MEN'S HOCKEY: Eagles Finding Their Identity On The Fly
Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Saturday night at Conte Forum was truly one to remember. In front of a capacity crowd of 7,884 and some former Eagles, including Len Ceglarski, Nathan Gerbe, and Brooks Orpik, the 2012 National Championship banner ascended to the rafters of Kelley Rink. After all the fanfare, Boston College gave a dominating performance that led to a 3-0 victory.
After a disappointing loss to start the season last week, Friday night’s game at UMass had signs of the Eagles stuck in a championship hangover. Instead, led by senior captains Pat Mullane, Steven Whitney, and sophomore linemate Johnny Gaudreau, the Eagles went on an offensive tear that delivered BC a thrilling 5-4 OT victory.
Their late-game heroics may have been the start to yet another special season. After losing so much talent from the 2011-2012 team, a slow start to the year could be perceived as understandable. This year’s squad, however, is showing that it has the experience, and more importantly the leadership, to continue its successful ways.
After the game Saturday, Gaudreau addressed the team’s slow start. After falling behind to the UMass Minutemen 3-0 Friday night, Gaudreau explained, “The first two periods we were (playing) a little shaky, but our captains talked to us, and ever since then we’ve been playing much better.”
Starting with the play of Mullane’s line, the Eagles were able to produce offensively in both their games this weekend for two conference victories. In addition, senior goaltender Parker Milner had an excellent performance between the pipes against Northeastern and allowed his younger defenders, like Teddy Doherty, to begin developing.
What was most prevalent was the attitude this team is showing so early in the season. In pursuit of another winning season, this team certainly has the right attitude and a collection of senior leaders that are willing to do what is necessary to win games.
After speaking with senior Brooks Dyroff, it seems the entire team understands the ultimate mission of their season. The team has also adapted to their new roster and has found a way to exploit their strengths.
The year’s captains have not simply led the team vocally. In Friday and Saturday’s game, Mullane and Whitney combined for six points and three goals. Although neither is currently a highly-touted NHL prospect, they have an in-depth understanding of the culture associated with BC hockey. They are also willing to work hard to do the little things properly.
At 10:06 in the second period, Gaudreau scored a beautiful five-hole goal off a breakaway. What was almost as impressive as Gaudreau’s ability to finish the chance was the hard work put in by Mullane to create the opportunity. Mullane blocked a Northeastern shot and subsequently led Gaudreau with a beautiful lead pass. The willingness to hustle and create chances is possibly more important than actually scoring goals.
In addition to the offensive dominance by the Eagles Saturday, Milner carried BC’s defense with 26 saves in his first shutout of the season. Milner’s strong play in the net has allowed for many of the team’s young defenders to begin to mature. Milner singled out one in particular–Teddy Doherty.
“[Doherty] made a huge improvement,” Milner said of the freshman, who played in just his third collegiate game Saturday night.
After three games, it is clear that the Eagles have not regressed from their championship form of 2012. The makeup of the team is noticeably different after losing a majority of their starters. This year’s team doesn’t have a Chris Kreider that can burn past defenders with ease. The defense is also filled with many unproven rookies. Yet none of these facts matter when determining how successful BC will be this year.
In just three games, the Eagles have done an excellent job understanding how to best exploit their strengths as a team.
“This team is really finding our identity,” Dyroff said. “We aren’t the same team from last year, but we are committed to upholding the culture and work ethic that is associated with BC hockey.”
A come-from-behind victory Friday and a dominating win Saturday created a great weekend for the Eagles. With the leadership of the team in place, the future is bright for BC hockey just three games into the 2012-2013 season.