Top Story, Men's Hockey

Oettinger, Terriers Put on Defensive Show in 271st Battle of Comm Ave

BOSTON — It may be the House that Parker Built, but over its 12-year history, it has looked a lot more like the House York Owns.

Entering on Friday night, Boston College men’s hockey had an 11-3-2 record at Agganis Arena, home of archival Boston University. That fact didn’t change even when David Quinn took over for the legendary Jack Parker as head coach of the Terriers. Since the regime switch, Jerry York’s Eagles were 2-0-1 entering the night.

But in the 271st Battle for Comm. Ave., the Terriers’ high-powered, highly-touted laden freshman class flipped the script.

Clayton Keller’s goal halfway through the second period made the difference in a 2-1 win for No. 5 BU (13-5-2, 6-2-2 Hockey East) over No. 8 BC (14-8-2, 9-2-1). But it was a strong defensive effort, spearheaded by goaltender Jake Oettinger’s 32 saves, that made the difference. With the victory, the Terriers move to 131-122-18 in college hockey’s oldest and most storied rivalry.

Both teams put early pressure on the goaltenders, not from their cacophony of draftees, but their third and fourth lines. Zach Walker came out swinging with a couple of big hits, while BU’s Ryan Cloonan and Patrick Curry made for a couple of dangerous scoring opportunities. The two teams traded power plays and a 4-on-4 in the first, to no avail.

Bobo Carpenter, brother of BC women’s hockey legend Alex Carpenter, had the best of the scoring chances in the first period. In the span of a minute, Carpenter missed daylight on each side of goaltender Joseph Woll. Instead of converting on an open net, he pushed both attempts wide. Throughout the first, the Eagles kept up that trend—they’d allow BU forwards to get behind them and take aim at open nets, but at the last second, one of the BC blue liners would push the Terriers toward the boards and force bad shots.

Of course, that couldn’t last long against the No. 5 team in the nation. A little under four minutes into the second period, Dante Fabbro sent a blast from his own blue line. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson got in between two BC defenders and planted himself in front of Woll for the easy tip-in. For Forsbacka-Karlsson, it was the sixth goal in his last three games after a first half in which he only amassed three.

“We’re happy he’s scoring goals, because all of a sudden, we look like a different team,” BU head coach David Quinn said.

Yet, under a minute later, a Curry trip on Luke McInnis gave the Eagles a swing of momentum. Fortunately for them, they had Ottawa Senators prospect Colin White back on the ice. It took a mere 13 seconds for BC to chew through BU’s defense on a tic-tac-toe play. Matthew Gaudreau rocketed a pass from the left circle to Casey Fitzgerald. The sophomore defenseman pushed it across the crease to White, wide-open on the right. Though the Eagles have remained afloat without their superstar center, York recognizes the importance of one of the nation’s best players.

“The one goal we got was a terrific power play, great puck movement, very unselfish,” head coach Jerry York said. “He’s going to be a great catalyst for us offensively.”

Yet the Terriers answered immediately. Jordan Greenway danced with the puck behind Woll, drawing several blue liners on him. The play gave Keller just enough space in front of Woll to push it in front of the goaltender on the left for a 2-1 BU lead.

At that point, Oettinger and the Terriers’ defense took over. BU gave up two power plays in the second period, with a boarding call on Doyle Somerby and a roughing call on Nick Roberto. On both opportunities, the Eagles put up some solid chances, specifically from the tandem of Ryan Fitzgerald and White. Yet each time, Oettinger was there with stellar saves.

By the time the third rolled around, York felt his offense finally turned a corner. After being outshot 28-21 in the first two frames, the Eagles had the advantage, 12-5, in the third. But if there were a number on scoring chances, BC would be in the 20s or 30s. Routinely in the third period, the Eagles would force a deflection off Oettinger or push a pass into space in front of an open crease. But the Terriers’ defensemen, particularly Somerby and John MacLeod, prevented BC forwards from getting there in time.

“They’re guys we rely on, they’re big and strong, and they give us a little different look back there,” Quinn said.

No matter, though. Whenever the Eagles got the puck on Oettinger, one of the six BU players on the United States’s gold-medal winners in the World Junior Championships (BC had three: White, Woll, and Casey Fitzgerald), was there. BC’s two best attempts came from Scott Savage and Austin Cangelosi. On Savage’s shot, Oettinger used his left pad to close off the area between him and the pipe. For Cangelosi’s, on a right circle off a deflection, Oettinger reacted quickly to fall on the puck. And though York accentuated that one goal doesn’t necessarily mean bad defense, he wasn’t satisfied with his team’s inability to finish opportunities.

“I thought we had some odd-man rushes that we didn’t capitalize on, with defenders trailing late,” York said. “We had some good opportunities that he stopped.”

Perhaps a bigger issue going forward for the young Eagles is their inability to finish not just periods, but whole games against the league’s best teams. They are still in a fine position, both in the polls and PairWise Rankings, and are also still the leaders in Hockey East. Yet they fall to 2-5 against their fellow ranked opponents—seven of their 12 remaining games come against teams in the top 20. And if they want an eighth-consecutive shot at the NCAA Tournament, the Eagles will have to turn it around against the best of the best.

Their first shot? Their archrivals, yet again, in a Monday night showdown at Conte Forum.

Featured Image by Zoe Zhao / Heights Staff

January 13, 2017