Can Both Hockey Teams Win The National Championship?
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 05:02
Let’s start with the men, who are, as of now, the nominal favorites to take home every piece of hardware from here to Philadelphia. They’ve already locked down the Hockey East regular season trophy—they have the leading Hobey Baker candidate in Johnny Gaudreau, as well as dark horse Bill Arnold, and what looks like plenty of depth behind them. However, once in the single-elimination tournament, BC will be tested, and there’s a chance it won’t be up to it.
What could ultimately derail this team is its youth, and, consequently, its inexperience. Steve Santini, one of the top freshmen on the team, took two major penalties early in the year. While he has steered clear of them recently, he is becoming a fan favorite, as well as quite notorious, for his ability to lay the wood on defense. That tenacity could cost BC in the tournament if he were to take an ill-timed major.
Scott Savage, another freshman defenseman, was benched after two bad miscues in the Beanpot finals against Northeastern—the first directly leading to Northeastern tying the game at one, the second giving Northeastern a breakaway and scoring opportunity that was saved by goalie Thatcher Demko. As for the depth in scoring this year, the top three leading scorers are, of course, Gaudreau, Hayes, and Arnold—of the next nine top point scorers, only Patrick Brown is an upperclassman, and five are freshmen. Continuing the trend of youngsters playing key roles on the team, one freshman who cannot be ignored is the man between the pipes, Demko. Since being handed the starting role, he’s handled it with aplomb, going 8-0 and allowing just 1.375 goals per game. While this obviously bodes well for the next few years, there is no pressure that matches playing in a single-elimination tournament for a National Championship—in this case, BC’s in- experience could lead to issues that could ultimately knock this team out of the tournament a bit earlier than expected this year.
Thus far, the women’s team has had a season with the same amount of hardware as the men—this past Sunday, it too wrapped up the Hockey East regular season title, less than a week after winning the women’s Beanpot over Northeastern. The women are ranked No. 6 in the Pairwise rankings, and they’ve done it thus far without Olympian Alex Carpenter, the leading scorer on last year’s Frozen Four team. What derailed the Eagles’ quest for their first star was the buzzsaw known as Minnesota, the team that went an astonishing 41-0-0. BC played the Gophers tough in the Frozen Four, taking them into overtime before conceding a goal that ended the Eagles’ sea- son. While the Gophers finally lost a game this year, they’re still a stunning 30-1-1, and the overwhelming favorites to repeat.
The Eagles have had, by all statistics, an excellent year. They’ve got two pieces of hardware already, and their record is an impressive 23-5-3. They have seven players with at least 20 points on the year, and are outscoring their opponents by an average score of 3.5-1.7. Senior goaltender Corinne Boyles has gone 19-5-2, with a save percentage of .943, and a goal-against average of 1.59, providing BC with a steady presence in net. Within these solid statistics, however, is a story that has had its ups and downs. Of the Eagles’ five losses, just one has come to a team with a higher RPI than them, a 2-0 loss at Cornell, which they avenged the very next night with a dominating 4-1 win in the same building. Two of their losses came to the University of New Hampshire Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies, teams ranked 28th and 29th in RPI. Of the five teams ahead of BC in RPI, they’ve gone 1-1-1, showing they can hang tough with the heavy hitters. Most of these bumps in the road occurred early in the year—from Nov. 30 through Feb. 7, the Eagles went 9-0-2 and were seemingly on cruise control. They were brought crashing back to earth by a UConn team that held the Eagles scoreless, reviving memories of those early hiccups—hiccups that could dash BC’s hopes of earning that elusive star if they bubble up again in mid-to-late March.
Both the men’s and women’s hockey teams have a good-to-great chance of winning a National Championship this year. They are deep, have veteran leadership, and have had their teeth cut against some tough competition thus far. It’s easy to forget how truly tough it is to claim the crown that comes with the title of “best team in the nation,” however. For one team to win, it will be impressive. For both teams to do it in the same year would be truly special. While it’s of course possible, it’s highly unlikely that BC will be adding a star to the back of both teams’ jerseys after this year.