Bring it, B1G trolls.) I wanted RPI over UConn, but I also would have wanted American International over UConn. So...

WaP: Any thoughts on the potential creation of an eastern-based superconference based on the NCHC? Rumor had it that BU and BC turned down entreaties by North Dakota to join that league, but could the top Hockey East programs dump the smaller ones in the future?

JG: I find it unlikely. Hockey East seems to have the philosophy that they want to grow the game in some of the less-traditional hockey power schools around here (see: Vermont, UMass, UConn). If BC, BU, UNH et. al were upset about that, they probably wouldn't have added UConn; the addition of Vermont and UMass were pretty recent, too. The historic rivalries within Hockey East are pretty well entrenched, so I can't see BC or BU going anywhere without Maine, New Hampshire, Northeastern and Providence at bare minimum, and at this point the UMasses probably go into that category as well. So at that point it would probably be easier to just kick out Merrimack and UConn than make a new conference. I endorse that course of action.

WaP: Now that you guys have so many more non-conference games to play with, what are you hoping to see the Eagles do with them?

JG: Win them. But seriously, from a selfish, fan perspective, I want to see BC go to some great venues that they haven't been to often in recent years. They're at Yost on Thursday night to play Michigan, so that's great. They're playing at Brown in January; I'm an unabashed lover of the old ECAC barns, so I'm excited about that. I'd like to see a return trip to RPI, and a game at Lynah. It's a given with this new Hockey East-Big Ten Challenge that we're going to see a lot of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Obviously, I'm happy about that.

WaP: Jerry York has pretty much done it all at this point - most wins in history, championships with multiple teams, a veritable dynasty at BC - how much longer do you think he'll stay at Chestnut Hill before calling it a career?

JG: I would have said 5-6 years before last season, but he had a health scare (detached retina) that kept him out during the season's crucial stretch and made us all begin to ponder life after York. My answer to this question will depend on if he gets through this year without any health absences. He definitely seems to still be loving life as BC coach, and is arguably doing better on the recruiting trail than he ever has (this year's incoming class is incredible).

WaP: What's the vibe on campus for the RPI game? Interested, or not?

JG: Honestly, not really. This might be a lackluster home opener. It's a Sunday afternoon on Columbus Day weekend, when a lot of students go home for the holiday. Also, a lot of people seem to like that Throwyball sport, which happens at the same time, and might hurt general public attendance. We'll see. I know I'm excited about it --- REALLY excited about it --- for whatever that's worth.


And we're pretty excited, too. Should be a lot of fun.

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