Point/Counterpoint: Will A BC Hockey Team Make The Frozen Four?
Eagles Have Lost Too Much Talent
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 00:10
When a school boasts two of the country’s premiere hockey programs, it seems unreasonable to bet against their chances of reaching Frozen Four competition.
Both the Boston College men’s and women’s hockey teams are well-oiled machines, blessed with legendary coaching and a constant cycle of top-tier talent.
Yet each squad’s absence from NCAA championship competition in March will not be a consequence of what it currently has, but rather of what it has lost.
Take a look at the men’s team, and you see another rookie class with impressive credentials. BC’s future was on display in full force in last Sunday’s home opener, as freshmen combined for three goals and seven points while rookie standout Thatcher Demko notched a win between the pipes.
With a youth movement that includes Demko, Steve Santini, and Ryan Fitzgerald—all of whom are under the tutelage of head coach Jerry York—there’s every reason to believe the 2013-14 Eagles will be exciting contenders.
But if last year’s BC squad is any indication, even great teams are vulnerable to early exits from the NCAA Tournament.
Each season has its share of Union Colleges or Yales, small-market teams that catch fire toward season’s end and play the role of postseason spoiler.
Their quintessential casualties are young opponents unfamiliar with navigating through a six-month marathon to the Frozen Four.
While BC is youthful, quick, and athletic, it lacks the core veteran leadership of years past. Not only did the Eagles lose a Class of 2013 that brought home hardware every season, but also players who were skilled at leading teammates through the adversity-ridden journey of a collegiate hockey campaign. Up until last year, they were the figureheads whom everyone else looked to—including this year’s veterans.
That’s no knock to Patrick Brown, Bill Arnold, Isaac MacLeod, and other centerpieces on this year’s team. Each has rightfully earned the letter on his jersey. Yet the responsibility of guiding the nation’s youngest team is a daunting task for any group of seniors, let alone one coping with the void of losing one of the most successful classes in program history.
Without a doubt, this year’s BC team has the makings of another dynasty if early departures to the NHL can be delayed—but the future is going to need a season to learn the ropes and come back next year primed for a championship run.
On the other end of the ice, BC’s women’s squad is running into a similar predicament. Of course, the leadership that head coach Katie King-Crowley brings to the table and the dependability that vet Corinne Boyle exudes between the pipes are nothing to scoff at.
But neither is losing the team’s best player to the Winter Olympics.
Coming off a sophomore season in which she tallied 70 points, Alex Carpenter joined Team USA’s ranks to compete for a gold medal during this year’s Olympic Games in Russia. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Carpenter’s selection to the sporting world’s greatest stage means she’ll miss the 2013-14 season.
Although one person rarely makes or breaks a team, Carpenter is no average college athlete. Accounting for over 20 percent of BC’s scoring output, she was a driving force behind last year’s Frozen Four run and near upset over powerhouse Minnesota.
Regardless of how much talent Crowley’s squad has gained and retained, it will have trouble filling the void left behind by Carpenter’s 32 goals and 38 assists from a year ago.
Expect the 85-goal margin that BC owned over last year’s opponents to dwindle as a result. Even with Boyles in goal, closer games bring the potential for more losses—a mark that the Eagles can’t afford on a NCAA tournament resume.
In truth, both BC hockey squads will be good—even great—in 2013. Yet even for national powerhouses with impressive track records, the rigors of college hockey offer no guarantees.