Sports, Men's Hockey, Column

Scattered Observations Of A Preseason Goal Fest

Believe it or not, the Boston College men’s hockey team played an exhibition game in Conte Forum on Saturday night. Quick disclaimer: a shrewd person might elect not to believe this, for I have lied in this column before and remain committed to pursuing my campaign of deception and misinformation in the future.

But seeing as you were probably not in attendance—Kelley Rink saw a mid-season BC basketball game level crowd, and odds are, you weren’t part of it—you’ll just have to place your faith in me. The Eagles beat New Brunswick 6-4 in their first game of the year, so now, to emulate BC’s chaotic, up-and-down performance, here is a series of observations varying in quality and usefulness.

Either Kevin Hayes slipped into the BC locker room, locked Alex Tuch in a closet, threw on his old jersey, and hopped on the ice, or Tuch is—dare I say it—going to reach a level comparable to Hayes’ very quickly. Saturday provided a very small sample size, but Tuch emerged as a troll-sized brute with a pair of hands softer than cotton candy—a combination that will serve BC head coach Jerry York very well.The 6-foot-4, 220-pound freshman scored twice, took five shots, and displayed a knack for finding space. Tuch is already freakishly strong and fast—it took Hayes four years to figure out how to use his body to its full potential, and if York’s new No. 12 can put it together quicker than that, he’ll be BC’s best player before long.

Thatcher Demko got some new swag. Clearly an allusion to Neapolitan ice cream, the pads and blocker are broken into blocks of maroon, white, and gold. What does this mean? Are they infused with the life forces of Parker Milner and Cory Schneider? Is the switch related to the inch he grew? Where are the old pads? I don’t know. But I will do everything in my power to find out. Speaking of goaltenders, Brad Barone played like, well, in-form Demko in his second period cameo. Making 10 saves—including a phenomenal double stop—and letting up one goal, Barone was BC’s best goalie on the night.

Ryan Fitzgerald’s transition from wing to center will not be without growing pains and defensive miscues. The Zach Sanford-Fitzgerald-Austin Cangelosi line struggled to get anything going. An offensive lightning rod last season, Fitzgerald had 13 goals and 29 points as a rookie winger. Transitioning to a more important two-way role is going to take time and experience to get right. Fitzgerald’s bad positioning opened the door on the Reds’ fourth goal. The steady two-way presence of Bill Arnold and Patrick Brown at center will be missed.

Someone in the stands wore a Quinn Smith jersey to the game.

Michael Matheson and Scott Savage seem poised to torture fans once again by reuniting on the blue line—their pairing is arguably known best for its collective moments of gutsy brilliance and subsequent spirals into utter insanity. Since his freshman year, Matheson’s been pegged as the guy who goes through beautiful highs and head shaking lows. When he’s on, Matheson is the best player on the team, and for the most part, he looked it on Saturday.

Early on, it seems unlikely that BC’s penalty kill will operate with anything close to last season’s .899 kill efficiency. Loaded with hulking defenseman—only junior Teddy Doherty is shorter than 6-foot-1—BC will be targeted by Hockey East refs all year, and the Eagles didn’t pave the way for any goodwill on Saturday. BC committed six penalties, including a bench infraction and a five-minute major by Ian McCoshen, and gave up two power play goals. BC struggled to clear the puck and collapsed into a shell around the crease, failing to cut down shooting lanes.

Conte Forum’s music remains reassuringly awful. Turn down for what? Not preseason hockey, apparently. Get ready for “Cop Car,” because nothing says Keith Urban like a sport played on ice.

A UNB defenseman rocked Destry Straight into the boards during the first period, and the senior went down hard. Straight got up slowly and skated off on his own power, but with Brendan Silk already suffering from a concussion, the scene illuminated the fragility of BC’s forward depth—one long-term injury and BC is in trouble. Two injuries and BC is looking at a mere 12 healthy forwards. Three injuries, I’m suiting up.

I’d heard Noah Hanifin was a demigod who breathed fire and bent iPhones before it was easy to bend them. Hanifin blended in with the rest of the defence, which is actually a ringing endorsement, given the immense quantity of talent on BC’s blue line.

Cam Spiro played in one lonely game last year, but he showed off a deceivingly deadly pair of hands against the Reds and nearly scored on a crease cutting breakaway. Spiro and Michael Sit were the best seniors on the ice, and I’d wager the Smith-Sit-Straight triple SSS crew won’t survive the year unchanged.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

October 5, 2014

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