OK, folks, raise your hand if you began writing off Boston University right around Christmas Day.
C’mon, be honest with yourself. You there in the back, get that hand up!
There were plenty of reasons to doubt the Terriers. The team was consistently inconsistent in the first half. The average postgame news conference had to do with coach Jack Parker complaining about his team’s inability to show up or lack of desire to play a 60-minute game and finish teams off.
The most positive it seemed he was before Christmas was after a 6-1 loss to Boston College where he felt his team played well.
Then, of course, there was the loss of Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle — a pair that accounted for a significant part of the team’s goal scoring in the first half.
Add in a 5-2 loss to Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve and this writer — and surely a number of you out there reading — were more than prepared to turn the page on the 2011-12 BU hockey season.
The new year, though, seems to have given the Terriers new life. BU is 3-0-0 since the calendar turned, with the wins coming against Merrimack at home and Northeastern and Harvard on the road.
The one constant in each of the three wins for BU is goals. In all three games, BU scored four goals. (I still remember the late Shawn Walsh telling me that the first team to four goals wins almost all the time in college hockey. So true.)
Offense has hardly been a problem for BU since Jan. 1, and that’s something that is pretty shocking given the losses during break.
But BU suddenly has a whole new crop of goal scorers, many of whom dotted the score sheet last weekend.
On Friday, it was Wade Megan who played hero with two goals, including the winner. Adam Clendening and Evan Rodrigues, scoring his first career goal, also tallied.
A night later, those names changed as Chris Connolly netted two and Ben Rosen and Garrett Noonan each added markers.
It’s a plethora of scorers and something that Parker understands is necessary if this team is to be successful down the stretch.
“We need people to pick it up,” said Parker. “Connolly was playing well and was snake bitten. The freshmen need goals for us. But guys like Megan, [Alex] Chiasson, Sahir Gill are all guys we know can score and have to pick it up for us.”
Besides simply scoring, Parker is happy to see his power-play unit come to life. In the three wins since break, BU has scored five power-play goals, compared to just 15 in the 17 games before the start of 2012.
“Our power play is clicking pretty well right now,” said Parker. “I like what’s going on there as well.”
People have taken notice. BU has jumped in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll and is currently ranked second, that after dipping to a low of 16th in mid-November.
The Terriers also have made strides in the PairWise Rankings and find themselves in solid position for an NCAA bid (BU is currently third behind Minnesota-Duluth and Ohio State).
There, of course, is plenty of hockey still to play. The next five games should be winnable for BU, led by a home-and-home series against Providence this weekend (remember, Providence beat BU 5-3 to open the season).
One thing is clear, though. Do not write this BU team off.
Is there a goalie controversy at BC?
Although I swore I would keep this week’s column clean of Frozen Fenway references, thanks to Boston College’s stunning move last Saturday night, I must visit the final game of the event one last time.
When the Eagles took the ice last Saturday, in what was a 2-1 victory over Northeastern, the goaltender leading the team was third-stringer Chris Venti. It was Venti’s first career start.
The senior earned his first career win and the praises of coach Jerry York.
But what does Venti’s performance do for the Eagles’ goaltending?
Though I’ve been around the game for 20 years, I’m having a hard time remembering any team using a three-goaltender rotation successfully. Maine tried it last season without much luck. I can remember my days at Massachusetts-Lowell and then-coach Bruce Crowder trying to replace the school’s all-time best netminder, Dwayne Roloson, with a three-man rotation. It was a disaster.
The problem I have seen with three-goaltender teams is two-fold. First is the lack of ability for any one goaltender getting into a groove. We all know that great goaltenders love to play each and every night in order to find that groove.
The second is more critical. If anything, goaltenders tend to be the biggest head cases in a locker room. When one doesn’t start, that competitive edge sets in but so often, too, does the mental anguish of wondering, “Am I good enough?”
Now trust me, Boston College isn’t at that point. Giving a third-string goaltender a start is hardly a firm endorsement that said goaltender will become part of the day-to-day lineup.
But certainly, York now has his hands full with a critical decision to make every game, something he has rarely had in his tenure at the Heights.
“We thought early in the season we were going to have some remarkable depth in goal,” said York. “We haven’t had that in a number of years because I’ve had Cory Schneider play almost every single game, Scott Clemmensen play almost every single game, Johnny Muse playing about 99 percent of the games in his career.
“I think we’ll just stay with the real hot goaltender. Parker Milner was really hot early. Brian Billett was really hot of late and is still playing very well.”
So does that mean Venti is the new “hot hand?” York isn’t revealing his cards.
“It will be a very interesting dynamic,” said York.
• Hockey East got a bit more international when Massachusetts-Lowell announced the addition of Russian blueliner Dmitry Sinitsyn. Sinitsyn, who had visa issues in coming to the U.S. this year, will become the youngest player in Division I if he takes the ice this season. Lowell is hardly a stranger to bringing over players from Italy. Between 1998 and 2003, three players from France graced the River Hawks lineup: Yorick Trielle, Laurent Meunier and Baptiste Amar. All three played for the French Olympic team at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.
• We’re still a few weeks away from the Beanpot, but here’s calling your attention to a special fundraiser being held in conjunction with the annual tournament. The fifth annual Charity Beanpot Challenge, hosted by former Boston University player Travis Roy, whose career was cut short 11 seconds into his first shift when a collision left him paralyzed, will take place on Monday, Feb. 13 at Agganis Arena. The benefit hockey game is looking for players for this year’s event. In the past, players of all ages and skill levels participated. All participants can watch that evening’s Beanpot final from a luxury suite at the TD Garden. If you’re able to lace up skates, this sounds like a can’t-miss event. The proceeds benefit the Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation and the Travis Roy Foundation. For more information or to sign up for this great event, go to www.beanpotchallenge.org.
• Providence was dealt a significant blow last week when it was announced leading scorer Tim Schaller was diagnosed with mononucleosis. The team couldn’t be specific with exactly how long he’ll be shelved, but the minimum recovery time is typically three to four weeks.
• While it was easy to focus on BU’s two victories last weekend, I can’t ignore the New Hampshire Wildcats, who picked up two very much needed victories last week. UNH won a tight 1-0 game at Providence on Wednesday and then beat in-state rival Dartmouth 4-1 in the annual Battle for the Riverstone Cup.
One final note
As my good friend and colleague Dave Hendrickson mentioned in last week’s column, his book, “Cracking the Ice,” is now available for purchase. I was fortunate enough to be one of Dave’s pre-release “readers” and got a sneak peak at the book.
Without taking into consideration my friendship with Dave, I strongly endorse this book. Though it is dubbed a “young adult” novel, this book is appropriate for any hockey fan. There’s a perfect balance of hockey, politics, race relations and the history of the time and place — the late ’60s in Massachusetts — to keep any reader’s attention.
I am the first to admit that I’m not much of a reader, myself. I’ve read exactly one fiction book in the last five years and that is this one. I could hardly put it down.
Congratulations to Dave on what I hope becomes a New York Times best seller.