MEN'S ICE HOCKEY: Alber Adds Postseason Experience
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 01:03
At this point in the college hockey season, every team is banged up and bruised. Despite the trend, heading into its Hockey East quarterfinal best-of-three series with Vermont this weekend, Boston College is the healthiest it has been all season.
Senior defenseman Patch Alber will see his first action on Friday since he tore his meniscus on Dec. 29, a welcome addition for the Eagles and head coach Jerry York.
“Patch brings such a high level of enthusiasm and hard work, it’s right off the charts what he’s brought,” York said Monday after practice. “We’ve really missed that on our team. The hard work, enthusiasm, and excitement about just practicing, it really helped our team today in practice.”
When Alber went down with the injury in December, the team and the surgeons thought he had likely played his last game in a BC uniform. But last week, Alber began to skate, and on Monday practiced full-go.
“He’s kind of defied the odds,” York said.
Alber will be thrown into the fire right away, as the No. 2 Eagles take on No. 7 seed Catamounts.
Friday’s opponent is no stranger to BC, after it played Vermont in a two-game series in Burlington just last weekend. The teams tied 4-4 on Friday night before the Eagles broke out for a 7-2 win on Saturday night
BC will welcome Alber’s return against the Catamounts, as York said he was looking for his team to bolster its defensive play.
“I think just tighter defensively,” York said on what he hoped to improve on this week. “Patch will help us in that area. I thought we moved pucks well and played good offense. The power play was good, our PK was pretty good, but I think just a little bit more five-on-five tenaciousness on our defense.”
York’s focus specifically with his defensemen is allowing fewer shots on goalie Parker Milner.
“During the course of the year we were giving up way too many scoring chances, and that’s playing Russian roulette because you can only ask your goalie to stop so many of those,” York said. “But I think our defensemen have to cut back those scoring chances and try to generate some really good offense from our own zone.”
Although the Eagles went 2-0-1 during the regular season against Vermont, York said that seedings and regular season games are out the window starting with Friday night’s quarterfinal.
“I think there’s a certain sense of, ‘Hey, we gotta be ready for a different Vermont team,’” York said. “They’re upset they lost to us, they want another crack at BC, and we understand that. That makes it an even harder first round event for us. But we’re grownups, and we understand seeds don’t matter now. It’s who plays the best gets the Garden. There’s no lock because we’re a higher seed.”
Vermont snuck into the Hockey East playoffs in part thanks to its tie with BC on the final weekend of the regular season. Now that they have a spot among the top-eight teams in Hockey East, anything is possible this weekend at Conte Forum.
“We’re playing for a championship as well,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon on a teleconference Tuesday. “The one thing that we’ve stressed to our guys down the stretch here is just to get in. If you think about it, teams one through eight are excellent teams and I’d say the two teams that didn’t make it are excellent hockey teams as well. I think it’s wide open this year, we’re treating it as we’re not just playing in the playoffs, we want to win.”
The Catamounts do not need to be reminded of the offensive attack the Eagles can bring, especially from senior Steven Whitney, junior Bill Arnold, and sophomore Johnny Gaudreau. The three combined for five goals and seven assists in Saturday night’s win, and Sneddon said his team will put an extra focus on those forwards when they are on the ice.
“The biggest thing we have to do is make sure we’re well aware of when Mr. Gaudreau, Whitney, and Arnold are on the ice,” Sneddon said. “They’re excellent players, they’re going to get chances we just have to make sure that we make them earn those chances and minimize to the best of our ability their time of possession with the puck.”
While BC has been forced to give freshmen lots of minutes this season, Vermont has too. Freshman goalie Brody Hoffman has played in all 34 games this season, boasting a 2.82 goals against average. The Catamounts also have two freshmen defensemen—Caylen Walls and Yvan Pattyn—who have played almost every game this season.
“We’ll be well prepared, always interesting to go against a team four games in a row,” Sneddon said. “We know each other pretty well right now and we know what we need to do better and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”