Football is not the only season approaching. With a National Championship to defend, I thought we'd check in with BC Hockey Guy Mook Williams. Here is part one of his update.
ATL_eagle: What's happened since Denver? What departures were big deals? What other roster issues do we need to know about?
Mook Williams: Other than the post-championship news that superstar Junior forward Nathan Gerbe would be leaving for the Buffalo Sabres organization and the team's visit to the White House and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, there has been little news coming from the Boston College hockey program during the summer of 2008 (this is a good thing). Beyond Gerbe, the Eagles lost the following players to graduation:
-- Mike Brennan (D)
-- Matt Greene (F)
-- Pat Gannon (F)
-- Dan Bertram (F)
Backup goaltender Andrew Margolin is also rumored to be transfering away from the program (frankly, no one blames him considering if he stayed he'd be a career backup to John Muse). Finally, BC was able to obtain a medical redshirt for injured forward Brock Bradford.
Other than Margolin, who saw little action behind "Iron Horse" John Muse during 2007-2008, BC's losses to graduation / early departure are significant. Each one of the skaters that departed were standout leaders on the squad, starting first and foremost with now ex-Captain Mike Brennan, the anchor of the Eagle blue line corps. Setting Gerbe's NCAA best offensive skills aside for a moment, the Eagles are also losing a handfull of guys with grit, hustle, and finely-tuned defensive awareness. These special attibutes have always stood out during the Jerry York era, and when present, perfectly compliment the annual BC scoring barrage. Some BC teams have these qualities in spades, while others have to work hard to develop them. Losing a bunch of "glue guys" at once should present a challenge for the guys remaining on the team, even considering how promising the 08-09 squad looks.
I'm not particuliarly worried, however. Why? Well, let's start between the pipes - John Muse showed the heart of a champion against UNH in the Hockey East semifinals, and played outstanding hockey from that point until the final seconds against Notre Dame in the National Championship game. His performance against UNH and Miami of Ohio are certainly two of the greatest goaltending performances in BC history, and were borne from precise positioning in the crease, focus, and mental toughness. Muse had plenty of opportunities to let down in tough situations in March 2008, but he simply did not. Take all of this and add in the fact that he already showed he is capable of logging every minute in a season during his freshman campaign, and you have a solid foundation for a top-contending team. Make no mistake about it, Muse isn't the second coming of Rick DiPietro or Cory Schneider skills-wise, but the half-second or so he lacks in pure talent he makes up for in many other ways.
OK, the goaltending outlook is sunny, both on talent and intangibles, so what about the returning skaters? Well, there are a number of guys that stand out in terms of having talent and intangibles. Nick Petrecki - how did you like his postseason play, especially with how he stood up to Miami of Ohio at the beginning of that contest and told them "you are not pushing BC around tonight?" He's your 08-09 blueline monster. Ben Smith, Brian Gibbons, Joe Whitney - these three guys should pursue careers in standup comedy once their hockey-playing days are over, because their timing in making big plays is impecable, and they know how to finish strong. Maybe the star of Gerbe was glowing too bright for the nation to take much notice of these three Eagle forwards, but I sure was watching, and so were the Hockey East coaching staffs. I expect all three to have big years on both ends of the ice, improve their games, and continue their quiet dominance of the opponents (although, they won't be able to stay on the DL much longer, sorry to say). Although others do deserve mention, I can't end this paragraph without saying a word about Milton Ontario's Matt Price. Although his pure stats from last season don't tell this story, I witnessed Price as one of the key cogs in BC's puck possession scheme during the latter half of the season and during the postseason. Price carried the puck and gained possession of the puck in many key moments in BC's late season run, and wasn't afraid to pay the price(seriously, that pun was SO unintentional) when ganing the offensive zone for the Eagles. Each and every year BC's mantra is "push the puck, cycle, push the puck, cycle," and Price was one of the understated reasons as to why the BC system succeeded with this philosophy in March and April of 2008.