Kristen Morse / Gavel Media

A Nearly Unrecognizable Men's Hockey Team is Homeward Bound

The men's hockey team will play its first home game of the season this coming Friday against Colorado College. The Eagles boast a record of 2-2 this season after dropping a notable match to Air Force but earning a statement win against No. 3 Denver. This past weekend, they played at Wisconsin and split the series, winning the second game by a score of 8-5.

The relative instability of this team should come as no surprise given that 13 players on the team's 25-man roster are freshmen. That's more than half the team. With such inexperience at the collegiate level, it is understandable that the Eagles are not yet dominant, but just because the team is heavily inexperienced does not mean that there is a lack of talent.

First, let's consider last season's departures. The list includes notable players like Miles Wood, Ian McCoshen, Zach Sanford, Alex Tuch, Steve Santini, Thatcher Demko, and Adam Gilmour. While Tuch and Demko's resignations were no surprise, they were still a huge loss considering that Demko was consistently one of the top, if not the best, goalies in the NCAA  and Tuch was a dominant presence on both ends of the rink. He made great contributions during his career, most notably scoring the overtime, game-winning goal to take the Beanpot Championship match from Boston University last February.

Maybe the biggest offseason shocks were Wood and Sanford. Wood decided to sign with the New Jersey Devils just weeks after last year's season-ending loss against Quinnipiac; in his one year donning the maroon and gold, he made a name for himself as a force to be reckoned with. Sanford, conversely, made his contributions with the puck, seemingly always there when needed, whether on a crucial assist or a gentle score after a cross-ice pass. Though he wasn't a particularly physical presence on the ice, Sanford was crucial in games when it mattered the most. That said, his signing with the Washington Capitals this summer came as a shock to many, as people expected he would stay another year to perfect his game. With both players gone, no recruit from the junior class remains on the roster, meaning this will very much be a sophomore season.

Colin White is perhaps the biggest name returning for the Class of 2019. He will be heavily relied upon on and off the ice. The forward led the Eagles in almost all offensive categories last season, splitting titles with Ryan Fitzgerald, who will also be a playmaker on offense. Two other key returners for the sophomore class are defensemen Casey Fitzgerald and Mike Kim; both took longer than expected to adjust to the college game during their first year, but developed into strong players and are expected to continue an upward trend. Rounding out the class is Chris Brown, who has been an unexpected weapon early in the year. A key fourth-liner last season, Brown currently leads the team with six points (three goals and three assists) and is a +5 through four games.

Kristen Morse / Gavel Media

Kristen Morse / Gavel Media

The team will also look to its veterans to perform this season. Captain Chris Calnan has had a rocky career thanks to a plague of injuries, but following an off-season surgery to repair his shoulder, he is ready to lead his team on the ice. If he can stay healthy, he will be a key two-way player for the Eagles. Fellow senior Austin Cangelosi will also be a contributing factor. He already has four points (three goals, one assist) and is currently +6. The assistant captain is a workhorse who will surely lead by example.

As for the new class, David Cotton has already asserted himself as an threat with the puck. He scored the game-winning goal against Denver and is third on the team in scoring with a pair of goals and assists. He joins the Eagles after having dominated in the USHL, where he earned 30 points for the the Waterloo Black Hawks last year. He looks to continue that productivity during his time in Chestnut Hill.

For goalie Joe Woll, the task of filling Demko's spot is daunting. That said, he has thus far risen to the occasion, despite two losses. Woll is averaging 2.77 goals against and boasts a .914 save percentage, good enough to break the top-30 in the NCAA. As the rookie becomes more comfortable between the pipes, expect to see those numbers shrink and rise, respectively.

Joining Cotton and Woll are Jesper and Julius Mattila. They are fresh off of playing for their native Finland on the Tampare U20, where they not only won the Finnish U20 Elite League Championship but also finished with silver medals at the 2015 World Junior Championships as part of the national team. Jesper will be a key defensive factor for the Eagles (he is already a +5 with one point in four games), and forward Julius, who has two points and is a +3, will look to contribute on offense.

Last but not least, Luke McInnis is another freshman expected to step up on defense and help fill the void that Santini left behind. In four games, he already has eight blocked shots and even found the back of the net. The Boston College legacy played for the USHL last year and earned 28 points in his final season with the Youngstown Phantoms.

In the latest USCHO poll released on October 17, Boston College fell four spots to be played in tenth. This isn't an unfamiliar position for the Eagles to be in. With such a dominant history, the program has a high turnover rate, meaning the beginning of nearly every season is about rebuilding and figuring out where new players fit. Perhaps this offseason was more unexpected than usual for the Eagles, but if anyone can take the raw talent and inexperience of the current roster and turn it into a championship-worthy group, it's Jerry York.

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Katie McGirney