2007-08 Hockey Preview: We Don't Rebuild, We Reload
After a pair of consecutive soul-crushing losses in the national title game, is this the year that the hockey team finally breaks through and wins the big one??
The answer to that question will depend in large part on the play of one of two men--freshman goaltenders John Muse and Andrew Margolin. Muse, who comes to BC from Noble & Greenough, is expected by most to win the starting job. I for one don't think that it will be that cut and dry. Taft Prep graduate Margolin, while a tad undersized at 5'9, is felt by some scouts to be the most game-ready of the two netminders right now, although Muse is generally considered the better long-term prospect. It is telling that, had superstar Cory Schneider returned for his senior year, the plan was to send Muse to juniors for a year while Margolin came in right away to be Schneider's backup.
Furthermore, even if Muse is the better of the two, this is clearly not a "Schneider and that's it" type situation. Schneider first burst onto the scene as a freshman, splitting time with solid veteran Matti Kaltiainen and eventually taking over the starting role just before the Hockey East tournament. For his final 2 years at BC, however, Schneider had no reliable backup, and had a tendency to wear down in mid-season due to fatigue. He was talented enough to "turn it back on" in late February during both of these years, but when you have 6- or 7- goal games given up a handful of times each year by such a talented netminder, you have a fatigue issue. For that matter, the same thing happened to Kaltiainen in the 2003-04 season, after Tim Kelliher had departed but before the arrival of Schneider.
With a 36-game schedule (not including the Hockey East and national tournaments) and with both goalies considered very capable even if Muse is the real stud of the group, I'll be surprised if each guy doesn't get at least 10-12 games. My feeling is that the pair will more or less split time through the first half of the year, with York handing the keys over to the better of the two sometime around mid-February. You could even see sophomore Alex Kremer, a walk-on from Germany by way of Taft who played on BC's club team last year but who has reportedly been lights-out in preseason, get a game or two.
If the goaltending situation can be resolved, the rest should fall into place. BC has the best skaters in the country. The offensive firepower is there--BC fans on EagleAction.com have already begun talking about a "Drive for 175" points between Brock Bradford, Nate Gerbe, and Benn Ferriero. I'll also be excited to see the continuing development of sophomore Ben Smith, who took over as the top-line center late last season when captain Brian Boyle moved to the blue line and excelled in the role. Smith may stay on the top line or move down to the second this season depending on chemistry, but either way BC fans are counting on him for a big year.
I've always been a huge Andrew Orpik fan, and with Boyle gone his physical presence up front is even more vital to the team's success. BC's talented and fast but smallish forwards tend to breeze through Hockey East play only to get beat up on by the bigger western teams come tournament time, so I love that we're getting some early shots against western teams this year--the season opener on Friday against Michigan, then hopefully two games against Minnesota in the championships of both the Ice Breaker and Dodge Holiday Classic tournaments. Getting past Michigan and Air Force in the first rounds of those tournaments will be tough, but the chance to play a team like Minnesota not once but twice in front of their home crowd in the first half of the year is invaluable--especially for the goalies. Between those tournaments and the Beanpot, our freshman netminders will be battle tested when the chips are really down, in the Hockey East and national tournaments.
While the forward corps still lacks size, Orpik and Kyle Kucharski aside, the blue line gets a huge boost this year with the addition of 6'3 freshman Nick Petrecki from the USHL's Omaha Lancers (former home of Chris Collins). If Carl Sneep can continue the improvement he showed over the second half of his freshman year and if Brett Motherwell, the star of the defense, can avoid the niggling injuries that bothered him last year, this unit will be among the best in the country. Senior Mike Brennan provides stability and leadership to the defense, his classmate Brian O'Hanley is a solid role player who is often the target of BC fans' ire but whose absence in a game inevitably seems to lead to defensive breakdowns, and juniors Tim Kunes, Tim Filangieri, and Anthony Aiello are all solid players who can fill in around the edges as needed.
As far as lines, your guess is as good as mine. I'd like to see the following, for the forwards and defensive pairings respectively, but right now there is really no way to know what Jerry will do:
Finally, we get to the schedule. It ain't easy. We jump right into the fray with Michigan followed by RPI or Minnesota, then come back to Chestnut Hill for a home tilt against North Dakota in what has become college hockey's best intersectional rivalry. It doesn't get any easier from there, as the Hockey East slate opens just 2 days later in Burlington (did Hockey East hire contractors from the ACC to make BC's schedule??). BC also loses the home ice advantage against the rest of the conference's Big 4 this year, making a pair of trips to both UNH and Maine and only getting BU at home twice. As if that wasn't enough, the traditional first weekend of December home and home with BU could very likely be overshadowed this year by BC participation in the ACC Championship Game for footbal. (Incidentally, with BC hopefully to be a regular participant in that game, can't we change the annual date of the first BU series?? And I don't mean to put it back in early January when the students aren't around, either--how about just a week later, when there is no football, students are still around, and exams have not begun yet??) Speaking of Eurabia Tech, the Terriers are our first-round opponents in the Beanpot this year, so you pretty much know how that will go. The Harvard game will be a little bit later than usual this year, on Dec. 12th. The good news is that the UNH home-and-home will not be played on the last weekend of the regular season this year; instead, BC finishes up with series against Providence and Northeastern.
All in all, this year will come down to the play of the goalies. Can they step it up?? I think they will, and I think they can. Third time's the charm, boys.
Prediction: #2 in Hockey East regular season, Hockey East Tournament champs, National champs
Just a few more notes:
-BC has done a very nice job with the media guide this year, putting together 208 pages of material. Check it out here
-For the many of you who are going to be in South Bend this weekend, the Michigan game will be on FSN North out there. Buffalo Wild Wings gets the channel and should be showing the game.