Boston College Hockey: Ups and Downs Mark Season's First Half

Joe GravelleseCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2007

IconBoston College's home opener against North Dakota on October 19 set the tone for their season so far: promising, but disappointing.

The Eagles came out and played well against the then-No. 1 team in the country, keeping vaunted forwards T.J. Oshie and Ryan Duncan off the board and playing an aggressive, physical game.

Through two periods, BC appeared to be the better team, but they could not solve Sioux goaltender Philipe Lamoreaux, and the teams went into the locker room with the game tied 0-0.

Then, for the third time in four seasons, a BC game had to be stopped due to unplayable ice conditions. Conte Forum's ice began melting, and fog limited the players' visibility.

The teams took a default tie and BC was forced to settle for a 1-1-1 start to the season.

After going 2-0-1 in their next three games, the Eagles went into a rare slide, going over a month without winning a game during an 0-3-3 stretch, which included losses to Northeastern and UMass.

BC tumbled down the rankings, from their preseason No. 3 spot to No. 19 on November 26th.

They also experienced turmoil off the ice.

Star forward Brock Bradford broke his forearm during the first game of the season against Michigan and will be sidelined until late January. Defensemen Brett Motherwell and Brian O'Hanley were booted off the team for an unspecified an violation of team rules.  Hobey Baker candidate Nate Gerbe also picked up a one-game suspension for butt-ending a Merrimack player during BC's game against the Warriors on November 9th.

A sign taped to the glass by UNH fans at the Whittemore Center during the BC-UNH game summed it up: "Eagles—dropping like flies!"

But nothing is capable of turning a team around quite like an intense series against a cross-town rival, and it appears that the Eagles are ready for one of their patented second-half runs after ripping off three straight wins—two against BU, one against Harvard—going into Christmas break.

BC blew out Boston University 6-2 on December 1, a chippy affair in which Nate Gerbe picked up a hat trick.

Freshman goaltender John Muse and sophomore forward Ben Smith led the way the next night at BU's Agganis Arena. Smith scored a hat trick and Muse made 41 saves en route to a 4-3 victory as the Eagles swept the weekend against their long-time rivals from the other end of Commonwealth Avenue.

They followed up the effort with an impressive 7-2 win Wednesday night at Harvard, in which Gerbe lit the Crimson up for four goals, increasing his total on the season to 13 goals, tied for third in the nation. Also starring was freshman Joe Whitney, whose three assists gave him 16 on the year, which is tops in the country.

With the Eagles' power play clicking at a rate of 26.8 percent, their top forwards on a scoring roll, their steady checking line of Matt Lombardi, Andrew Orpik and Kyle Kucharski keeping opposing teams off the board, and goaltender John Muse performing admirably in his first year on the job replacing Corey Schneider, BC will once again be one of the favorites for a run at the national championship.

The biggest question mark seems to be depth at the blue line. With the departure of Motherwell and O'Hanley, BC is down to the six defensemen they skate regularly.

The scoring attack will be boosted by the return of Bradford, but no blue line help is on the way unless coach Jerry York converts a forward. That will be a storyline to watch as the season progresses.

For BC's seniors, this season is about unfinished business. For the past two years, the Eagles have made it to the National Championship Game, only to fall one goal short to Wisconsin in 2006 and Michigan State in 2007.

They have a long way to go if they are to bring the title home to Chestnut Hill in 2008, but recent signs indicate that despite an early season slump, the Eagles are very much in the mix.