The situation is not unique to Boston College. It seems every men’s college hockey team has to address the possibility of underclassmen leaving the program, whether it’s to turn pro or enter the transfer portal, at the end of every season.
So when forwards Matt Boldy (Wild), Alex Newhook (Avalanche), and Mike Hardman (Blackhawks), along with goalie Spencer Knight (Panthers), signed professional contracts after completing their sophomore campaigns last spring, it was not unexpected, but it did leave questions as to how the Eagles would fill the roster this season.
The answer has been to lean on their veterans while welcoming in 10 players, including four graduate transfers: goalie Eric Dop, defenseman Justin Wells, and forward Brandon Kruse, all from Bowling Green, and forward Sam Sternschein from Penn Sate.
“They’ve done a great job blending in to Boston College hockey,” said coach Jerry York, now in his 28th season at the Heights. “It’s a real plus for them. They get another year of college hockey, they get a chance to get their master’s in one year here, so it’s certainly beneficial for them, and it’s certainly been very beneficial for us also. I really like their character, and what they’ve done.”
The early returns have been promising, as the sixth-ranked Eagles opened the season with a tie against No. 8 Quinnipiac, then defeated Holy Cross, 5-1, to capture the Ice Breaker tournament last weekend at the DCU Center in Worcester.
Captain Marc McLaughlin scored a pair of goals against the Crusaders and was named to the All-Tournament team, as was junior defenseman Marshall Warren, who finished the weekend with a goal and two assists.
Dop got the start in net against Quinnipiac, while sophomore Henry Wilder got the nod Saturday against Holy Cross.
“I thought both played well,” said York. “We’ll proceed through the early part of the season trying to judge who’s our best goaltender. Can we play two goaltenders? That’s something that will be decided as the year goes on.”
Whoever is in net, he’ll benefit from a deep defensive group. In addition to Warren and Wells, Drew Helleson is back after being named an All-American as a sophomore, as is senior Jack St. Ivany, who transferred from Yale last season after the Ivy League canceled winter sports. The Eagles have been dressing seven defensemen, with sophomore Eamon Powell and freshmen Aidan Hreschuk and Cade Alami also suiting up.
“Our strength is more offense around the net,” said York. “Banging in rebounds, going to high-traffic areas. We’ve got a team that can grind very well. So we’ve got to get units of five playing together. We’re not there yet, but that’s what we strive for.”
BC will open conference play Friday night at home against Northeastern (2-1). Goalie Devon Levi opened the season by recording a pair of shutouts for the Huskies against Bentley and Holy Cross before surrendering three goals in a 3-0 loss to Quinnipiac. The game will air on NESN+.
UMass coach Greg Carvel saw a silver lining to his squad dropping its first two games of the season against Minnesota State, which has moved up to No. 1 in the polls.
“The best thing about losing those two games is now we have the players’ attention,” said Carvel. “They seem much more focused and deliberate in practice. The intensity. We’re seeing a lot of good stuff coming out of it.”
Next up for the No. 9 Minutemen is a home-and-home series with AIC (0-1), beginning Friday night at Springfield. The Yellow Jackets have finished first in the Atlantic Hockey Association the last three years, qualifying for the NCAA tournament each time.
“I think it’s a great series, and I think [AIC coach] Eric [Lang] feels the same. It used to be one game a year and now we both want to play two games a year. Hopefully we’ll play home-and-home going forward because it’s good competition, it’s good for the area.”
Terriers do a split
Boston University (1-1) split a home-and-home series with Connecticut last week, with the visiting team winning each night. The Terriers host Sacred Heart for a pair of games this weekend, while UConn will hit the road for a pair at Ohio State ... No. 10 Providence will put its 3-0 record on the line when it travels to Duluth for the second iteration of the Ice Breaker Tournament to take on Minnesota State. The field also includes No. 5 Minnesota Duluth and No. 3 Michigan ... Bentley hasn’t exactly eased into the season. After losing to Northeastern in their opener, the Falcons hosted Ohio State for a pair of games, earning a split with the visitors from the Big Ten with a 2-1 win in the opener before dropping the finale, 7-1. They’ll host BC Saturday night.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.