Hockey Preview: Cross and Dumoulin Lead BC With Defensive Grit
Senior Capatin And Junior All-American Form Lethal Duo On BC Back Line
Published: Thursday, October 13, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
In the past decade, the Boston College men's hockey team has not simply earned attention, but rather demanded it. The program has won three national championships during this span, including two in the past four years. To wear the maroon and gold sweaters has become a statement, declaring almost tacitly to the rest of the competition the supremacy of each athlete who dons the respected uniform.
This dominance has led to constant media attention, which often focuses on those Eagles who hope to lead the entire squad, on and off the ice, each and every year.
The names are as unforgettable as the memories each of them created while skating for BC: Gionta, Boyle, Gerbe, and, most recently, Atkinson, and Muse just to name a few.
This year, even in the wake of an offseason for the Eagles that saw several important seniors graduate and a few playmaking underclassmen leave the Heights for the NHL, that press tradition of singling out the next batch of rising stars for BC endures.
To many, they are junior Brian Dumoulin and senior captain Tommy Cross, and several college hockey pundits have already declared the duo one of the deadliest one-two defensive punches in the NCAA. It is upon the backs of the back line, then, where the fate of this season lies.
Some may question the ability of defensemen to lead a team, though, as their individual contributions cannot always be measured in points, captured on highlight reels, or inscribed within game recaps and box scores.
But leadership is often mistaken for stardom and egotism, and at BC, that has never been the case. For head coach Jerry York's teams, success is a cooperative accomplishment. A notion reached in a stout, careful manner from the back rather than streaking across the headlines in an all-out sprint.
"There is a little more of a responsibility, I guess you could say, being the captain," Cross said. "But leadership is natural, it's something that comes out whether you have a letter on your jersey or not. We have a lot of guys that don't have those letters on their jerseys, but they are definitely part of the leadership group, as well."
"It's going to be fun seeing who steps up this year, who is going to want to fill that role," Dumoulin agreed. "It only makes everyone better when everyone is fighting to get to that top level. So I expect a lot, not just out of one line or group, but many."
Just as they consistently shut down opposing offenses that creep into their territory, the notion of the spotlight is something both of the players will refuse to accept as solely property of their own to bask underneath.
"Both are great leaders," York said. "They're not just vocal leaders, though. It's the way they live their lives, too – the academics, the on-ice preparation."
In that respect, it's tough to imagine a more perfect set of leaders.
Leadership might be necessary more than ever this year, for this past offseason was a tumultuous one for the Eagles. Not only did they lose one of the program's most productive senior classes in John Muse, Brian Gibbons, and Joe Whitney – a group that combined for three Hockey East tournament titles, two national championships, and a Hockey East regular season title – but also star underclassmen Cam Atkinson, Jimmy Hayes, and Philip Samuelsson, who departed early for the NHL.
Gone are four of the top five scorers from last season, 45 percent of BC's total offense, and a 144-game starter between the pipes.
So a question of concern arises: what exactly is left?
The answer is an absolutely stellar defensive unit. While the offense certainly raises question marks for BC, the core of the Eagles defense has been together for years.
"A big thing was that we were all young, and we knew we were going to all be here for awhile," Dumoulin said. "In order to succeed, we had to be a tight-knit group together, and I feel like we have done that by working together in practice and throughout the past few years."
Six lettermen return, including Cross and Dumoulin, to what should be one of the most imposing defensive groups across the country. Already, the team has shutdown one of the best offenses around in the University of North Dakota, holding the Fighting Sioux attack to a measly two goals in a 6-2 victory on Saturday.
"There's six of us back, and it's great because the pairings may be switched up from last year, or whatever, but we've all played with each other before," Cross said. "I don't even remember the defense before Brian, Patch [Alber], and Patrick Wey.
"So it's a familiar group, and we feed off each other really well. It's nice because we can mix and match, and play with everyone in the group."
That common acquaintance and experience within the crew of blue-liners offers BC an excellent opportunity to utilize a similar scheme on the back end as they did last year, when the team conceded just 94 goals all season, the fewest in the Hockey East.