Tournament Time; First '08 Recruit
Both BC winter teams kick off conference tournament play this weekend, with the hockey team taking the ice tonight against Northeastern in a best-2-out-of-3 series while the hoops team will face the winner of this afternoon's Maryland-Miami game tomorrow in Tampa.
The contrast between the notes on which the two teams enter their conference tournaments could not be more apparent. The hockey team is red-hot right now, probably the hottest team in the country. Where just 2 weeks ago they were in serious danger of not even making the NCAA tournament, we now have a decent chance to sew up a #1 seed. Back-to-back-to-back sweeps of Maine, Lowell, and New Hampshire have re-ignited the offense and given the team a huge amount of momentum heading into the postseason. Even the special teams unit, traditionally the bane of BC's existence, is playing as well as anyone in the country--the power play unit, which has been horrible most of the year, has scored at an astonishing 28.6% rate over the last 9 games and the penalty kill, which has been great all year, came up huge against UNH, particularly late in the second period of Friday night's game in Durham, shortly after the Wildcats, who had dominated the period, pulled back to 2-1 down and promptly went a man up with about 2:40 remaining in the stanza. BC woke up, kept the puck in UNH's zone for virtually the entire 2 minutes, and didn't allow UNH to even set up its power play until about 30 seconds remained on the penalty; even then, they got just one shot off. The penalty kill was the turning point of the game, the weekend, and perhaps even the season for these Eagles, who are tied with Michigan at 9th in the current pairwise rankings (using a .03 road win bonus, which is generally accepted to be more or less accurate) but could easily move up with a strong showing in the tournament and have to be considered one of the heavy favorites for the national crown.
There is some concern on the defensive side of things due to injuries. Carl Sneep and Anthony Aiello are both expected to miss this weekend, and Sneep may miss the entire HEA tournament with a high ankle sprain. Although an article in today's Patriot Ledger indicates that Brian Boyle may switch to the blue line until one of the two returns, I don't see it happening. The defense did fine in the UNH series, allowing just 3 goals in 2 games (one of which was a fluke), without both guys. Sure, Cory Schneider had to stand on his head the entire weekend, but I have little doubt the defense will settle down.
At the end of the day, I don't see Northeastern putting up much of a fight this weekend. Yes, the Huskies traditionally give BC problems--in Matthews Arena, which is one of the most hostile atmospheres in the country. But Northeastern hasn't won in Conte Forum (or, for that matter, beaten BC on neutral ice) since November 13, 1998. I don't see them breaking that streak tonight or tomorrow. BC will sew it up on Friday night and get an extra day of rest over its rivals, each of whom will go 3 games this weekend.
Thursday - BC 4, Northeastern 1
Friday - BC 5, Northeastern 0
Other HEA quarterfinal predictions:
UNH over Providence in 3
Vermont over BU in 3
Maine over UMass in 3
The hoops team, meanwhile, finds itself stumbling into the ACC tournament. Although Jared Dudley was rewarded yesterday with well-deserved ACC Player of the Year honors, the team has dropped 4 of its last 5. None of the losses were particularly bad from a standpoint of who we lost to, but nonetheless the team's form is troubling.
We may have caught a break, however. As I was writing the first part of this post, a 12-19 Miami team managed to knock off #17 Maryland and BC will now face a weak Hurricanes squad tomorrow. The Eagles have already beaten the 'Canes twice this year, 82-63 in Chestnut Hill and 75-68 in Coral Gables. I don't see us losing tomorrow. Miami's emotional win today will catch up to them against a rested and focused BC squad. BC will win tomorrow, and that likely means another shot at UNC--call me crazy, but I think we'll give them another run for their money and maybe even pull off the upset this time.
Finally, the football team has landed its first 2008 recruit, Everett High School athlete Isaac Johnson. Johnson, who is expected to play RB at BC, is the first recruit in over 30 years to BC from Everett, traditionally one of the top HS programs in the state. Tom O'Brien refused to even try to recruit the place, which would have allowed Diamond Ferri to go to Syracuse had Diamond Ferri been born in the first place, which he wasn't. This is a sign of very good things to come for BC. Look for us to add at least 1, probably 2 more RB recruits in this class, but people who have watched Johnson play say he could be a Top 250 recruit in the 2008 class.