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Q&A: What to expect from Wisconsin men’s hockey’s series vs. Boston College

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We get the lowdown on this weekend’s series from those in the know.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

USCHO.com No. 6 Boston College comes to town this weekend to match up with Wisconsin in a big early test of Tony Granato’s boys. We checked in with Joseph Gravellese over at BC Interruption to ask a few questions about the Eagles.

BC was a Frozen Four team last year. What does this year have in store for the team? How high are the expectations?

Expectations are limited. BC lost more than half of its team from last season due mostly to a series of early departures to the NHL. Some of the departures were unsurprising, like goalie Thatcher Demko and Ian McCoshen; others caught us a little more off guard, like freshman forward Miles Wood and junior Adam Gilmour. Then Zach Sanford signed with the Washington Capitals late in the summer, which was really a big blow—he was going to center the No. 2 line and give BC two superstar lines.

Now the Eagles have a remarkable 20 freshmen and sophomores out of their 25 players. It’s BC, so the expectation is always to be good and to contend for a tournament spot, but it’s going to take a while to know just what these kids are made of.

Who are the Eagles Badgers fans should be watching out for?

The good news for BC is that it did return its three top scorers from last year: Ryan Fitzgerald, Colin White and Austin Cangelosi. White in particular is someone I’m really excited about. He was scoring at a crazy pace early in the season last year, and was one of the best players on the U.S. World Junior team, but he suffered a cracked rib some time around the Beanpot and faded down the stretch. Fully healthy, I expect him to be a huge factor.

Are there any BC freshmen (or other newcomers) that you are excited about?

Joe Woll, BC’s freshman goalie, is sort of the key to everything. He put up 40 saves on Saturday night against Denver to help BC steal a win from the Pioneers and pretty much cemented his spot as the No. 1 goalie. He’s a big kid at 6’2 and very positionally sound—he’s so reminiscent of Demko that it’s almost uncanny. I’m sure he’ll have his ups and downs as a freshman, but he’s going to be an important player.

The Eagles also have a pair of Finnish twin brothers, Jesper and Julius Mattila, who are wild cards for BC this season. Jesper, a defenseman, played for the Finland World Junior team. Julius is a third-line center with great speed and hockey IQ, and has been integral on the penalty kill so far.

The BC non-conference schedule has some challenges with games on the road against Denver and the Badgers, at home against teams like Colorado College, Minnesota, and in big-time, neutral-site venues against both participants in last year's championship game, Quinnipiac and North Dakota. Pretty brutal. Any thoughts on the non-conference slate?

It’s funny, because we had a reader complain when the schedule came out that we’re playing Holy Cross, Colorado College, Wisconsin, Air Force (womp womp!) and Arizona State, and therefore the schedule is “soft.” So you can’t win.

(Ed. note: Ouch.)

BC always plays a challenging non-conference schedule. CC and Wisconsin were near the top of the hockey world when BC signed series with them; the Eagles always play Denver, and play Minnesota pretty regularly; Harvard is always on the slate, and BC usually has its pick of in-season tournaments.

With the number of non-conference games available to teams now in the world of smaller conference schedules, the power programs and big names will have no problem lining up marquee opponents. The struggle is more so for the smaller programs. Hockey East teams like Merrimack and UMass have filled their non-conference schedule with OOC games against conference opponents. It’s something college hockey will have to address.

Last question: What do you think about Notre Dame abandoning the Hockey East for the Big Ten next season?

I can’t wait. Can they leave now? I’m guessing fans of 11 Hockey East teams will charter them a bus to GTFO immediately.