Boston College Eagles
No. 2 overall, Northeast Regional champion
Record: 28-7-4 (16-2-2, No. 1 in Hockey East)
Home: Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Head coach: Jerry York
Leading scorer: Johnny Gaudreau (35 G, 42 A, 77 P)
Starting goalie: Thatcher Demko (23 GP, 2.16 GAA, .920 sv%)
Path to Philly: def. Denver, 6-2; def. UMass Lowell, 4-3
SB Nation: What has been BC's key to success this season?
Joseph Gravellese: It's easy to point to BC's first line of Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold, and Kevin Hayes, and say their dominance has been the key to BC's success. And that's probably true, to an extent. But it was well known going into this season that those guys would be able to put up big numbers.
What was a bigger mystery this year was how the freshman-heavy defense corps would hold up. Last year, defense was a huge liability for BC, clocking in at 34th in the nation. BC brought in a hugely talented freshman class on the blue line this year, but relying on freshmen is never a slam dunk. But bolstered by Steve Santini, Ian McCoshen and Scott Savage, the young defense has improved dramatically, to the point where they are 8th in the nation at 2.28 goals allowed per game.
Since BC's big line is usually good for at least two goals per game just by themselves, that's been good enough defense to make BC an elite team again.
What will lead the Eagles to a loss in Philadelphia?
Well, nobody has managed to keep the top line off the board all year, so if anyone did manage to slow them down, that would probably get the job done. Also, BC lost 3-of-4 to Notre Dame down the stretch due in large part to some bad turnovers by the defense, shaky goaltending from the typically solid Thatcher Demko (another freshman), and an inability to crack Notre Dame's neutral zone trap.
Describe the type of game Boston College plays.
Historically, the answer has been "speed, speed, speed." The Eagles love to fly up the ice and play a fast-paced, north-south game. This year, BC has shifted a little bit more toward a possession-style game. The top line is still at its best in transition and excels at turning defense into offense in a hurry, but they can also get the puck in deep and cycle like a good NHL line, especially when Kevin Hayes is really on his game. Cycling and controlling the puck is also what the line of Chris Calnan, Adam Gilmour, and Matt Gaudreau will look to do when they're on the ice.
The blue liners generally excel at creating those quick defense to offense transitions by either making quick outlet passes or, in the case of Michael Matheson, carrying the puck up ice himself.
Who are the NHL prospects on BC's roster that fans should keep on their radar?
Everyone is obviously looking at Gaudreau and to see whether his sensational play in college can translate to the pros despite his diminutive size. I've always been a believer in Bill Arnold as an outstanding NHL prospect -- he's the epitome of a skilled center who plays a true 200-foot game. As a Boston Bruins fan, comparing someone to Patrice Bergeron is about the highest praise I can give a forward... and Arnold has a bit of Bergeron in him.
Kevin Hayes has the prototypical NHL frame, is a great skater, and is a powerful force when he's on his game. And Matheson is someone the Florida Panthers have really high hopes for as a puck-moving defenseman; they drafted him in the first round in 2012 and will probably push him to sign a pro contract after this season.
Finally, predict the Frozen Four for us.
This is tough. I think Minnesota is a better, deeper team than North Dakota, and should win that game, but since it's such a great rivalry, you never know what might happen. Before the tournament started, I picked Union to go all the way and win the title, but now that they're playing BC in real life instead of on a bracket, and BC put together such a great performance two weekends ago in Worcester, my heart is pulling me in the direction of thinking the Eagles will win. I'm going to chicken out and just say that BC-Union is going to be a tight game and may well go to OT, and that I like the winner of BC/Union against Minnesota in what should be a classic final.
Thanks to Joseph for taking the time to answer our questions. You can read more BC hockey coverage from Joseph and the rest of the BC Interruption team all weekend long as the Eagles look for their second NCAA title in three years.