Column: What is going on on Comm Ave?

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Normally the toast of the College Hockey world, Boston University and Boston College are off to less-than stellar starts in 2018. (File Photo/ The Daily Campus)

This is not the Boston sports column you were expecting. Yes, I am happy the Red Sox won the World Series, but it’s old hat, and like a moth to a light, I swarm to find some new problem I can latch onto and be concerned about.

Commonwealth Avenue is a famous thoroughfare in Beantown, hosting two esteemed schools and their arguably more prominent college hockey programs. As a follower of Boston University, I am very concerned by the squad’s horrendous start to the new season. Equal to my level of concern is my level of confusion regarding their rival Boston College’s abhorrent start.

Born and bred a Boston University hockey fan, I was influenced by my grandfather to hate Boston College men’s ice hockey from day one. However, I recognize that the Eagles are one of the most prestigious and dominant programs in the country.

More renown than BU? I would say no. In this season, the tremendous history for both has not mattered. The two legendary programs have somehow gotten off to an unfathomable 0-8 start combined. As Mike McMahon put on Twitter, (), the last time either scored the Boston Red Sox were losing to the Astros in game one of the ALCS.

The two programs are strong brands with much clout, and often take the lead in Hockey East’s initiative in their manifest destiny to prove that East Coast hockey is better than Midwest hockey.

Things are not going well for BU recently. David Quinn, who was not infallible and perhaps an underachiever, left for the NHL’s New York Rangers in the offseason. The athletic department took the safe approach and kept in the family in hiring his consigliere Albie O’Connell. The returns have not trickled in yet, to say the least. The Terriers just got whipped by the Hockey East’s nouveau riche juggernaut Providence 5-0. The Friars were without touted 2019 first round pick Jay O’Brien.

The Terriers had theirs (Joel Farabee). The Terriers are littered with NHL draft picks and US National Development Team programs. Other teams would do obscene things for their recent recruiting successes. Yet, they are 0-4 this year, have given up 18 goals (good for a -12 differential) and just look like an inferior hockey club at this point.

Things up the road in Chestnut Hill are not any better. Jerry York is still there, but Quinn stole his top lieutenant Greg Brown for his own staff. Do they miss him that much? BC is also 0-4 with a slightly better -13 differential. They won their exhibition (BU has two exhibition wins, so I guess they’re better) but were shellacked by St. Cloud State 7-0 last Thursday and gave up seven goals to Wisconsin in a game this fall as well. The Eagles went winless in non-conference play last year and are apparently going for the repeat.

BC’s .839 save percentage is sixth worst in the country. BU, at .860 is only seven spots better. BU went a ghastly 10-21-14 in 2013-2015, Quinn’s first season. BC hasn’t been below .500 since 1996-1997 (they went 18-18-2) in 2001-2002.

BU at least made the NCAA tournament last year. The Eagles, a rarity, did not. Like BU, the Eagles have a disgusting allotment of talent highlighted by touted freshman Oliver Wahlstrom and USA junior players Casey Fitzgerald and Joseph Woll.

Why are these teams so underwhelming? I am not quite sure. The ingredients are all there. The sad thing is that, after a feeble 2017-2018 which required BU winning the Hockey East tournament to get three teams from the conference to the postseason, the league is probably weaker and was counting on a return to glory from at least one of the programs. BC was picked to win the conference and BU was third. While PC is strong, and UMass is not bad, the league really looks mediocre, and for BU or BC to salvage their seasons, they will have to do it by tearing down the other contenders, just making the league look messier.

It is super early, of course. Halloween has yet to come. Maybe the two historic programs are just masquerading as typical cellar-dwellers UMass and Merrimack. Only time will tell if either one or both can bounce back. I have been following Hockey East for quite some time and have never seen anything like this. BU and BC don’t rebuild, they reload. Their down years are equivalent to peaks for a growing program like UConn. So, I am skeptical that the monstrosity will last, but in the meantime, I still can’t help but look at Comm Ave and wonder, “What the hell?”


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.

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