After Boston College’s national championship in 2001, the Eagles struggled through the 2001-02 campaign and missed the NCAA tournament.
Last year, coming off another NCAA title, coach Jerry York’s team followed in the footsteps of the 01-02 club, much to his dismay, and struggle to find consistency, ultimately missing the NCAA tournament.
Though York likely didn’t want that pattern to repeat, one pattern he’d relish a chance to duplicate is what happened after missing the NCAA tournament.
Beginning in the 2002-03 season, BC went to six straight NCAA tournaments, including three national title games, won three Hockey East regular season title and three postseason championships. Surely, another such run would be welcome at the Heights.
To do so, though, York’s team will have to overcome some difficulties, one of which begins in goal.
Though no one knew why, goaltender John Muse, who as a freshman looked like the second coming of Ken Dryden leading the Eagles to the national title, struggled throughout much of last season. His consistency was nowhere near what it was a year ago and many began to question whether his rookie campaign was a fluke.
Then, on May 13, everything became clear as it was released that Muse had undergone hip surgery at the end of the season to repair a torn labrum. Much of his struggles could be attributed to pain and discomfort in net, which in hindsight makes perfect sense.
Heading to the 2009-10 season, though, Muse’s surgery creates a good amount of question marks for York and his staff.
“[Muse] spent eight weeks on crutches,” said York. “It was a little bit more than the average hip surgery. They went it to repair the labrum but they also found some defects in his hip socket.
“Right now, Muse is day-by-day. He’s taken some shots. He’s not back to the form we’d like to see him.
“As the year progresses, though, we think he’s going to be a lot more athletic.”
The problem is knowing when that year will begin. York is playing the timeline very close to the vest.
Regardless, understanding BC’s other options in net is most critical. Parker Milner became a last-minute recruit for the Eagles after Muse underwent the surgery. Milner had been courted by the Eagles and was signed over the summer. York certainly has high hopes for the rookie but admits those aren’t to the level they were two years ago when Muse was replacing all-American Cory Schneider.
“I think he’s a good goaltender but we have to watch him when the lights go on,” York said about Milner.
“But I still have John,” York followed, noting that the situation this year with Milner isn’t as destitute as it was when Muse replaced Schneider.
The team in front of the goaltenders will be critical as well. While the Eagles return a handful of scorers who York hopes for more production from, most notably Ben Smith who scored 50 points as a sophomore but tailed off to just 17 a year ago, the Eagles rookie class is touted as one of the best in the nation.
The rookies took center stage this summer during the NHL Entry Draft in Montreal when four were selected in the first two rounds (Chris Kreider, first round; Kenny Ryan, Brian Dumoulin, Philip Samuelsson, second round). York says he hopes to lean on them all, particularly his four freshman defensemen in Dumoulin, Samuelsson, Patch Alber and Patrick Wey, to help shore up this team.
When you combine the youth and roles that the freshmen will play with Muse’s uncertain timeline, it’s certainly tough to predict the Eagles will return to the national power from recent memory. That, though, is why they play the games.