It’s not a crime to fail to repeat as national champions. The Boston College Eagles hockey team has done more than enough for itself and the fans since 2008 to earn respect and a “pass” for years like this when they don’t put it all together. What is not out of bounds is to point out that this particular Eagles team, in spite of its talent, did not in fact put it all together.
In early December, the Eagles led Providence, 3-2, with mere seconds to go in regulation. It was not just any game: Jerry York was moments away from winning his record-setting 925th game. Boston College then promptly gave up the game-tying goal and that contest ended all square at 3-3. It occurred to most BC fans then that the Eagles had entered their dreaded mid-season slump. January was up-and-down as it customarily is, but the expectation was that the Eagles would crank up another gear when “trophy season” started with the Beanpot and they’d find a way to sustain it through the early spring.
It never happened.
BC won three games in a row and bookended that short win streak by taking the Beanpot, which seemed like the end of the typical slump. The only problem was that the slump started again thereafter, and from the time they tied Providence until their season-ending loss to Union on Saturday night, BC was barely an above-.500 team at 11-10-4. The Eagles sustained two short win streaks of three games apiece, not winning four in a row since November.
Boston College only looked legitimately good early in the season, still riding the high of last season’s championship. Despite losing the season opener at Northeastern, BC followed that with ten wins in a row; looking back, if it wasn’t for that streak, this year might have been even less than expected.
The Eagles had injuries, losing players like Patch Alber and Kevin Hayes for any length of time while needing to replace the production lost by Chris Kreider, Brian Dumoulin, and Barry Almeida, amongst others. At times they did, and at times they didn’t. Hell, they even lost Jerry York to his retina issues several times over the course of the year. It seemed to have impacted the team more than we thought, though one cannot say these were the only reasons BC fell flat later in the year.
There was little rhyme or reason to BC hockey in the second half of the season. One weekend they’d drop nine goals on Northeastern in a single game and then get swept by a bad team like Maine the next. Consistency was not this team’s friend.
Seasons like this do have some value: they make you appreciate years like 2012 more. Winning 19 games in a row and blasting your way through other very good teams like they’re not even there to win a national title is extremely difficult to do. That could not have been expected this season, but it’s nevertheless disappointing when your team gets red-hot to end one season and is average in that same time frame the following year.
Boston College hockey will be back, hungrier and more focused. This year, they wore the targets on their backs and though they had a good season, they did not have anywhere near a great one. When the puck drops again in October, they’ll have to earn it back all over again, and if there’s anything we’ve learned about a Jerry York-coached team, it’s that they’ll be ready.