The NCAA Women’s Frozen Four starts Friday and Wisconsin’s path to its fifth national title goes through Boston College. The Eagles were Hockey East champions and they easily dispatched St. Lawrence in the quarterfinal round to advance to the Frozen Four. It’s the third straight appearance in the final weekend for BC, which lost the title game to Minnesota in 2016.
B5Q: At the end of last season/beginning of this one, you had absolutely no belief this team would make it to the FF. So much so that you scheduled vacation at the same time and now don't get to go. What was the turning point where you started to believe again? How absolutely salty will you feel if they win and you're not there?
Grant Salzano, BC Interruption: I think it’s unfair to say that I had no belief they would make it to the Frozen Four. I was bearish, sure, after how much we lost to graduation, but there’s such a big drop-off after the first handful of teams (or at least there was least year) that we had a little cushion there before we fell out of tournament consideration entirely. And from there you’re a favorable draw and one win away from the Frozen Four.
But I’m definitely happy – more than happy, I would use the word “proud” – to see where our team has ended up this year. Despite losing four players who have skated with the national team, plus two other players who were strong four year producers, we have retained everything that we won last year: The Beanpot, the Hockey East regular season and tournament trophies, and at least a Frozem Four trophy (which is a thing). That’s… astonishing.
When did I start to believe? It depends on what I’m believing in. I always thought BC should be favored to win Hockey East, even if it means we were in a drag race with BU and Northeastern. But for the Frozen Four and perhaps the national title? I think it has more to do with seeing just how close the pack has been this year. Wisconsin is the favorite going away, but you only have to beat them once. After that, you could throw a blanket over two through six in the rankings all year. Someone’s got to win it. Why not us?
As for that vacation – well… oops. I wouldn’t have been able to go to St. Charles regardless, but my biggest fault was for booking my flight during the semifinal games and not making sure all my flights had wifi. I’ll be on a tiny little prop jet without access to the internet for the first period and change during BC/UW. That’s… problematic.
I’ll be able to watch the finals with family out in sunny Arizona once we make it to the finals on Sunday, so no salt required.
B5Q: Should I be concerned about you pulling a Tonya Harding on Ann-Renee? Barring that, what do you see as the best possible option for you all to beat her.
BCI: You got me… my vacation isn’t a vacation at all but a “business trip.” My second flight from Philly to Phoenix goes directly over the arena in St. Charles (really) so the plan is to parachute out of the plane, land on the roof, cut a hole in the roof right over ARD’s crease, and drop something to make it really slippery. She’ll never see that coming.
Other options for beating her? Deflections and greasy goals. I want to see Keller take two dozen shots from the blue line into traffic with an Eagle getting a stick on it on the way through. I also want to see Eagles crashing the net anytime the puck is near that crease. Create havoc and jam the puck in there. We’ll find a way.
B5Q: As you said in your questions, on paper, Wisconsin comes out ahead. What are the reasons we should ignore that and believe in the Eagles?
BCI: I wouldn’t say to ignore it. Stats are great tools. But sports have a whole lot of variance – if BC plays its best and Wisconsin plays its worst, BC wins that game 99 times out of 100. The opposite is obviously true, too. But BC doesn’t have to hope that Wisconsin is off its game to win. They just need to convert on their chances.
KRACH says that on average, BC should win this game one out of five times. I think that’s about right. It’s got to happen sometime…
B5Q: What's your read on the Badgers? What worries you? What do you think is over-rated?
BCI: What worries me? Ha… what doesn’t worry me?
Wisconsin is really, really good in every single facet of the game. They score, they don’t allow you to score, and they have the best goalie possibly ever behind them just in case you get any ideas.
I don’t think they’re overrated at all. They’re incredibly well balanced. They even seem to play better on Fridays.
What do I think is overrated? That dumb Badger logo. Look at that thing, stomping off like he has somewhere important to be. You don’t have anywhere important to be. You live in Wisconsin.
