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October 14, 2013Boston College crushed a highly rated bunch from Rensellear (RPI) Sunday afternoon and if you were to go by the 7-2 final score you might be plenty pleased with the group that Jerry York put on display for the home crowd. But, while this team is definitely sown from the finest seed, it will take several more months of water and fertilizer before there will be a finished product worthy of the hockey tradition that is expected year in and year out at BC. And, of course, it will take a little sunshine too.
RPI came to Boston rated as the best team in the ECAC, the same league that gave us Quinipiac, Union (damn them) and national champion Yale last season. They are experienced, large and proud of the physical style that they play. They thought that they could handle BC with their strength because, as their coach Seth Appert admitted after the game, "we knew we couldn't get into a footrace with them"
For Boston College the Rensellear game was definitely an improvement over last Thursday night's season opener at Michigan, a rather dull 3-1 finish. The Eagles outran the RPI muscle. But, while there were smiles everywhere on BC faces following this game, there was hardly the glee that fans hope will follow as the season moves along five more months towards the finish.
After all, Boston College fans expect nothing but the best. Last season's team won 22 games, lost 12 and tied four. They made the NCAA tournament. Yet, fans call it a disappointing year.
On a positive note, the Eagles got goals Sunday from the guys who should be scoring- Johnny Gaudreau, Quinn Smith, Jimmy Hayes and Bill Arnold. Then they got scores from freshmen who are being counted on for scoring- goals from Ryan Fitzgerald and Chris Calnan and assists from Scott Savage (2) and Austin Cangelosi- and a goal from a freshman defenseman who hadn't scored a goal anywhere in over a year- Steve Santini.
"It's good to get the young guys scoring early in the season," York said after the game. "You don't want them pressing as the season goes on."
Combine the scoring with some fine goaltending from USA Hockey poster boy Thatcher Demko on Sunday and junior Brian Billett at Michigan and there has been some impressive individual effort so far in a season that is only two games old. But, as a team there have been some glaring faults. Except for Quinn Smith, the team has lack the energy and effort typical of most BC teams and one would hope that they can simply be attributed to youth, inexperience and the short time that this group has had to work together.
So far all four front lines have been shuffled almost daily and this is definitely not unusual as Jerry York annually searches out the right equation for a successful season. It was just last week after the exhibition game against St. Francis Xavier University that York was complimenting freshman Adam Gilmour's play as the fourth line center. By opening night last Thursday Gilmour was playing wing on the second line and Sunday afternoon he was the right wing on the number one line.
Johnny Gaudreau skated with Bill Arnold as his center in early practices, had Kevin Hayes as his centerman at Michigan and got Arnold back for RPI. Sunday Hayes had his cousin Fitzgerald on his left and Austin Cangelosi on his right. Michael Sit and Destry Straight (The "Sit-Straight" line) were both inactive for the exhibition game, Sit centered the fourth line at Michigan while Straight stayed inactive and Sunday they shared the fourth line with Brendan Silk. Speedy freshman Evan Richardson played at Michigan, but sat Sunday.
As the early season shuffling continues, goals might come from anywhere. RPI tried to bully Gaudreau Sunday, using their big bodies along the boards and slashing at his hands in the open. But they still couldn't keep him off the scoresheet. He shuffled a quick pass across the goal crease to Hayes for a goal and then tapped in a score of his own later on in a mirror image of that play.
Back on defense York has also been doing some shuffling. Fans have been questioning Danny Linell's qualifications as a blueliner since last March, but Sunday it was sophomore Teddy Doherty watching the game in coat and tie. Freshman Scott Savage, overshadowed by classmates Ian McCochen and Santini, played a strong game Sunday and probably earned himself another chance Friday night against Wisconsin. But, one never knows as York continues tuning this team.
Defensively there is definitely enough talent and experience to handle any situation. Yet Jerry York teams are always just a hair trigger away from a breakout play and now and then they forget an opponent out in front of their goalie. Mike Matheson, as good as they come in college hockey, makes a stupid mistake more than you would like and it is not always enough for his natural talent to cover it up. His mates are all strong at play around the defensive perimeter, but so far this season they have been week in the slot, giving up shots and rebounds that not even Thatcher Demko can stop.
One major area of concern for York and his fans both has been the number of penalties the Eagles have taken so far. BC skaters spent 17 minutes in the penalty box Sunday and they were penalized 12 minutes at Michigan.
Friday night Wisconsin comes to Boston College and this team is a guaranteed test for these young Eagles. The Badgers were picked third in the pre-season national polls and probably will be second when the new ratings come out Monday. You can be sure that with three or four practices between now and this next game, Jerry York will be making some more adjustments. Then he still has five more months to get it right.
Boston College NEWS