BC Hockey 2013-2014 Preview

Two seasons removed from an NCAA Division I National Championship, the Boston College Eagles are looking to raise yet another championship banner in Conte Forum.

After a 22-12-4 overall record last season and an auspicious start to the 2012-2013 season, in which the Eagles won 10 out of their 11 first games, BC’s season ended in disappointment. The Eagles capped their regular season with an agonizing 3-6 loss to crosstown rivals, Boston University. Just one game later, the Eagles had their hopes of hoisting a NCAA Divison I trophy for two seasons in a row cut short with an excruciating 1-5 loss to #3 Union.

This season, though, might prove to be just a little bit different.

NCAA HOCKEY: Vermont at Boston College

The Eagles enter the season ranked No. 4 in the nation, and, as always, expectations are sky-high. A robust core of returning players, including junior forward Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau, senior forward Bill Arnold, sophomore defenseman Michael Matheson, senior forward Kevin Hayes and sophomore defenseman Teddy Doherty should provide veteran leadership and stability along the way. On top of this is arguably the preeminent recruiting class in the nation, highlighted by touted recruits like goalie Thatcher Demko, defenseman Ian McCoshen, defenseman Steve Santini and forward Ryan Fitzgerald, the Eagles are making a case as always to be a serious threat for this upcoming season.

It’s no secret that the Eagles have won three national championships (2008, 2010, 2012) in the past six seasons. The amalgamation of depth, chemistry and coaching are among a few of many ingredients that have yielded a championship-caliber team year after year.

Of course, there are inevitable questions that need to be answered for the upcoming season. How can the Eagles fill the void left by the absence of top scorers Steven Whitney and Pat Mullane? How can they find a way to replace the dutiful goaltender that was Parker Milner? And how can they bounce back from such a calamitous postseason?

Ultimately, it’s crucial to remember that questions like these face all college hockey teams. Despite college hockey’s ephemeral nature, in which players can (but rarely, at this level, do) play four years maximum, Boston College has been a perpetual powerhouse for the last decade. And with a formidable returning squad, the all-time winningest coach in Division I hockey history, Jerry York and one of, if not the, strongest recruiting classes in the nation, the Eagles have a promising season ahead.

The Eagles had their first and only preseason game on Oct. 6 against St. Francis. After a tremulous 1st period, in which St. Francis emerged 2-0, the Eagles exploded and scored eight (yes, eight) unanswered goals to win the game 8-2. But what is more impressive than eight unanswered goals? Eight goals scored by eight different players and at least a point from fourteen different players.

If that doesn’t spell depth, what does?

Of course, one win against an unranked team certainly won’t prove that the Eagles are the best team out there, but it sure does answer a myriad of questions and doubts about this team. Mainly, this game proves that Boston College is a team laden with depth, overflowing in offense and permeated with chemistry.

In order for the Eagles to be a dominant powerhouse this season, they’ll need to turn to veterans Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes, Bill Arnold and Teddy Doherty to lead the team to triumph. All eyes are obviously on one of the biggest names in college hockey, and last year’s leading scorer, Johnny Gaudreau, who registered 21 goals and 30 assists for the Eagles last season.

Not to be overshadowed by Gaudreau, Bill Arnold, last season’s fourth-leading scorer and an extremely accurate shooter with 35 points and a .195 shot percentage, and assist machines Kevin Hayes (6 goals, 19 assists) and Teddy Doherty (1 goal, 17 assists), are indispensable elements for the Eagles this season. Ultimately, this multifaceted group will look to lead the team in more than one way.

Goaltending will undoubtedly be the Eagles’ X-factor this season. With two returning junior goalies Brad Barone and Brian Billett, who respectively played in one and two games last year, along with plausibly the No. 1 recruit in the nation this year and the youngest player in NCAA hockey at 17 years and 10 months old, Thatcher Demko, there is a giant question mark as to who will fill the void left by Parker Milner.

Since Milner played for over 2212 minutes last season, as compared to the 90 minutes both Barone and Billett combined for, the most salient question that plagues the Eagles is:  Will one goalie take the reigns, or will we see a goaltending platoon employed by Coach York?

BC Hockey

With a schedule that kicks off against five opponents, who, according to USCHO’s rankings, are top 20 teams, the Eagles have a relatively finite margin for error. If the Eagles are able to pass this stringent test of formidable opponents, all eyes -- if they aren’t already -- will be on the Eagles. Notable games this season include #1 UMass Lowell, #2 Wisconsin, #5 Minnesota, #8 Notre Dame and #19 Boston University.

The Eagles will begin their regular season Thursday, Oct. 10 against #11 Michigan in Ann Arbor at 7:05 p.m. EST. The Eagles’ first game will surely prove to be a pivotal one that will answer many more questions about the ensuing season.

Just like the preseason to any sport, it has all been conjecture up until this point. But now, it’s time to see whether the Eagles can live up to the hype. Now, it’s time to see what the Eagles are made of. Now, it’s time to play.

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Joe Castignetti