And it's a doozy
As usual, Boston College was the last school to release their men's hockey schedule this year, though they do get points for releasing it in cool graphical format. We've known the salient details of the schedule for a while now by piecing together what other schools have posted, but now that we can look at the whole thing, we can come up with some #HotTakes on the schedule:
To me, the college hockey season has always felt fragmented in the early months, with the weeks between October and December often filled with one-off games and nonconference games against weaker opponents. The serious business never seemed to really start until January when the second semester started and BC settled into a rhythm of playing a Hockey East home-and-home each weekend.
Not this year. The front end of the schedule is loaded, which may not be the best thing for a team relying on a number of recruits and very young players to contribute right away. By the time Christmas comes along, BC will have faced Minnesota, Michigan, Denver (twice), Colorado College, and Michigan State. They'll also have in the rear view mirror the always big home-and-home with UNH, two of the trickier road games in Hockey East at Lowell and Providence, and one of two games complete against BU and Maine.
The first leg of the season will also extend a little longer than it did last year, thankfully for those of us who dread the long break. Last year, the first weekend in December home-and-home against UNH wrapped up the first semester's slate. This year, BC follows up that series with a game the next weekend at home against Michigan.
2. It's the big one!
Look, it's hard to complain about anything as a BC hockey season ticket holder. We've been treated to some incredible players and great teams in recent years, and have been privileged to watch them win major tournament games and championships in Worcester and Boston.
But let's be honest, the home schedule has usually not been great. Not only does BC historically play their toughest non-conference games on the road, we also have dealt with shifting away some of our best games to neutral sites (Frozen Fenway x infinity), games on Sunday afternoons, and other non-ideal times such as playing Merrimack on a weeknight, which seems to happen every other year for whatever reason. Usually we have one of the lowest numbers of home games in the country and they are mostly run of the mill conference games at that.
Not this year. Our home slate is absolutely loaded this season. It's hard to imagine two better opponents to bring to town than Minnesota and Michigan in terms of excitement (I'd put North Dakota in that category also, with Wisconsin a smidge behind those three). We also open the home slate against Colorado College - not the CC of old, but still a big name, and a chance to face the Tigers for the first time since they unceremoniously dumped the Eagles from the 2011 NCAA tournament.
We also get the usual slate of strong conference games, with none of them being shifted to Fenway this year. There's also the added bonus of the BU game being on a Friday night, which is always better for atmosphere. We had a few of those on Sunday afternoons for TV and it just wasn't the same.
3. Setting up for boffo attendance
This is pretty closely related to #2, but this should be a huge year for BC hockey at the box office. BC once again led Hockey East in home attendance by a solid margin last year. (BC was also once again the biggest draw on the road of any team as well.) However, attendance was a tick down to 6,116, compared to 6,374 in 2012-13. I think you might see those numbers get blown away this year.
While BC misses out on getting Notre Dame at home this year, there are several games that are likely to see 7000+ in attendance: Colorado College, Michigan and Minnesota, of course; BU will sell out; UNH is usually a sellout or pretty close to it, as is Maine. Last year, a Friday night home game against Providence sold out; BC has another one of those this year.
More important than the big numbers though is the fact that there are very few attendance stinkers on the slate. Sunday afternoon games, especially during NFL season, always draw small crowds (see: last season's opener against RPI drawing 3,915 head to head with a Pats game). This year, BC has no Sunday home games (REJOICE!). BC has 7 Friday night home games, 8 Saturday home games, 1 Tuesday game against Harvard, which, yeah, that one probably won't be well attended, and 1 Wednesday night against Merrimack.
In terms of attendance stinkers, aside from Sundays and weeknights, the worst games tend to be 1) the second night of a back to back; 2) games against weak non-conference opponents; and 3) Merrimack. For 1), back-to-back nights with home games only happens twice this season - Oct. 25 against UMass, and a two-game home set against UVM on Valentine's weekend. For 2), the only lower-tier non-conference opponent on the home slate is Harvard. And for 3), well, Merrimack's still there. I do wonder how the home game against UConn will do at the gate; it's on a Saturday night, which should help - maybe some Husky fans will come.
4. BC vs. Northeastern, a tradition unlike any other. Or something.
BC-NU is becoming a staple of February hockey in Boston. The Eagles and the Huskies battled in each of the past two Beanpot finals, as well as three of the last four. The last two times BC and NU met in the first round, there was blood, with NU destroying BC in 2009 and the Eagles returning the favor in 2012. They will meet again in the first round this year, ensuring yet another BC-NU clash.
5. Ending the regular season with games against Notre Dame is I guess officially a thing now
This year, it's a two game set in South Bend. Let's hope this time it goes better.
6. New Guy is licking his chops
The two games BC has during the World Junior break, when they are likely to be quite undermanned, are Ledyard Bank Classic games against Brown and Dartmouth. Those could be tricky games with multiple players out, but thankfully no conference games are in jeopardy.
7. Sorry, students
While attendance should be great for BC hockey this year, the students are getting the shaft a little bit with the Minnesota game being during student break. The Michigan home game is during finals when some students are already headed out, I believe. Winter break coincides with the always fun home game against Northeastern and our annual road trip to BU, which, good job, good effort Hockey East. And no Notre Dame at home.
8. I can't wait, seriously
That is all. New Brunswick, you're going down on October 2. Eh?