BOSTON — After losing seven underclassmen to the National Hockey League, Boston College men’s hockey had a lot of questions entering the 2016-17 season. Who would replace Thatcher Demko in goal? How will the top line mesh? Will the defense hold up well? Can the freshmen contribute?
In a scrimmage at Warrior Ice Arena, the Eagles answered some of those questions, while they widened the gap for others. Against Carleton University, a team in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, BC took home a 4-3 victory—not to mention a couple of bumps and bruises, after 103 penalty minutes combined between the two.
The first period kicked off flashing the skills of BC’s incredibly strong power-play units. Coached by Greg Brown, special teams have been a dangerous unit for the Eagles in the last couple of seasons. Despite the loss of forwards such as Alex Tuch and Zach Sanford, and good puck-handling defensemen like Ian McCoshen, BC looks to still have that winning formula. The first-line power play of Colin White, Ryan Fitzgerald, Austin Cangelosi, Christopher Brown, and Casey Fitzgerald generated immense pressure on Carleton goaltender Francois Brassard. Though they didn’t come away with a goal, they gathered several shots, including one post by White.
The second-team power play, however, did come true. That unit—J.D. Dudek, Matthew Gaudreau, Julius Mattila, Jesper Mattila, and Scott Savage—continued the strong attack. Dudek rocketed a shot off of Brassard’s pads, before Savage reeled in the rebound.
That assist was the beginning of a strong game for Dudek, the sophomore forward from Auburn, N.H. Dudek seamlessly fit onto the first line on the right wing with Ryan Fitzgerald and White, showing a good chemistry with two forwards who are already familiar with one another. Though his game was cut short with an ejection following a game misconduct in a brawl at the end of the second, Dudek flashed his potential.
That improvement was highlighted by his goal at the beginning of the second period. Matthew Gaudreau evaded two defenders before sending a pass backward to Dudek between the circles. Dudek shot it top shelf past Brassard, giving the Eagles hope for the future of their first line.
BC’s young offensive weapons continued their success, particularly with Graham McPhee. The freshman from Bethesda, Md., whose father won the Hobey Baker Award at Bowling Green when Jerry York was head coach, showed off his flair with the stick. He went coast to coast along the far boards early in the third, deking out a defender to give BC its third goal. Though he got too cute with the puck handling at times, leading to turnovers, McPhee’s skill will be key for the Eagles.
And, of course, BC’s veterans came up in the clutch when they needed to, this time on that first-line power play. With under three minutes to go, White used his superb speed to separate from Carleton’s blue liners into BC’s offensive zone. Pinned up against the boards, White lofted a pass to the middle of the ice, mid-hit. As though communicating by telepathy, Fitzgerald arrived, sending it to the twine to clinch the BC victory.
Not everything, however, led to good news for the Eagles, particularly in goal. This is not to say that neither freshmen Joe Woll nor Ryan Edquist had good games—quite the contrary, in fact. Woll, who took the first period, and Edquist, in the second, did solid jobs fending off the many penalty kills the Eagles incurred. The goal Woll allowed to Sean Bamford came as Bamford left the box, while Edquist’s was on a 5-on-3.
That being said, the performance did little to separate the two in the quest for the starting job. Though Woll is the favorite—he has been a commit to BC for some time now, and was a third-round pick in 2016 of the Toronto Maple Leafs—expect Edquist to get significant playing time, similar to Demko and Brian Billett in 2013-14.
Additionally, few defensemen had standout games, aside from Savage. Luke McInnis, projected to be a top-four defensemen, did not see the ice. Casey Fitzgerald was quiet for most of the evening, as was Michael Kim. Connor Moore was burned on the breakaway that led to the goal allowed by Woll. Most significantly, Michael Campoli showed his enforcer-like tendencies, not showing any fear in throwing punches. While entertaining for the crowd, that likely will not be a net positive for BC.
Still, the Eagles look overall to be in good shape heading into their weekend opener in Denver against Air Force. And if they can continue strong performances on special teams, and solid ones in goal and on defense, BC could silence some haters who expect the team to falter after losing so much last year.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor