Tuesday, February 14, 2006

There and back. A weekend trip to BC.

The joys of waking up at butt o'clock in the morning for court appearances half a state away tend to preclude my normal early morning posting ritual. That being said, can't let the sun go down before putting something up.

About a month ago my wife and I headed to Boston College to go see her sister, who is finishing up her senior year at BC. I love Boston, and any chance I get to go there makes me excited. It's definitely one of my favorite places to visit (wouldn't want to live there though). Doesn't hurt that I'm Irish, but for some reason its always had a "homey" feel to it in that not-so-tone loc-kind-of-way. One of the little perks of this trip was a pair of tickets to check out the BC/Vermont hockey game. Having never seen a game at Conte (no relation to Victor) Forum, I was pretty excited.

The match up at the time was BC#2 v. UVM#5. As further proof I married well, my sister in law came through huge, Center Ice Seats above the glass. (little shout out: Sis, You rock). So I showed up, Block M jersey and all. Here's a brief synopsis of what occurred in comparison to my days at Michigan and a look at BC's hockey team.

If you've never been out to BC for a game I highly recommend it.

1) The Crowd: Unlike at Yost (at right), perhaps the foulest place on earth, unless you're in a particular part of the student section, they frown on repeatedly dropping the f-bomb. After saying "Holy F---!" a few times to describe a save or hit, I got enough glares from the well-to-do patrons seated around me to scare me into submission. They weren't the "I'll kick your ass, sea-bass" kind of glares that you get at Munn or Miami. They were the type of glares that say "I can have someone to kill you solely based favors owed to me by the government." (Important note: BC is full of old old old money). Needless to say I quieted down a bit.

2) The Facility: Conte Forum/Kelley Rink (at left) is huge, wide open, and does not smell like a jock strap. After four years running around Yost, playing hockey and broomball, there's a certain ammonia like smell that emanates from just about every part of the building. Not so at BC. In fact, I'm fairly certain you could perform open heart surgery in the main concourse, during the intermission. One of my favorite differences, they've got luxury boxes behind the visitor's goal and above the goal end student section. In addition, Kelley Rink has TWO (2) huge flat panel mini-jumbo trons over each goal. There were times I caught myself watching the game on the screens rather than the ice infront of me. Again, Old money.

There are no balconies at BC, just long sloping seats that stretch up to the press box about 150 feet from the ice. So its much more spread out than Yost. They use the arena for basketball too, so I guess it makes sense that everything's a little farther away for sight lines purposes, but its too open to give the place an intimidating presence. There's no overhanging press box or half-ass balcony for people to yell from. Further, the student sections are limited to behind the goals. By splitting up the student sections, they managed to kill the mob mentality of the average college hockey fan. Simply put, its not conducive to having the whole crowd to yell "Molly! Molly! Molly!" or berate the visiting team's parents.

It ain't Yost. It ain't even close.

3) The Students: Very friendly people to talk to, but they have their moments. During the game a student that can best be described as "that fat dude down the hall, you know, with the beard" put up a "Elephant Walk" sign during the Vermont warmups. In case you don't remember why this is funny, read here. A little tardy considering the hazing incidents date back to 1999-2000, but he still gets credit for the effort.

Ten seconds later a "security" guard came down and took the sign away. Not surprisingly, there were no chants worth mentioning (besides the standard "sieve", etc...), and nothing else particularly funny that sticks to memory. The old money rules the roost there. They like it clean. I've heard some of their chants when they play rivals, but nothing came out at this game that made me feel they were on par with the Wisconsin or BU type fan bases in terms of crassness.

4) The Intangibles: Its a DAMN nice arena. You almost feel like you're at a professional sporting event. Almost. However, the joy of going to college sporting events is to feel like, well, you're at a college sporting event. Its too sterile. Its too clean. The old money isn't particularly friendly. Its a tough place to bond with your aislemates.That being said, if you just want to go watch a hockey game its a tough place to beat. The place is so brightly lit its nearly blinding. The seats support even the portliest of alumni and the on ice product is a lot of fun to watch. Not Yost, but still excellent. (One last minus, crappy nachos).

As for the game, BC is shockingly good. Very fast and physical. I am fairly certain in an exhibition with the Chicago Blackhawks, BC'd win 10-0. Like I said, figuring a #2 v #5 matchup, I expected a tight 4-3 or 3-2 game. Wrong. BC absolutely destroyed UVM. Wasn't even close. The final score was 3-0, but should have been considerably worse. To add insult to injury, UVM had been blanked the night before, by BC. Don't sleep on BC just because they lost the Beanpot. This team will make the Frozen Four barring injuries.

BC has what Michigan desperately needs, a No. 1 goalie. BC's Cory Schneider is awesome. His victory that night was his third straight shut out. Great size at 6'2", fast, stick is solid, decent glove, and plays his angles to a tee. He preserved his shutout with about 3 minutes left stopping a breakaway that most NHL goalies couldn't stop.

As for the forwards, BC is big. There was at least a four to six inch height advantage for BC. They've got some hulks that can move and they use it to their advantage. BC employs a pretty aggressive forecheck. They kept UVM pinned deep for most of the game. When the Catamounts actually got out of the zone they simply got leveled.

Usually, the smaller guys make up for their lack of size with more speed and skill. However, when the big guys are as fast and skilled as the little guys, the little guys get crushed. I lost count of the number of times I saw UVM's little forwards try to sneak by on the boards only to end up with their heads being surgically implanted into their lower instetines.

BC's defense is quiet. Quiet in the sense that they don't do anything negative that would make you notice a deficiency. But they can pass. They outlet quickly, and if you sleep on a forward around the center ice line they find him in a hurry. Physical enough to keep the play honest in front of the net, but they leave the banging to their bigger forwards.

Players to watch:

#15 Stephen Gionta: Fast with great hands. A little undersized height wise, but built like a brick shithouse. Doesn't like to shoot unless he's in the clear, but a great playmaker that's hard to knock off the puck.

#10 Brian Boyle: The perfect college hockey player. Won't last a minute in the pros as he is right now, but has the size now to make a difference. Totally unafraid of anyone on the ice because of his 6'7" frame. Surprisingly fast and has decent hands to effectively break the zone and cycle for shots. Unmoveable at the net by college defensemen. Weak shot.

#12 Chris Collins: Damn. This boy is good. The senior left wing has registered 20 goals and 20 assists through his first 24 games. Fast, totally unafraid to shoot from anywhere. Little on the small side at 5' 8", but no one seems to be able to lay a hit on him.

Now this is not meant to be a big, wet kiss for the BC hockey team. Just some observations from a long time hockey fan. However, moral of the story, we do not want to play this team in the NCAA tourney. I know they've slipped a little recently, but if they're as good as they looked against UVM, they're gonna be hard to beat.


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