Last year, Boston College men’s hockey needed to fight off a late New Brunswick surge to win the preseason exhibition between the two teams. In Saturday’s rematch, a year later, the Eagles rolled to a thorough 8-1 win, flexing their offensive muscles and showcasing a deep, balanced roster. The 24th season under Jerry York couldn’t have started better, and once the real games begin, BC will be grappling with plenty of lofty expectations.
What Last Year’s Goal Was
To exceed preseason expectations of a fourth-place projected Hockey East finish and, against the odds, return to the NCAA Tournament after failing to receive a bid the season prior. The Eagles were a single win short of the tournament in 2016-17, so missing the mark in back-to-back seasons was unexpected in Chestnut Hill. York’s squad entered the year without a single senior on the roster and was hopeful that a fountain of youth would be enough against conference heavyweights in Providence, Northeastern, and rival Boston University. BC, after losing its top five goal scorers from the year before, knew that it’d need an impressive effort in its defensive zone—the likes of goaltender Joseph Woll and defenseman Casey Fitzgerald would be relied on heavily.
What Happened Last Year
Record: 20-14-3, Winless Beanpot and Lost Hockey East Semifinal
How do you properly evaluate the season? It’s been a topic that many have struggled with. On the surface, a 20-win year despite losing a bulk of your production is an impressive feat. The Eagles saw York claim yet another Hockey East Coach of the Year award as he guided them to a first-place regular season finish in conference play. BC was able to make a run in the postseason tournament, too, eventually falling in the semifinals to the rival Terriers in overtime. The defeat was the final blow in its NCAA Tournament chances, and also reflected the flip side of the coin—the Eagles’ season was largely defined by falling short when it mattered most. BC had a record of just 4-5 against Providence, BU, and Northeastern—the three teams that would have more to play for in the postseason. The Eagles didn’t win a non-conference game all season, though, and the campaign ended in an unremarkable manner.
IN (Freshman): F Oliver Wahlstrom (11th overall pick in 2018 NHL Entry Draft), F Patrick Giles (member of U.S. U-18s), F Jack McBain (member of Canada U-18s, third-round NHL pick), D Adam Samuelsson (U.S. U-18s), F Marc McLaughlin
OUT: D Kevin Lohan (former graduate transfer from Michigan)
Goal for 2018-19
Nothing short of a NCAA Tournament appearance, surely. BC has missed college hockey’s biggest stage back-to-back seasons, a rarity in York’s 24-year tenure on the Heights. This year, outside of the five incoming freshman—several of which should have chances to play big roles—York has a locked-in set of players. Lohan, who was hurt for a chunk of last year after being injured in an unprovoked fight, is the only big loss. Logan Hutsko has proven he’s a fledgling star, and Michael Kim, Fitzgerald, and Woll will once again anchor the defense. When the entire roster is coming back and the incoming freshman class is one of the best in the country, hopes are high—all the way up to being picked to win Hockey East and earning first place votes in the national polls.
BC backs up its preseason hype, piling up non-conference wins and steals enough games against the likes of preseason top-10 opponents in Providence and BU to take the regular season crown. Hutsko is a bonafide star, picking up where he left off and proving his breakout freshman campaign is no fluke. Teams can’t just focus on containing him, however, as Wahlstrom enjoys a similar first year on campus, while the rest of the forward lines showcase their depth. With 105 of 108 goals returning, the Eagles are an offensive force to reckon with. Defensively, Woll’s third season as a starter is his typical high quality of play, while Fitzgerald backs up his selection last year as the Hockey East Defenseman of the Year.
Stuck in an arms race with the likes of Providence and BU, BC just can’t quite keep up. This section will be familiar to those who read the season preview for women’s hockey. The Eagles have all the depth in the world, but the entire course of last season could repeat itself—plenty of promise but an early exit in the postseason. The Friars, who came within a point of being named the Hockey East favorites, lost their top two forwards, but still return the bulk of their roster and present a difficult matchup for BC. Providence has a deep defensive unit and a tough wall to crack in goaltender Hayden Hawkey. The nearby Terriers—even with a new coach and a plethora of departures—are always difficult, too. Those are the types of games that will really reveal who the Eagles are, and if they drop them in a similar fashion to last year, BC will be left on the outskirts looking in for what could be the third year in a row.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor