Coming into the season, I thought Wisconsin was a bit overrated, but now I think they're probably rated right where they should be, somewhere around 11th-12th. They are a BIG, BIG team - they had 6 or 7 players who towered over just about every BC player aside from Jimmy Hayes.
Their freshman defensemen really impressed me, especially Ryan Little, who was very highly touted coming in and backed it up on the ice. He made two game-saving plays to bail out Shane "Sieve" Connelly. Late in the 3rd, a BC shot bounced off Connelly's shoulder pad and was floating toward the net, but Little appeared out of nowhere to glove it and knock it away from goal; he also made a nice breakup on a BC 2-on-1 bid.
They are a team with holes, however. BC's speed dreadfully exposed them on several occasions, and Connelly seems like a bit of a mental case; he had "The Zatkoff Face" going after just about every BC goal and seemed a bit too bothered by the crowd behind him, turning around to give a smug grin to the student section whenever Wisconsin scored [if he can't handle us, what's he going to do in WCHA games where they have 3x the number of fans?].
It's been said that BC excels against WCHA teams in NCAA play because they play the kind of wide-open game that the Eagles thrive in, allowing them to use their speed and skill, whereas Hockey East teams often employ the stifling trap and play a defensive-minded game that bogs down the Eagle attack. Last night's game lent more credence to that theory. Whether it was due to the loud crowd, the marquee opponent, or the style of play, there was none of that malaise that we often saw on the ice during home games last season.
"Wham Bam Cam" Atkinson is a keeper. His breakaway goal to win the game was absolutely sick - he was hooked down from behind and a penalty was going to be called, but he scored while sliding on his rear end to give BC the 5-4 lead. I was also impressed with Hayes' size and strength - he fills the #10 role quite nicely in the absence of Boyle.
The new #9, Barry Almeida, demonstrated some great wheels out there, although he missed a chance to pot a goal on a breakaway late in the game. He's also going to be an outstanding player here.
My pre-season pick to really step up the scoring in absence of Gerbe was Brian Gibbons and he made me look like a genius last night, putting in two pretty goals. Gibby for Hobey?
What can you say about the Eagles' special teams? 2 PP goals, 2 SHG, and a stifling PK that left Wisco 0-for-6 on the night.
All in all, a solid start. Next up: Bowling Green.