BC’s Young Eagles Struggle

Jerry York is hoping that, like a fine wine, his Boston College men’s hockey team will get better with time.

Boston College — the nation’s youngest team, with an average age of 20 years and 140 days — continued to be hampered by its youth last weekend, dropping two games to the University of Maine.

Half of the Eagles’ 24 players were born in or after 1986.

The Eagles made some costly mistakes in the weekend’s first game, giving up three goals in the opening frame.

For the team’s defense — comprised of five underclassmen (freshmen Anthony Aiello, Tim Filangieri, and Brett Motherwell, and sophomores Mike Brennan and Brian O’Hanley) and senior captain Peter Harrold – every game brings a new lesson.

The blue line appeared to lack confidence on Friday, playing tentatively and failing to take control of their zone.

York moved O’Hanley back to defense last weekend, hoping that the sophomore will assist Brennan and Harrold in bringing some much needed experience to the blue line.

As a result, freshman defender Tim Kunes did not dress for the series.

“We need [O’Hanley] back there,” he said. “I think with the development of [forwards] Joey Adams and Andrew Orpik, we can allow O’Hanley to go back on defense.”

Most of the team doesn’t know what to expect from games in the Alfond Arena or from contests like the Beanpot.

“With all the freshmen we’ve got, we’ve been working on [defense],” Cory Schneider told USCHO after last Monday’s Beanpot. “We’re going to give up more shots with kids playing in a big game like this.

“All it takes is one, and one made the difference tonight,” he continued.

“Hopefully we can tighten it up a little bit more and limit the shots the rest of the way.”

The holes weren’t patched up between the Beanpot and Friday night, though.

“We were just watching,” York said of his team’s first period play, “And you can’t play and watch.”

Maine outshot BC a startling 40 to 21 in Friday’s game.

The opening frame alone saw 17 shots from the Black Bears, compared to the Eagles’ three.

Though BC brought more energy to its second and third period play, Maine walked away with the win.

And though the Eagles put up much more of a fight Saturday, the Black Bears again walked away with a W to sweep the series.

“We played way different [on Saturday] than we did [on Friday], even though the score was basically the same,” said York. “I told our players, ‘We may have found ourselves a team down the stretch here.'”

The team needs conditioning, though, if it hopes to contend for championships.

“It’s a process that we’re going through,” York said of showing his 10 freshmen the ropes.

Developing his offense remains one of York’s chief concerns.

While BC’s top line of left wing Chris Collins, center Brian Boyle, and right wing Stephen Gionta continues to be a powerhouse, the three other shifts (made up of all freshmen and sophomores, save for junior Joe Rooney) aren’t living up to their potential.

The Collins-Boyle-Gionta line has combined for 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists) in the last 10 games.

“We need more balanced scoring, for sure,” said York. “[We need to be] a little more accurate, a little quicker. Goal scorers find ways to beat good goaltenders.”

The offense struggled to find ways to beat Maine freshman goalie Ben Bishop over the weekend.

“He’s an excellent goaltender,” York continued, “And there’s a lot of those guys in our league, so you’ve got to find a way to get red lamps on them.”

Harrold agreed, adding that he was happy with Saturday’s boost on both offense and defense.

“It’s tough to lose two games on the weekend,” he said. “We didn’t do what we came up here to do, but we played well. We played with enthusiasm. That’s a bonus and we’ll try to carry that through to the next weekend.”