Summer is a sad and lonely stretch of time for any hockey nut. But, a reminder of the glorious times to come always dawns upon us when we least expect it--and it's always a welcome refreshment when that 90-plus degree heat wave makes hockey season seem worlds away.
The 2013-2014 BC Hockey schedule has been released, thanks to the guys over at The BC Hockey Blog. Here’s the rundown:
10th- @ Michigan
25th- @ Minnesota
27th- @ Minnesota
1st- @ Northeastern
8th- @ BOSTON UNIVERSITY
14th- @ UMass (Thursday)
20th- @ Harvard
23rd- @ Maine
29th- Holy Cross
7th- @ UNH
30- Three Rivers Classic (Pittsburgh)
31st- Three Rivers Classic (Pittsburgh)
4th- vs Notre Dame (@ Fenway Park)
11th- @ Brown
17th- BOSTON UNIVERSITY
21st- @ Merrimack
25th- @ Penn State
31st- @ Providence
3rd- BC Invitational (vs BOSTON UNIVERSITY)
10th- BC Invitational
14th- @ Vermont
15th- @ Vermont
22nd- @ Lowell
28th- vs Notre Dame
We last saw the Eagles in the NCAA East Regional in March, which resulted in a 5-1 loss to the Union College Dutchmen. I really hoped we could have pushed our way to at least the Frozen Four last season, but those dreams diminished pretty quickly.
I’m not too concerned about the preparedness of our team this year. We have some solid recruits with Austin Cangelosi and Ryan Fitzgerald adding depth to our offensive lines, as well as some much needed size with Adam Gilmour and Chris Calnan.
With Johnny Hockey returning for his junior year and Hayes on the fast track to recovery from his absolutely brutal late-season leg injury, it looks as though the Eagles are on their way to bouncing back from this past postseason and regaining their ground. We are on the "warpath" to regaining Hockey East prominence. Not that we really lost it, though.
The problem? The impasse to BC's inevitable progress? Cue UMASS-Lowell.
The Riverhawks postseason run, which ended for them in the Frozen Four semifinal, where they lost to Yale in OT 2-1, was impressive to say the least. But when you look at Lowell’s stats from the past season, it’s no surprise they got that far.
UMass Lowell finished 28-11-2 last season, finished first in the conference, and won the Hockey East Championship in a 1-0 victory over BU.
What’s even scarier than these team stats are sophomore Connor Hellebuyck’s individual stats. As a freshman, this goaltender finished first in three overall D-1 stats: first in overall goaltending, first in SV% with .952 in 24 games played, and first in shutouts, which totaled to 6. Two of those shutouts happened during the postseason: 1-0 against BU in the Hockey East final and 2-0 against UNH in the NE Regional final.
Are you kidding me? This kid is an absolute monster of a goalie.
And as any hockey fan knows, the most important player on any team is the goaltender. If you don’t have a solid, reliable guy in the crease there’s not much hope for profound success.
The good news? The Eagles do have some hope for this upcoming season in the goaltending department. With the departure of Parker Milner comes the possible arrival of BC commit Thatcher Demko. Hailing from San Diego, this 17 year old clocked in some impressive numbers in both the USNTDP and in his season with the Omaha Lancers (USHL).
In 43 games played this past regular season, Demko's team recorded a 27-9-4 run, and he boasted a 2.11 GAA and a .907 SV%. In development camp, he finished off 22 games with a 13-4-3 record, a 2.11 GAA and a .902 SV%. He is widely regarded as one of the best amateur goalies in the nation.
The consistency of Demko between the pipes is something the Eagles need in the upcoming season. Junior goalie Brian Billett has definitely had some standout moments in his two seasons, namely his freshman year game against BU, where he made an incredible 40 saves which ended in a 6-1 victory.
But if the Eagles want to go far they will need the "Lundqvist" of college hockey, and right now it looks like Demko is that guy.
As for the rest of the Hockey East, the only legitimate threats come from BU and UNH. The Terriers finished third in the conference with 21-16-6 and made a good run in the Hockey East championship.
UNH finished 20-12-7 and ranked 11th in the final USCHO D-1 poll, just two spots short of BC’s 9th place ranking.
Another intriguing aspect of the schedule is that BC could face up to six opponents from the newly formed Big Ten Hockey Conference in 2013-2014. With away-away contests versus Minnesota, a possible matchup with Penn State in the Three Rivers Classic, a recently confirmed contest against PSU in State College, and October games with both Wisconsin and Michigan, BC will get a considerable dosage of B1G talent--and it is aplenty.
The addition of Notre Dame to the conference will result in what I hope will become the “Holy War on Ice,” if that is not already considered a "thing." With the Eagles taking on the Irish at Frozen Fenway in January and rounding off the regular season at home, I anticipate both of these meetings to be full of action and emotion.
The Irish made an excellent run in their former CCHA conference (R.I.P), which resulted in their win over Michigan in the conference championship. But the hockey programs they were competing against paled in comparison to the clout and talent of even a middle-of-the-road Hockey East squad.
As it is in every great sport, but especially in hockey, anything can happen.
And if Yale winning the national championship isn’t a testament to that-- I don’t know what is.
What I do know is that the Eagles have the moxie and skills to make a splash this coming season.
One question prevails: can this team develop the determination and drive throughout the season and beyond to get that sixth championship? Time will tell.
Until then, bask in that summer heat wave. Before you know it, the leaves will fall and hockey season will roll around.
Feature Photo Courtesy of Billy Foshay / Gavel Media.
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