• Agganis Arena was not kind to the Boston College men's hockey team on Saturday night, as the Eagles were burned by archrival Boston University, 5-2. On the heels of their loss, which extended BC's winless streak to six games, head coach Jerry York says that the team needs to "get back to playing Eagle hockey."
"We're in a funk right now, and we've let our game slip," he said. "The BU game on Saturday night was a culmination of all of the things that had been happening. We had two heartbreaking games, where we lost a point in the final seconds [a tie against Vermont and an OT loss to UMass-Lowell]… and that played into our psyche. We sort of lost our swagger a little bit, we weren't ourselves."
"[BU] has an outstanding team, but we weren't on top of our game. We now want to reenergize our club."
York said that in order to "reenergize" the team, practice this week has focused on fundamentals – specifically, work in the defensive zone. "We need to execute better in all three zones, but particularly on defense, we need to tighten up. We were very loose [on Saturday]."
"Having an extra day to practice this week helps us," said forward Kyle Kucharski. "We haven't been able to practice on Friday in a while."
"We try not to dwell on the past," he added. "You have to keep working hard. It's a new week now, and we're refocusing this week on the fundamentals. Practice has been great- everyone's been showing up and working."
• BC welcomes struggling Maine to Conte Forum this weekend for a two game series. The Black Bears are a perennial NCAA power, but they have fallen on hard times in the past two seasons. Last year, Maine missed the Hockey East tournament, and this season they are 10-9-3, including a shocking loss to Bentley last Friday night. In spite of their struggles, the Eagles are in no position to take Maine lightly, however; in BC's last matchup with the Black Bears, Maine prevailed 2-1 at Alfond Arena on Nov. 9th,
"Obviously, Maine has a tremendous program, and is a great rival of ours. We've had some outstanding games with them in the past and they have some really good players," York said.
Two freshman forwards have led Maine this season offensively – Gustav Nyquist and Brian Flynn. Nyquist, a draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings, has tallied nine goals and 10 assists on the year; his 19 points place him 14th in Hockey East. Flynn has seven goals and seven helpers.
No other Maine players appear in the top 40 in Hockey East scoring. Their offensive woes have plagued them this year, as their 2.32 goals per game ranks 9th in Hockey East, just ahead of Merrimack. But the big story in Orono has been another freshman, goaltender Scott Darling, who has logged a 1.96 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.
• York said that in preparing for Maine, the team's focus has mostly been on improving their own play, not necessarily preparing specifically for what Maine brings to the table.
"Our game plan is to rectify what we've let slip from our game," he said. "We want to get back to Eagle hockey – aggressive, fast paced, hard-nosed. If we can do that, then we stand a good chance of success."
"We prepare for every game the same way," said Kucharski. "We've been working on special teams a lot. We spend each week going over what our opponent does on power plays, penalty kills, and special situations, but the focus is on what we can do. It's not necessarily what we have to do to beat Maine, it's what we can do ourselves."
• One continued bright spot for BC despite their recent downturn has been the continued strong play of Kyle Kucharski. Kucharski, a senior forward from Saugus, Mass., has already shattered his career high in goals this season with 7.
"I haven't necessarily done anything differently, I just feel like I've gained more confidence," Kucharski said. "I'm a senior now, so I've been able to see what it takes to excel at this level."
A big difference for Kucharski has been his ability to slow the game down. "Things move so fast in college hockey, but you don't have to rush everything. I don't freeze with the puck like I may have before. I realize when I have an extra second to make a better play."
He and his linemates – generally two of Andrew Orpik, Matt Lombardi, and Matt Price – often form BC's most effective line, even when the team is struggling.
"That line seems to have a great comfort level together," said York. "[Kucharski] really is having a banner senior year. He's in terrific shape, and he's incredibly focused and determined."
Kucharski echoed York's sentiments. "I've been playing with those guys my whole career," he said. "You get comfortable with guys and figure out where they're going to be at all times. We are also similar players – we play really physical and we never stop working. There's always motivation to work hard because you know the other two guys on your line are going to work hard too."
• While the men have struggled, this week brought good news for the BC women's ice hockey team. The USCHO Pairwise rankings, which simulate the process used by the NCAA selection committee, ranks BC at #3 in the nation going into this weekend's two-game road trip to Burlington to face the University of Vermont. With a 14-5-3 record and an 8-3-1 mark in Hockey East, BC sits atop the league standings.
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