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Hockey East: Don't Sleep on the Eagles

Jerry York instructs his team against UConn on Nov. 5, 2014.
Jerry York instructs his team against UConn on Nov. 5, 2014.
Matt Dewkett

When a young Boston College squad fell to 4-5-0 after an ugly 6-3 loss to Harvard on Nov. 11, a lot of folks around college hockey wrote off the Eagles. All Jerry York's team has done since then is gone 7-2-1, including four wins in a row heading into this weekend's return to Hockey East action with a home-and-home series against Northeastern.

BC doesn't have the firepower it had last season. Johnny Gaudreau is doing Johnny Gaudreau-like things in Calgary now and Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes are also gone. The young offense isn't likely to ever click at a consistent clip this season, but the Eagles are having four goals per game over the last four games.

However, it's not the offense that is the reason the Eagles are likely to surge up the Hockey East standings in the second semester. It's the stifling defense that BC is capable of that gives every indication that the best hockey is ahead this season.

Playing without their full compliment of defensemen, the Eagles have allowed just nine goals in the last six games. Ian McCoshen and Noah Hanifin returned from the World Junior Championship for Saturday's 3-2 win over Dartmouth. It is expected that sophomore Steve Santini is close to getting back in the lineup following a wrist injury suffered Oct. 25 against UMass.

Those three joining Michael Matheson, arguably the best one-on-one defender in college hockey, makes the Eagles blue line an imposing bunch. Very few teams can trot out players like Scott Savage and Teddy Doherty and call them their fifth or sixth defenders.

Thatcher Demko will also return to the BC lineup Friday night at Northeastern's Matthews Arena. The 2014 NHL Draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks is a poised, athletic, supremely talented goaltender who gives the Eagles a chance to win every night.

Not to mention the Eagles have the best coach in the history of college hockey. Hockey East opposition that wrote off or forgot about the Eagles after they fell below 500 better wake up or they'll be caught watching as the Eagles springboard up the standings in the second half.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.