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Why Boston College Hockey Dominates The NCAA

Annabel Curry

The NCAA men's hockey Frozen Four will start on April 11 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Two-seed Boston University will take on three-seed Denver, and one-seed Boston College will play the University of Michigan.

Boston College and Boston University have been at the top of the NCAA standings for this season, having faced off four times this season. BC took both games in the rivalry weekend, winning 4-1 and 4-3. BU then bounced back in the Beanpot, winning 3-4. The teams met in the Hockey East Championship in late March, with BC dominating the game, winning 6-2. Both teams are known for their underclassmen. BC Freshman Will Smith was the 4th pick in the 2024 NHL draft and was awarded Hockey East MVP, and the team has five more players named to the Hockey East All-Tournament team. The freshman line of Smith, Ryan Leonard, and Gabe Perreault has been deadly this year as well, all of them coming from the National Development Program. This team has been seemingly unstoppable, which was especially evident after the statement win in the Hockey East Finals. Another standout has been Jacob Fowler, who has been close to perfect, saving .924% of shots. The team would also not be complete without sophomore Cutter Gauthier, who has scored 37 goals and assisted 27 times. 81% of BC’s goals were scored by underclassmen, which leads to comparisons to teams like the University of Michigan last year, who, similar to BC, had many underclassman stars, including Adam Fantilli and Luke Hughes. A recurrent struggle for young teams such as UMich includes the playoff elimination by older teams. While teams like Quinnipiac may not have had as much star power in comparison, their players have more experience, which led them to a national championship last year. This Quinnipiac team that played BC in the regional finals this year is very comfortable in overtime, having won three back-to-back playoff matches in OT. BC may have pushed past this narrative of experience over star power, as they won, which qualified them for the Frozen Four. While this BC team may be young, they have plenty of experience. Many of them competed at the World Junior Championship this past January, as well as many players coming out of the NTDP and USHL teams. These players have experience in these high-stakes games, which, along with their talent, helped to push BC over the edge.

Boston University has a similar lineup to BC, as they are led by freshman Macklin Celebrini and sophomore Lane Hutson. The average points per game demonstrates how productive these players really are and the effect freshmen, who will probably join the NHL next year, have on the game. Four out of the top five freshmen in PPG play for Boston College. While the PPG stat is good for looking at the overall impact, one must also consider that not only do four out of five play for the same team, but three are on the same line. However, when you look at overall goals and the way each of the assists was set up, these players still stand out. Out of the Smith-Perreault-Leonard line, Will Smith has scored 23 goals with 46 assists. Smith is not only able to score, but he creates chances and can set up his team with the passes needed to score. Similar to Smith, both Perreault and Leonard have great stats in both categories. What often sets great players apart is not solely their ability to score but their ability to create chances to score. Teams often fall apart when their star scorers struggle because no goals get generated. For example, the Bruins are currently tied for 2nd in the NHL, but 30% of their goals are scored by two players. Out of 29 players who have registered a point for the Bruins, having players like Pastrnak and Marchand can be both a blessing and a curse; if their productivity drops, so does the team's rankings. BC not only has a plethora of great goal scorers, but those players make the entire team better.

Looking ahead to the game against Michigan, it is hard to believe that the Eagles' playoff run will end with anything less than a championship. They have shown their ability to dominate against the 2-seed BU, as well as the grit and perseverance needed to come back from deficits and win in OT. This is not a team that will back away or make ‘rookie’ mistakes. The combination of a powerful offense and a lockdown goaltender makes them the dangerous team that has earned the one seed in the tournament.


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