Expecting the Best
By Jeff Howe
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Boston College
isn’t defending any titles this year. The Eagles aren’t
even returning their top scorer from a season ago. But with
a wealth of experienced talent returning, the top-ranked
team in the country is fully engulfed in a whirlwind of
On Tuesday night at Conte Forum, the Eagles
fought off a feisty Northeastern team to open up the season
with a 5-2 victory. Though a bit rusty through much of the
first two periods, Boston College applied tremendous pressure
on both ends of the ice to continuously stymie the Huskies
and send a statement to the rest of the league.
The burly Brian Boyle, who turned down a contract
from the Los Angeles Kings in July to come back to The Heights
for his senior season, led the offense with two goals and
two assists while sophomore Brock Bradford added a pair
of tallies and one helper.
The stats don’t tell the whole story.
The way the goals were scored was the impressive part. Boyle
capped off a furious rush in front of the Northeastern net
with a rebounder to tie the score 1-1 in the second period
before Bradford finished off a tricky pass through the low
slot from Joe Rooney just 40 seconds later.
Bradford unleashed an Andrew Alberts-esque
slapper in the third to push the lead to 3-1, and Boyle
added another nifty lamp-lighter – collecting another
swift pass from Rooney and shifting from the backhand to
the forehand while getting hooked from behind before scoring
top-shelf – while BC was on the penalty kill.
Northeastern coach Greg Cronin saw a BC team
that he believes is much improved from the group that lost
in the national championship game last year.
“I think BC has a heck of a hockey team.
I think they can skate. Boyle is obviously a dominant player,
but those freshmen on defense from last year who are all
now sophomores have that swagger and a lot of substance,"
Cronin said. “A year ago when we played BC, there
was probably some tentativeness there, maybe a little gun
shy, but those guys have grown up quickly. They play with
a physical edge now that I don’t think they had last
year so they’ve got a heck of a squad.”
For much of the night, goalie Cory Schneider
– Boston College’s other star – wasn’t
even the best goalie on the ice. That honor went to Northeastern
netminder Brad Thiessen, a freshman forced to make his first
career start in less-than-ideal circumstances – against
the top team in the nation in its own barn.
Thiessen held his own against the relentless
BC attack and made 32 saves before wearing down in the third
period. Schneider made 22 saves to back a nearly flawless
effort from his defense.
The stars came out, indeed, but the supporting
cast grew up and may have been more impressive. No doubt,
the Eagles didn’t win the national championship with
one victory against Northeastern in October. But they did
prove they are worthy of the lofty preseason rumblings.
Despite the expectations, hype, and everything
else that the outside world is calling for the Eagles to
do this year, Boyle said that hasn’t changed how his
team has viewed this season in comparison to any other he
has been part of.
“It’s not so much the expectations
that really drive us,” he said. “We don’t
say, ‘Well, people think we should win so we have
to win.’ Every year you want to go out and win the
national championship. You want to be the best in the country.
That’s how we go about things.
“We want to be the best. We want to
be the very best in the country, and we came in second last
year. It didn’t feel any better than when we lost
my sophomore year to North Dakota in the regionals. We didn’t
win the national championship, and that was the goal. We
want to win the national championship, and that’s
what drives us."