MEN'S HOCKEY: Rivalry Rekindled
Eagles Face Another Early Test Tomorrow Against Wisconsin
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 00:10
The last time that the Boston College and Wisconsin hockey teams met, the circumstances were slightly different. Joe Whitney’s pass to little brother Steven, a freshman at the time, came just at the right moment for Steven to send the puck to Ben Smith who was waiting right between the face off circles to rifle a low shot past Wisconsin’s goalie. Four more unanswered goals and two-and-a-half periods later, the Eagles were the 2010 National Champions.
Not a single Eagle who wears the jersey today has ever faced Wisconsin, but on Friday night, that will change as the Badgers make their way to BC.
Nearly four years separate that night from the 2010 National Championship game, but head coach Jerry York has a good grasp of what it takes to defeat a strong Wisconsin team.
“We watch them on tape,” York said, “and Mike Eaves has been there for that duration, so we always know what type of club he has. Generally he’s very good defensively, they get into a shut down type of mode, so we have to be very conscious if we’re going to create offense.”
It will be the second time in just over a week that the Eagles will be tested by a Big 10 powerhouse, having already been gone up against Michigan during the season opener last Thursday. Two Big 10 teams in the first three games means a difficult start to the season, but York embraces the challenge.
“We made a conscious effort to play the Wisconsins, the Michigans, the Michigan States, the North Dakotas over the years, so I think it makes you a better team,” he said. “I think it’s a great environment for our fans when we bring a Big 10 school in. There’s a lot of notoriety to the program, so there’s a lot of plusses for us.”
The negatives are there as well, as he said.
“Hey, you’d better be ready, because they’re going to bring a really good club in here.”
Though the teams hail from the same conference and are both considered some of the top programs in college hockey, there are huge differences between last Thursday’s loss to Michigan and tomorrow night’s matchup with Wisconsin.
One of the biggest is the venue. While the Eagles opened the season on the road in Michigan’s Yost Ice Arena, they will be in the second game of a home stand tomorrow night after handing a dominating victory to Rensselaer on Sunday.
“The first game Sunday afternoon,” York said, “there were a lot of students gone on break and there were a lot of students just coming back from Clemson, the Red Sox were on TV, but I think this will be an electric atmosphere on Friday and we’ll feed off of that.”
BC is on a positive trajectory. After a disappointing opener, it bounced back with scores from seven different players, three of them freshmen, and three-point performances from team veterans Kevin Hayes, Bill Arnold, and Johnny Gaudreau against RPI for a 7-2 win.
This scoring depth could prove invaluable as the Eagles take on the Badgers’ strong defense and look to capitalize on every opportunity, as they will not come easily.
“I think it’s terrific to have balance in scoring,” York said. “We can score with Johnny Gaudreau, we can score with any number of players. That makes us more dynamic and more difficult to play against.”
There are still areas that BC stands to improve in, York citing specifically the special teams. The penalty kill was strong against RPI as the Eagles held off any scoring attempts during all seven of their penalties, but it wasn’t as successful when tested against Michigan, which scored during two of its five power plays.
“We had a step forward with Michigan. We didn’t win it, but we went from first practices to a game, and on the road competed pretty hard there. Now, we want to see improvement in our special teams, which we did against RPI,” York said.
The Badgers’ roster features 16 upperclassmen out of 26 total in contrast to BC’s 12. So far this year, one of the biggest stories surrounding BC hockey has focused on the youth of the team and the contributions that are expected from underclassmen, and that will be put to the test tomorrow night when youthful talent stands head-to-head with seasoned experience.
The start of the season has been a huge challenge for York and his team as they learn to integrate young talent with more veteran players, but every trial is welcome as an opportunity to further understand the character and potential of the team.
“We’re excited about it,” York said. “It tests us. It tells us our temperature gauge, where we are. It’s kind of a barometer for us.”