Hockey Notebook

BC hockey is heading into the final month of the regular season. Both men's and women's teams are in position to make a post-season run. This week's notebook is packed with great information about the final month, including thoughts from Coach York on the Beanpot. We also have a short interview with junior forward Matt Price wrapping up the Beanpot and discussing the rest of the season.

•While it was a radical departure from the usual intensity of the Beanpot, with very few fans in attendance and no trophy on the line, the Eagles approached the dreaded consolation game with an important goal in mind.

"It is hard to get up for a 3rd place Beanpot game, but this was a huge Pairwise ranking game for us," head coach Jerry York said. "We're right there on the bubble and we know that we need wins to get off the bubble. I thought that despite the 5 PM start, we played well."

The Eagles (13-9-4) are 15th in the USCHO pairwise rankings. 16 teams make the tournament, but at least two spots will be filled by conference winners who aren't currently in the top 16. Thus, BC must move up in order to secure a spot in the tournament.

"It's all about getting to the dance," said Benn Ferriero, who scored the game-winning goal against the Crimson with under a minute to go. "That's our goal every year. Then once you get to the tournament, it's all about who gets hot at the right time."

•With the win over Harvard, the Eagles are now 4-1-1 in their last six games. York attributes the recent uptick in results to increased focus at the end of games.

"What I was struck by was that in the last 2 games, we were able to close them out. We found what it takes to make a big play, or block a big shot. On Friday night [against UMass] we got the empty net goal to close it out, then with under a minute left [against Harvard] we scored a huge goal to win it. These are things we weren't able to do earlier in the year."

"We're playing harder for a full 60 minutes," Ferriero said. "If you don't play a full 60, you're not going to win. We were giving away points earlier in the year. There's an emphasis now on getting the little things done right so we don't give away any more points – we can't afford to."

•One point separates 4th place UNH, 5th place BC, and 6th place UMass-Lowell going into this weekend's series between the Eagles and the Riverhawks, a critical mark in the race for home ice. BC will host Lowell on Friday night before making the trip to Tsongas Arena on Saturday. The last time BC played the Riverhawks, Lowell stunned the Eagles with a last-minute, game-tying goal before downing BC 4-3 in overtime.

"You can't overstate the importance of this series," said York. "We're competing for home ice, and both teams are right in the thick of that race."

"That was a tough finish last time [against Lowell]," he continued. "But our discipline is improving. We're taking fewer penalties. We're focusing less on what our opponents do and more on what we do – getting quicker, getting more pressure on their goaltender, being more disciplined. That's what it's going to take."

Lowell, winners of two straight games in Conte Forum going back to last season, come in as winners of 4 of their last 5 – including a 2-1 win on Saturday night against rival UMass.

While the Riverhawks are mid-pack in scoring (75 GF) and defense (62 GA), they thrive on being disciplined. Lowell takes just 13.4 penalty minutes per game – 2nd lowest in Hockey East.

•This week brought bad news for the BC defensive corps, as it was announced that Tommy Cross will miss the rest of the season due to a recurrence of the knee injuries that plagued him before enrolling at BC. Cross, who had two surgeries before coming to BC, is now evaluating his rehab options.

"We've been conscious of the [knee] issue with Tommy all year," said York. "We knew that he was never going to be at 100% this year. Then, during one of the games recently – I think Northeastern – he said he felt a twinge. He's going to have an MRI now, and we'll know more clearly about his rehab process after that, whether he'll get surgery or just do rest and rehabilitation."

The injury will test BC's already stretched defensive corps. Anthony Aiello, Carl Sneep, and Malcolm Lyles – who often rotated through one opening in the lineup, will now see their share of ice time increase.

"Injuries are certainly not a welcome part of the game, but they're a part of the game none the less," said York. "Someone else is going to have to step in and seize this opportunity as a way to solidify playing time."

•The defensive corps, which could potentially be very thin next year depending on possible early departures, received a boost this week with the commitment of Philip Samuelsson to BC, according to Chris Heisenberg's hockey recruits website. Samuelsson, the son of Boston villain Ulf Samuelsson, is a 6'3'', 198 lb defenseman for Chicago in the USHL. He joins Brian Dumoulin, a vaunted puck mover on the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (EJHL), as part of BC's blue line in 2009-2010.

•The women's hockey team has no time to linger on their Beanpot win over Harvard. On Saturday, they have a crucial Valentine's Day matinee against Boston University at Conte Forum. With three games remaining in the regular season, BC leads BU by one point for 2nd place in the conference. The top two teams will receive a bye into the semifinals in the 6-team conference tournament.

•Matt Price sat down to discuss the state of the Eagles.

JG: As one of the team's veteran leaders, what do you say in the locker room after losing to Northeastern in the first round of the Beanpot?

MP: On our team, we say that we always play in the moment. We can learn from what happened in that game, but we can't dwell on it too much. We learn from our mistakes and we move on to the next game.

Every game is a learning experience – we try to perpetually get better. We also try to build on the positives from the last game, no matter how the game went. Our total focus is on getting two points [in the next game].

JG: What are some of the positives that you can take out of that game, as rough as it was?

MP: We were getting pucks to the net and bodies out front, which had been a problem in previous games. We had 47 shots. [NU goaltender Brad Thiessen] was great for them and made a big difference in the game.

We were taking the puck to the net hard, and did a good job being gritty in front of the net. We just need to do better at finishing the job.

JG: Talk about what Northeastern did to attack you guys. Obviously, they're a very strong team…

MP: They're an excellent team all around. Just like us, their big focus was getting traffic in front of the net. They're an excellent team all around. They play good, solid, smart hockey. They're not flashy, but they're effective. Everyone works hard and does the little things – they're always a really tough team to play against.

JG: What has been the focus in practice?

MP: Little things. Playing as a team. We have a lot of skill on our team, but it's not just about how much individual skill we all have – it's about conjoining out skills and fitting them together into one team, with everyone playing different roles. We're working a lot on making good, clean breakout passes. Also, lots on special teams. Just those team things that help you get two points.

JG: Who are some emerging players on the team who could be ready to carry the scoring load if other guys continue to struggle?

MP: Everyone plays hard and anyone on this team can step up. I wouldn't say it's just one guy, or a few guys. With that said, there are some ‘non-traditional' scoring guys who are able to score goals – guys like [Kyle Kucharski], [Andrew] Orpik – who are maybe considered more to be classic checking line guys… But on this team, anyone can fill that [goal-scoring] role.

JG: With one month left in the regular season, talk about the health of this team, physically and psychologically.

MP: We're doing pretty well. Physically, we've been lucky – knock on wood – that everyone's been pretty healthy. Guys get hurt, everyone picks up little injuries, but fortunately for us nobody's really lost a lot of time being out with injury.

Mentally, we know that we have a good team. We know that we're capable of great things. So that helps, knowing that we can get there if we work at it. We need to work on our game little by little until we get to where we want to be.

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