Men's Hockey

In Season Opener Against Quinnipiac, Litmus Test Awaits Eagles

This time last year, Boston College men’s hockey was getting ready for its first game of the season. The Eagles had lost 14 players and replaced them with 13 freshmen, and the young team was looking to prove itself with a win in the opening weekend. While the turnover this year was not nearly as significant, BC did lose its top scorers, leaving questions about the offensive production this season. The No. 13 Eagles will look to silence any doubts about their offense with a win in their opening game against No. 14 Quinnipiac.

The Eagles’ roster took the biggest hits this offseason on offense. None of the their top five scorers from last year will be with the team when they take on Quinnipiac tonight. Instead, BC will need returning players like Christopher Brown and David Cotton to build off their successes from last year. Brown finished last season with 26 points in 34 games, an increase of 15 points from his previous year, and in seven less games, too. Cotton had 24 points in 40 games last year as a freshman. Now that he has a full season under his belt, he could be primed for a production increase like the one Brown saw last year.

The Eagles will also need depth players from last year to step up into bigger roles. The loss of their top five scorers creates some spaces in the top two offensive lines. Players like Zach Walker and Graham McPhee, who put up modest point totals last year in the bottom six, will get the chance to produce more if they get slotted into the top six. Incoming freshmen like Jacob Tortora and Aapeli Rasanen, each of whom put up impressive point totals last year, could also become important offensive contributors.

Fortunately for the Eagles, their opponent is not exactly an offensive powerhouse. Last season, the Bobcats ranked 25th in the NCAA in terms of goals scored per game. The Eagles were ranked 12th. Unlike the Eagles, the Bobcats did not see significant turnover in terms of production—only one of their top five scorers left the team in the offseason. The Bobcats’ production last season was pretty balanced, meaning the Eagles will have to be ready to shut down every line.

On the defensive side, the Eagles only lost one player, but it was their leader in points among defensemen, Scott Savage. They will now look even more toward Casey Fitzgerald, who has already proven himself offensively, to put up as many goals as Savage last season. Incoming freshman Michael Karow put up very good point totals in previous leagues as a defenseman, so he could become a key part of an offensive-minded defense, as well. Otherwise, this defense looks pretty much the same as last year’s, but with another year of experience.

The Bobcats are pretty set at the defensive end. They lost two seniors in the offseason, but kept key defenders like Chase Priskie and Brogan Rafferty, who finished last year with 26 and 24 points, respectively. All of Quinnipiac’s defensemen finished last year with at least 0.3 points per game, and Priskie finished with more points per game than any skater on the team except Landon Smith. The Eagles will need to be mindful that the Bobcats are capable of generating a significant amount of offense from their defensemen. Last season, the Bobcats ranked 18th in the NCAA in goals against per game, only two spots ahead of BC. While Quinnipiac’s defense is dangerous offensively, it is only a little above average in its own end, and the Eagles could break through if they can get their rhythm early on in the game.

BC’s potential offensive struggles could be exacerbated by the man defending the other goal. The starting goaltender for the Bobcats is Andrew Shortridge, who is coming off an impressive freshman season. Shortridge spent the first half of last season as a backup, but poor performances from the starter gave him a chance to prove himself, and he was able to grab the starting job. Shortridge finished his season with a .920 save percentage, and he allowed more than three goals only once. The Eagles will need to generate a lot of opportunities if they want to get the puck past him.

Thankfully, BC will have its own sophomore starter, Joe Woll. Woll came to BC last season with the difficult task of replacing Thatcher Demko, and he had to do so in his first season in the NCAA. He found his stride right out of the gate and solidified himself as BC’s starting goalie, finishing his season with a .913 save percentage. Ryan Edquist, who posted a .923 save percentage backing up Woll last year, will also return as a solid option to take some starts for BC. If the Eagles do end up struggling on offense, they know they will have a goaltender capable of keeping them in the game.

The Eagles have the chance to open their season with an important win, but they will need to find their scoring touch fast. If they cannot find a way to replace the production of Colin White and Austin Cangelosi early on in the game, they could find themselves in a difficult hole. If they can find a new offensive chemistry, and their defense can hold off Quinnipiac’s balanced attack, they have the formula for a win in their season opener.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

October 6, 2017