January 20, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Settling In

Boston College's Season Heating Up Again at the Right Time

by Justin Magill/CHN Writer

Brian Damoulin returned after winning a bronze medal with Team USA at the World Juniors.

Brian Damoulin returned after winning a bronze medal with Team USA at the World Juniors.

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Boston College began its national title defense with four straight road games, including a trip to Denver where it swept the Pioneers by a combined score of 9-2. The only blemish was a 2-1 loss at Norte Dame on Oct. 23.

At that point, talk was not just whether Boston College would repeat as national champions, but how much it would dominate along the way.

Then a funny thing happened. In the next 10 games, the Eagles went just 6-4, including a loss to Hockey East bottom feeder Vermont.

All of that talk was put on hold. BC's record was still pretty good, but suddenly, there were a lot of questions.

Then a spark came against its biggest rival, a team ranked No. 1 in the nation. In the home-and-home series against Boston University, the Eagles took down their arch rival convincingly, 9-5 and 5-2.

“Getting four points against them was big,” Boston College goalie John Muse said. “Any time you can sweep BU or any Hockey East team is an accomplishment. Those two wins got us going and we have been on a nice run since.”

Since the sweep, the Eagles won five consecutive games until a loss at Maine on Jan. 16.

There may have been some questions early in the year if Boston College was capable of going back-to-back with a handful of losses already on record, more notably in Hockey East play.

“We have to be ready to play every night,” Eagles forward Cam Atkinson said. “Hockey East is not a league you can take a break in. We have teams in our conference that may be at the bottom of the standings, but are going to give us their best shot. Up and down, it’s one of the best conference out there.”

For teams of the Eagles caliber, they have to get out of the rut to stop the heat.

“There is the expectations here that you have to win, so sometimes when we lose a few games, it will get noticed,” Muse said. “We are going to have our slumps just like any other team, but we have to make sure we get off it fast otherwise we will get buried in our conference.”

It should be noted that Boston College has won national championships before while coming from back of the pack, so semi-muddling through the season is no cause for alarm anyway. It's just that, the way things lined up for BC, everyone expected domination from the start, so anything short of that, has seemed unsettling.

“I think the season has gone great so far,” Atkinson said. “We know defending the title would be difficult, but we have the right guys to make it happen. Great leadership has helped us when we have had to deal with losses. Our young guys have stepped up and played great. They are guys that want to win and that is why you come here.”

“It’s a program that is use to winning and gets guys to come here that want to win,” Muse added. “Sometimes it takes a while to get things rolling, but once it does, we have proven to be one of the best teams out there.”

First place in Hockey East can’t get much better for a title defense, but a tough schedule is still on the horizon.

“We are in a good spot,” Muse said. “I think if someone told us at the beginning of the year that we would be fighting for first place in Hockey East this late in the season, we would take it.”

One reason why Boston College holds the No. 3 ranking in the nation and is in the hunt for another conference title is the play of Muse in net. What the Eagles have going for them is Muse came into the season as healthy as he has ever been to begin the year.

After his freshman season, Muse came down with mononucleosis. The following year he had hip surgery.

“This was the first healthy summer I had since being at BC,” he said. “I was able to workout and work on my game for the whole summer. It definitely is an advantage coming in ready to play at the start of the season as opposed to stepping on the ice for the first time once practices begin. I think the reason I have played as well as I have is because of my health at the end of last season.”

“John has been unbelievable in net this season,” Atkinson said. “It all starts with him and is probably the main reason we are in the top five.”

Whether or not Boston College wins Hockey East or not, its main goal is to maintain a high level of play and stay competitive, making sure the Eagles are soaring when the postseason calendar is upon them.

“The most important thing for us is to make sure we are playing our best hockey at the end of the year,” Atkinson said. “Even if you lose a game or two in the regular season, you just want to have a chance. We have seen what teams want to do to us and that us beat us. Some have and we have learned and bounced back from it.”

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