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National championship game prediction

Saturday 4/13/24

I've gone hard today in all ways. Will get into that later. Good production and effort, though.

Right now I'm simply going to say what I think is in store with tonight's men's DI hockey national championship game between BC and Denver.

The Red Sox are terrible, the Patriots might be also-rans and worse for a generation, the Bruins love to choke, and I'll believe in the Celtics as champions when I see it, so this BC team has been the excitement with real stakes: national title.

I have a strange relationship with the school. I hated my four years there. I've been shafted multiple times here in my career since by the university. Insulted, lied to, reneged on. I'm going to get into all of that eventually. If someone asks me where I went to college, I won't answer. I didn't go to college, in my view. Everything I know I know because of me and no one else, and college is the last place you want to be if you write well. But those are things beyond the purview of this entry.

But I pull for BC. It's for other reasons. It's because that's where I walk out to so often--all the way from the North End--and have done during these last twelve years in hell, in all seasons. I go to hockey games and football games, and the occasional basketball game. I sit up in the stands with a book and/or some notes, I work, I think. It is something for me to do while I'm alone. I walk around the reservoir in autumn. And, of course, there are the stairs at BC next to the basketball and hockey arena, which number among my various sets of stairs for my singular workouts. There's a bench at BC for my dad in the Rose Garden, which is where he proposed to my mother, and that bench has a plaque with words I wrote after my dad died when he was very young.

Like I said, it's a strange relationship, or at least not a typical one.

As for this game tonight, which begins in about an hour: Denver's a good team. UMass could have taken them out, which was telling to me, because I had just seen BC handle UMass without much trouble. If BU had kept their head in the game, the Terriers would have prevailed against Denver, but they didn't, so they didn't. I was at the BC-Denver game at Kelley Rink in Chestnut Hill back in October. BC lost. They committed a dumb penalty late, gave up the power play goal, and there it was. I thought they should have won. I said to someone right after, that these two teams could very well meet again the spring. And now here we are at the championship game.

I've watched this BC team a lot--probably at least a dozen games. They have the most high-end talent of any college hockey team I've seen. In any year. They don't have a massive amount of depth. But a lot of their guys are pressure-tested and proven--they had seven players on the recent gold medal-winning World Junior US team and I thought that was big. They've been the best team in the country by a decent gap for most of the season. Anything can happen in a hockey game. Anything. A bad team can beat a great team. Denver is a very good team. If Denver wins, you wouldn't think, "No! That's an unbelievable shock!" It'd be pretty normal. But I do not think Denver is going to win if BC plays their game. The next time you see a number of these BC players--like Cutter Gauthier--is going to be in the NHL.

Something to keep in mind about Gauthier: Led the nation in goals, and it was the most amount of goals anyone's had in quite a spell. That's great. But he may even be a better passer. I'd keep an eye out on that tonight. There's a lot less talk about his playmaking.

A concern: BC has lost a ton of draws the last two games. Denver sometimes uses a trap, and you don't want to be losing draws--and having the other team start with possession--against a trapping team. Teams that trap give BC trouble. Even first-round opponent Western Michigan frustrated BC for a couple periods with their trap, and their talent level was nowhere near that of the Eagles. BC pulled away, but the final score was misleading.

In the last game, Michigan came out and carried the play against BC. They had seven shots, I believe, before BC had one. They hit a post, which, of course, doesn't count as a shot. BC scored on that first shot. That's what they can do--they'll have nothing going on, there will be a turnover, they counterattack, and that puck is in the opponent's next in a flash on account of that high-end talent. But if Michigan had scored first? You don't know what might have happened.

These games can go either way, any way. But there's another thing I've touched on during this tournament: BC has a chance to go down as the best college hockey team of all-time. That's not hyperbole. They have 5 losses. They're going to put like ten kids in the NHL, and some have shots to be stars. Their roster is going to look quite a bit different come the first game of next year.

There's a great thing about a team. It's a journey that people take together that is finite in the extreme. Why do I say that? Because people go. Each year is always different. Whether it's high school, college, the pros. Being a teammate is a kind of relationship. A teammate is a great thing to be even outside of sports. But there's something about knowing your time is coming to an end, and here's your opportunity. It's a one and done. It won't come again, not as it is right here, right now. In a few hours, the opportunity will have passed. You either got the most that you could out of it, or you didn't. Make everything you can of it while it's there.

So I'll say Boston College 5, Denver 3. But we'll see. You never know until you play the game.


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