Boston College coach York keeping positive, level head despite Eagles’ sluggish start

Zac Robbins (UConn - 14), David Cotton (BC - 17), Adam Huska (UConn - 30) The Boston College Eagles defeated the visiting University of Connecticut Huskies 2-1 on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, at Kelley Rink in Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Melissa Wade)
Boston College defeated visiting Connecticut on Tuesday night by a 2-1 count at the Conte Forum (photo: Melissa Wade).

A week ago, Boston College was staring at a 1-5-1 record.

What in the name of Johnny Gaudreau was going on? 1-5-1? Inconceivable!

BC teams might have the occasional sub-par season–like finishing third in Hockey East or something similarly dreadful–but not 1-5-1. Since Jerry York’s fourth year behind the BC bench, only once have the Eagles fallen so far as a mere .500 record.

And there was kind of a good explanation for that “horrific” .500 performance. It was the year following the 2001 national championship, after which seemingly half the team turned pro.

So when the absolute worst, the nightmare scenario, is a .500 record after a national championship, the thought of a 1-5-1 record at the Heights just boggles the mind.

Yeah, every single one of those games had been against nationally ranked opponents. But since when did Boston College resort to excuses about tough competition?

How about never.

And yet… 1-5-1. One. Five. One.

Oh yeah, one more thing. The most recent result was a 6-1 thrashing at home by defending national champion Denver. It was BC’s worst home loss in three years.

Inconceivable.

The Eagles, the ultimate model of consistency in college hockey, fell out of the Top Twenty poll for the first time since February 23, 2009.

Inconceivable.

Now, however, a week later, the Eagles are riding a three-game win streak, fresh off a weekend sweep of Merrimack and a Tuesday night win over Connecticut.

How did that happen?

“It’s a long season,” York says. “You can’t ride the wave up and down as it tumbles ashore. Otherwise you’re all over the map.

“We stayed with the idea of ‘the right now.’ Today’s practice is the most important thing. We kept on seeing improvement even though the losses mounted. We were playing pretty well in different areas.

“We’re certainly not a finished product. We understand that. But we’re going to be a team that’s going to battle every game. We’ve got great determination and will in our locker room.

“Then as we get tighter and tighter as a more cohesive team, that will show dividends. It’s not going to be linear. It’s not going to be straight across. There are going to be some up and downs, which we’ve already witnessed. We’ll continue to see that because of our schedule and the competitive nature of Hockey East.

“But we feel good about our club. I like our players, from offense to defense to goaltender. Now we’ve just got to keep on getting better and attack each day.”

It should be noted that even in these recent three wins, BC didn’t blow away its opponents. It isn’t quite time to start preparing another national championship banner. Ignoring an empty net goal on Friday night, all three wins were by the same ultra-tight margin, 2-1.

“We’ve had difficulty scoring goals,” York concedes. “With that as a mindset, we’re going to continue to work on our OZP [Offensive Zone Play], and our initial rushes, and try to create more offense.

“But our concentration is certainly from the blue line back. All of us are playing very well in the defensive zone, knowing that we have an excellent goaltender. So our mantra will be defense first, and our offense will continue to improve as we work through the year.”

Although BC’s nonconference record isn’t pretty and will be an obstacle it must overcome before NCAA tournament selection time, the Eagles are looking mighty fine in the Hockey East standings. Based on total points, their 4-1-0 league record puts them atop the league with eight points. New Hampshire (3-0-1) and Northeastern (3-0-0) have better winning percentages, but the three have at least temporary established a top tier within Hockey East, ahead of the next group with .500 records or lower.

“We’re not just looking back; we’re looking forward,” York says. “It’s way too early to look through a telescope and look at the national picture. We just want to get better every day.

“We’re getting some really fine efforts from some emerging young kids that have helped our program. We’re not looking at the future, we’re looking at right now, but this is a good nucleus for us to build with.”

The leadership isn’t coming from the seniors because there are none, other than Michigan transfer Kevin Lohan, a defenseman who has played only two games. And there are only four juniors, although three of them are the team’s captains: Casey Fitzgerald, Michael Kim, and Christopher Brown.

“We’ve stressed to our team that those aren’t the only leaders,” York says. “We’ve got other leaders on our club. But at this juncture, Kim, Brown, and ‘Fitzie’ have been outstanding for us, playing through injuries and being great role models for the rest of our club.”

Special team agonies

This past week, UConn had to relearn the lesson about the importance of special teams. After a convincing 5-1 win over Vermont on Friday night, the Huskies led the Catamounts 2-0 in the second period, then went on a five-minute major power play.

Game over, right?

Not exactly. While on that power play, Vermont’s Ross Colton took off on a breakaway and after he was taken down, a penalty shot was awarded. Colton scored on the penalty shot, and Vermont didn’t stop there. The Catamounts killed off the rest of the major penalty, then scored twice more in the period and again in the third for a gratifying 4-2 win for them, but a how-did-we-let-that-slip-through-our-fingers loss for UConn.

“The story of the game was special teams,” UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said after the loss. “When you have a team on the ropes, you’ve got to put them away, and we didn’t do that.”

It was, unfortunately, a bit more of the same on Tuesday night against BC. Up 1-0 in the second period and on the power play, UConn once again surrendered a shorthanded goal, BC’s first of the season, then gave up the game-winner on a BC power play.

UConn has now given up three shorthanded goals while the rest of Hockey East has totaled only five.

You just know that Cavanaugh won’t allow that to continue.

And finally, not that it has anything to do with anything, but…

Great news!

Last week, my latest novel, Offensive Foul, was released. It’s the sequel to Offside, the book of mine that has been adopted by high schools. Both books are filled with sports, and are set in the turbulent sixties, arguably one of the most fascinating historical times.

Many of you have read Offside, and I’ve heard only positive responses. I’ll post some early feedback for Offensive Foul below, but first, here are links for ordering the ebook and trade paperback. You can also order the print version directly from me, autographed and personalized, if you’d like. Twelve dollars, including standard shipping, or twenty for both books. Check or paypal. Email me at [email protected] for the specifics. Thank you for your support.

I love this book! It’s age appropriate for 13 and up, and yes, it’s great for adults, too.

ebooks: http://books2read.com/OffFoul

Trade paperback: http://tinyurl.com/OffensiveFoul

“David H. Hendrickson has written a sequel worthy of his spectacular novel, Offside. Offensive Foul is filled with heart.”
—Leslie Claire Walker, author of The Faery Chronicles

“Rabbit Labelle is back in David H. Hendrickson’s Offensive Foul, and everything’s cranked up a notch. Tougher family issues. Racism bubbling over. And a powerful first love caught in the middle. Love this saga!”
—Terry Hayman, author of Chasing the Minotaur

“Hendrickson has scored again. Offensive Foul is another great book full of sports excitement and racial conflict. Rabbit Labelle’s speed and agility shine on the basketball court, but he risks losing his place on the team when he stands up for what’s right. Rabbit is just as fast to put everything on the line for his friends as he is with the basketball. I enjoyed this book immensely.”
—Rebecca Shelley, author of Dragonbound: Blue Dragon

“High school football star Rabbit Labelle returns in a page-turner with plenty of food for thought. Racial conflict, family discord, and a girl­friend. Offensive Foul has all that, and, of course, basketball. David H. Hendrickson sinks a three-pointer at the buzzer with this winning addition to Offside. Don’t miss it.”
—Dory Crowe, author of Dark Secrets

*** Jim Connelly contributed to this column ***

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