MEN'S HOCKEY: Demko Is Best For The Eagles' Future
Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 03:12
In 2011, the Boston College men’s hockey team faced an unusual problem. After years of great goaltending from current NHL players Scott Clemmensen, Cory Schneider, and John Muse, the Eagles couldn’t figure out who their No.1 was. There was a revolving door of goalies made up of then-junior Parker Milner, freshman Brian Billett, and senior Chris Venti. Milner asserted himself as the starter with two solid performances against New Hampshire, and from that time on, BC would not lose another game.
Now, two years later, the Eagles face a similar situation. Sixteen games into the 2013-2014 season, the Eagles boast a 10-4-2 record with the youngest team in the nation, and once again, there is no permanent starting goalie.
For the most part, Billett, now a junior, has been splitting time with freshman Thatcher Demko. While the strategy has worked to this point, it is time to start giving Demko the bulk of the work.
In terms of raw talent, Demko may be the best goalie BC has seen in a long time. Before coming to BC, Demko spent the 2012 season as the starting goalie for the U.S. National Under-18 team. He won 30 of the 43 games he started, posted a .910 save percentage, and picked up six shutouts along the way. Coming into BC this year, he was considered the No. 1 goalie prospect by a wide margin, and the only reason he was not taken in the 2013 NHL draft was because he was too young to be draft-eligible. While he may not see much live action ahead of Jon Gillies of Providence or Anthony Stolarz of the OHL’s London Knights, it is tough to argue that he does not have a much higher ceiling at BC than Billett.
The general consensus around BC is that the net is going to be his at some point in the future, so why not sooner rather than later? This BC team already plays as many as three freshman defensemen on any given night. Putting Demko between the pipes full time gives the whole unit a chance to grow together. Putting Demko in now is a better move for the future of the Eagles, but it is also the best move for right now.
Both Demko and Billett have put up strong numbers thus far in the 2013 season. Demko has a .911 save percentage and is letting up 2.31 goals per game, while Billet has a .917 save percentage and is letting up 2.58. While the numbers compare well, Demko may have an edge on Billett in one category. Demko has already proven that he can go on the road in Hockey East and win games against rival teams as a freshman. His last two outings on the road came last Saturday at New Hampshire and on Nov. 8, at BU. In both games, he let up just one goal and led his team to two wins. In Billett’s last road game, BC was blown out 5-1 by Maine and Billett was pulled after the second period. Winning on the road in Hockey East is never an easy thing to do, and Demko has already done it in two of the toughest arenas to play in.
What’s important to consider is that Billett will likely receive the next three or four starts. With the team off until after Christmas, Demko will be away playing with the U.S. team when the Eagles return to the ice. However, if Billett is less than dominant in Demko’s absence, then Demko should be starting. He is a goalie who seems to have an abundance of talent and enough confidence not to be rattled in a hostile environment. Sooner or later, the net is going to be his.