Hockey Notebook

Hockey season is underway and the BC men's team is looking to get off to a strong start. The big win at Notre Dame should help, along with a couple against Merrimack this weekend. It may be a tougher test for them than expected, as the Warriors have started unexpectedly strong this year. Eagle Insider's Joe Gravellese sat down with Coach York to talk about the upcoming matchup this weekend.

One week ago, Boston College was still searching for its first win, Merrimack was 2-2, Boston University was off to a very rocky start, and Vermont was widely considered to be the early frontrunner in Hockey East.

Over the course of one weekend, perceptions about a lot of teams changed.

The Eagles gained some confidence with a big 3-2 win at Notre Dame. BU got into the win column with a dramatic 3-2 victory over a very good Michigan team. And the Merrimack Warriors, Hockey East's perennial doormat and BC's opponent in a home-and-home series this weekend, stunned observers with a 5-2 thrashing of Vermont.

It was part of a two-win weekend for Merrimack, as they also defeated Connecticut at home on Sunday. The Warriors are 4-2, with both losses coming in a season-opening series at North Dakota.

"We've got to shift gears, and focus on playing a very good Merrimack team," said coach Jerry York, moving on after the team's win over the Irish. BC will open their home slate against the Warriors on Friday night, before heading to North Andover for game two on Sunday afternoon. It's BC's first two-game weekend of the year as the grind of the season begins to pick up in earnest.

"[Merrimack coach] Mark [Dennehy] has done a great job building a foundation for Merrimack. They're going to compete for a playoff spot in the league this year," he said.

"They started off the season impressively at North Dakota, where even though they lost those games, they played really well," he continued. "Since then, they've been on a roll. They really spanked a very good Vermont team, who beat us pretty good."

That strong foundation includes leading scorer Chris Barton, a junior who's netted six goals in seven games.

But much of the buzz has surrounded France native Stephane Da Costa, a freshman who scored five goals in one game against Army, the first Hockey East player to accomplish that feat since Brian Gionta.

"Da Costa is going to be an excellent player," said York. Da Costa's three power play goals have been a big part of Merrimack's strong power play, which has gone 8-for-32 this season.

On the flip side, BC's penalty kill has been a strong point, killing off 13 of 14 power plays in their two games this year.

"It will be a good matchup, I think, because their power play is excellent," said York, adding that penalty killing continues to be an emphasis in practice this week.

Defense Coming Along

York said that the main focus in practice has been continuing to build a core of strong, defensive play, and staying clean in their own end.

"Our young defensive corps is right on schedule, I think," he said. "They've gotten good leadership from Carl Sneep, the only upperclassman in the group. We've got two sophomores there, in Edwin Shea and Tommy Cross, who are showing great improvement, and three freshmen who are off to an encouraging start."

Cross, a draft pick of the Boston Bruins, missed much of last season with a knee injury, but York says his progress both medically and on the ice has been very good so far.

"His knee feels stable, which is a good sign," he said. "He's got good leadership skills on the ice and he's playing well for us."

Cross scored in both exhibition games, and has been a strong contributor in both games this season despite not getting on the score sheet.

Freshman defenseman Philip Samuelsson got onto the board on Friday night with his first career assist. He is also the only Eagle with a positive plus/minus, at +1.

Special Guest

Dave Poulin, a former Boston Bruin and Philadelphia Flyer, and current assistant GM with the Toronto Maple Leafs, stopped by practice on Wednesday to speak to the team. Poulin, a good friend of York's, is one of many guests who York invites to practice over the course of the year.

"I always try to bring people by to speak with us," York said. "It gives a good outside perspective on things, and it's helpful to hear from some of these guys who've had great success."

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