Boston College. The team with the best first line in college hockey and Hobey Baker award winner Johnny Gaudreau (yes, I already gave it to him). A team that faced the Gophers in the best college hockey game I've ever seen with my own eyes back in October. And possibly the team I least want to see the Gophers play in the tournament.
While BC is not an unfamiliar foe, I wanted to see what might have changed for them in the recent months. BC Interruption's own Joseph Gravellese (@joegrav) was kind enough to answer a few questions to get us all back up to speed.
The Daily Gopher: Boston College has clearly had a good season. Coming into this weekend, what would you say are the Eagles' biggest strengths and weaknesses?
Joseph Gravellese: As everyone knows by now, BC's main strength is their incredible top line, which has basically scored at will on opponents all year. As usual, BC is a very fast team, and a great passing team. A big key ot BC's success this year has been the offensive, puck-moving ability of the young defense corps, which has excelled at turning defense into offense.
Unfortunately, that D corps has on occasion made some blunders in terms of turning the puck over or making an inopportune rush that doesn't work out and gives the opponent a breakaway or an odd-man rush the other way. That's a product of both aggressiveness and inexperience, I think.
BC's other weakness has been an inability to establish a true shut down line that Jerry York has confidence in continuing to roll out as a fourth unit -- there have been numerous changes made to that line, with its most recent iteration featuring Michael Sit, Quinn Smith and Brendan Silk. Sit, Smith and then-linemate Danny Linell got worked pretty badly by Notre Dame's top line in the Hockey Eas tquarterfinals The reworked unit did pretty well in the regional round so expect them to stay together if Smith is healthy (he was questionable last we heard).
TDG Frozen Four Central
Previewing Boston College
The BC Eagles fly into the Frozen Four on the backs of a trio of forwards that might be college hockey's best line ever.
TDG Frozen Four Central
TDG: Johnny Gaudreau. Evil cyborg or the final product of years of research into goal scoring genetics?
JG: Evil cyborg.
ED NOTE: I think he's lying. It's a poorly kept secret that BC has been investing in cloning research for years now in the hopes of copying a player just like Johnny Hockey.
TDG: Notre Dame clearly had your number down the stretch this season. What did they do that enabled them to pick up wins in three of the last four games of BC's Hockey East schedule (all at BC I might add)? Do you think Union or a potential Championship opponent can exploit the same things to beat BC?
JG: Notre Dame has been a bad matchup for BC for years now. Sort of a bizzaro version of BC football owning the Irish in the late 90s/early-to-mid 2000s, where the "underdog" really gets up for the game. Moreso than that, Notre Dame plays an incredibly disciplined, smart neutral zone trap that BC really struggles with. Notre Dame didn't have to force anything - they waited for BC to force passes or make a mistake to turn the puck over, then used their speed to lash out and strike quickly against BC. Thatcher Demko struggled between the pipes during that quarterfinal series too, which didn't help.
Notre Dame is a really good team and probably should have beaten St. Cloud State, frankly. They were unlucky to lose that one. I think they would have posed a really interesting challenge to the Gophers, but I guess we'll never know.
I certainly hope Union or Minnesota or North Dakota or whoever decides "oh we're going to copy Notre Dame" because unless they are naturally a trap-first team they aren't going to execute that game plan as well as Notre Dame does. If there's any lesson to what ND pulled off against BC it's that discipline and sticking to your own style is how to get it done against BC. It also helped that the officials allowed full-scale mugging of Johnny Gaudreau and other BC offensive weapons throughout the series without calling any interference, hooking, holding etc. penalties (ND is out now and BC is in the Frozen Four, so it's not whining anymore, right?)
TDG: Boston College's first line is ridamndiculous. The trio of Gaudreau, Hayes, and Arnold scored 47% of the team's 160 goals this season and accounted for 66% of their 289 total points. While that's insane (completely outright stupid good), is that a recipe for disaster if Union (or a potential Championship opponent) can hold that line in check?
JG: Sort of, I guess. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "recipe for disaster" because thus far it has been easier said than done. I do have confidence that the Calnan, Gilmour and Gaudreau-the-younger line is doing to do some damage against Union. Just a hunch. I think the style of game BC would likely get in to against a NoDak or a Minnesota would be conducive to Gaudreau, Arnold and Hayes getting opportunities to score.
TDG: What's the gameplan you want to see BC execute against Union?
JG: Make smart passes and don't turn the puck over - just like against UMass-Lowell, Union is the type of team that will pounce on any bad mistakes. The defensemen need to pick their spots on when to carry the puck or join the rush. Don't take dumb penalties (Union scored 3 PPG against BC last year and they have a number of outstanding puck-moving defensemen).
TDG: Predictions for the weekend?
JG: Since we bought balcony tickets rather than going through BC, I predict I will see at least one skirmish in the crowd between a Minnesota fan and a [redacted] fan. I will be quite disappointed if that prediction does not come true.
Thanks to Joseph for taking the time to help us out! For more Boston College coverage, make sure to stop by BC Interruption.