That Boston College was unable to qualify for the NCAA Tournament the past three seasons was surprising, especially considering the Eagles finished first in the Hockey East regular-season standings twice in that span.
One of the major contributing factors for BC’s failure to reach the tournament was its struggles against nonleague opponents. After defeating Arizona State on Nov. 13, 2016, the Eagles did not a win a game outside the league until they defeated Harvard in the first round of the Beanpot on Feb. 4, 2019. In between, they dropped 25 non-conference games in a row.
If BC is looking to end its postseason drought, getting a few wins outside of Hockey East would be a good start. The first opportunity will be Friday, when the Eagles host Wisconsin. The following weekend, they’re on the road for a pair of games at second-ranked Denver.
“It will be a big test for us early,” said Boston College coach Jerry York. “We’re always trying to find out how good we are. That’s the way I’ve always done it.”
“That’s one of our measuring sticks early. You play the best teams you can schedule, and see how you can improve off that.”
In each of the last three seasons, the Eagles reached the conference semifinals, including the championship game twice, but all three times they lost to the eventual tournament champion.
“We certainly want to be successful against anybody we play,” said York. “League, nonleague, we’re not going to stop playing good teams outside our conference.”
After struggling to a seventh-place finish in Hockey East last season, BC responded by taking two out of three against second-place Providence in the quarterfinals, then shut out first-place UMass in the semifinals. The run came to an end when Northeastern prevailed in the title game. York was asked if the strong finish has any carryover to this season.
“I think it does. And now that we’ve brought in a really high-caliber freshman class, that will help us for sure,” said York.
The voters in the preseason polls evidently share that outlook, with BC picked to finish first in Hockey East, and sixth in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
One look at that eight-member rookie class, and it’s easy to understand why York is so optimistic. Five freshmen were selected in the 2019 NHL Draft this summer, four of whom were taken in the first 50 picks. Three players were taken in the first round, a program record.
Goalie Spencer Knight was selected with the 13th pick by the Florida Panthers, just after forward Matt Boldy was drafted by the Minnesota Wild with the 12th pick and ahead of Alex Newhook, taken with the 16th pick by the Colorado Avalanche. They will join a veteran roster that returns senior David Cotton, who led the league in scoring and finished with 23 goals and 13 assists in 39 games last season.
Knight will have the task of replacing Joseph Woll, who signed an entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs last March after his junior season. He posted a a 47-45-8 record, 2.51 GAA, and .916 save percentage in three seasons.
Knight went 32-4-0 in net for the US Under-18 National Team last season with a 2.36 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. He became the first American goaltender to be selected in the top 15 since 2010.
“I think he’s outstanding, I really do,” said York. “I think he’s got a good mental framework for being a goaltender. Similar style and stature to Joe Woll or Cory Schneider [the former BC star now in his 12th NHL season with the Devils], those type of goaltenders. He sees the ice extremely well. Just watching him, he’s in great position. He’s going to be really solid in goal for us.”
Carvel in demand
When UMass made its run to the NCAA Championship game last season, the school knew that coach Greg Carvel would become a hot commodity. Earlier this week, the university announced it had extended Carvel’s contract through the 2023-24 season.
“Surround yourself with good people. Then be very grateful. I did and I am,” Carvel said while retweeting the news of his extension and that of his assistant coaches, Ben Barr and Jared DeMichiel.
UMass drops in poll
Preseason polls can serve a purpose. If nothing else, they let fans know that the season is fast approaching. But they can also seem silly. For example, UMass dropped two spots, from No. 3 to No. 5 this week, despite not playing a game. BC, which also has yet to play a game, jumped from No. 7 to No. 6. Fortunately, everybody will be in action this week, including UMass Lowell, which will hit the road to face No. 1 and two-time defending champion Minnesota-Duluth for a pair of games.
Bilka powering BC
The BC women continue to cruise along as freshman forward Hannah Bilka erupted for five goals and an assist, including four goals against Holy Cross. The Eagles improved to 4-0 but will be off this weekend.
Northeastern goalie Aerin Frankel recorded 16 saves in a season-opening shutout at Union. The Huskies hit the road again this weekend and will face Syracuse for a pair of games.