B5Q: What radioactive spider bit Andie Anastos before the post-season and what's the antidote?
BCI: It’s not even like Andie has been going off at some crazy rate in the post-season (or even that she has all year). I’m a stats guy so I hate the word “clutch” but she is so clutch.
Really I just think that she’s so steady. She’s a senior, she’s played on some good teams, she’s played some important second-line roles, and now she’s the team’s heart and soul. And so she just… knows how to get it done.
BC’s a really young team – over half our goals were scored by freshmen and sophomores, which bodes really well for the future. But playoff hockey is just a different animal. Everyone you play is so good. Andie just seems to be uniquely able to come up with a big play in a big spot against a tough team. So, we have that going for us!
B5Q: Back at you - who are the under-the-radar players we should be keeping an eye on?
BCI: We’ve got a logjam of really good players on the top two lines (and at the top of the D pairings) but I’m going to say Erin Connolly.
Connolly has been a crucial utility player for us this year, with how many people we lost for a time to injury and suspension and everything else. She’s bounced all around, starting the season at D, moving up into the 2nd line, and now that everyone is back (everyone we could have possibly gotten back, anyway), she’s slotted in on the third line – and the third line of McLean, Little, and Connolly has actually started to score some goals.
So, that’ll be something to see. Connolly seems to have made a difference back there. Wisconsin’s third line is obviously “1c” caliber, and it’s not going to be in the same stratosphere as that, but if Connolly’s new line can give us literally anything, I’ll feel good about BC’s chances.
B5Q: What do you hope will happen and what do you expect to happen?
BCI: Oh boy.
Well, I hope BC scores a touchdown in the first period and plays keepaway the rest of the game. Failing that, I want to score first.
At a minimum, scoring the first goal probably keeps BC in the game the rest of the way. Against Minnesota last year, the Gophers scored seconds into the game and were chasing the game from there. Once Minnesota got goal #2 it was game over.
BC has a better chance to win if they can shorten the game. What I mean by that is, they need to put themselves in a situation where all they need is a bounce to win it. If BC can score first, then at worst, it means, that if Wisconsin does tie the game at some point, there won’t be 60 minutes left for the Badgers to impose their will. If BC can at least keep the game tied into the third period (or even overtime, the thought of which is already making me want to throw up), then it’s no longer a game between a strong favorite and a big underdog, it’s a game of two teams just looking for a bounce.
I’ll take our chances from there.
Obviously, if we can hold the lead the whole time instead, that would be more ideal. haha
What I think is going to happen once again involves BC coming up just short against a higher-ranked team from out west. I’ve seen this movie before. Probably falling behind early, keeping the game close, and seeing it fall far enough out of reach in the third period where we might see a patented “BC Tease,” but too far out of reach to really threaten. Like last year against Minnesota, really.
If we’re going to lose I hope the sports gods take pity on me and put Wisconsin up 6-0 after the first period so when I land from my first flight I can just exhale and make my peace with it.
B5Q: Which one of us is going to be more salty if our team loses?
BCI: Oh that is defffffffffinitely you, Haase.
See, we’re supposed to lose. We’re playing the #1 team in the country, from the big, bad WCHA. If we lose, it’s just “oh well, those darn western teams, we’ll try again next time.”
No, if you lose, you are going to be completely and utterly miserable. Wisconsin has finally found itself as the undisputed powerhouse after the Gophers drank your milkshake game after game after game the last few years. You will never be able to forget how the Badgers were the first western team to blow a Frozen Four game against BC, in a year they were supposed to have a three game tournament victory lap to the title. And if you do forget, I will personally remind you. I will set up automatic tweets to tweet at you every single week to remind you that we won this game – especially if we end up winning Sunday, too.
I will call you NaCl Haase until the day of the rapture. Lake Mendota will be renamed New Great Salt Lake because of all the salt cascading from your tweets. It will be glorious. I can’t wait.