Top Story, Men's Hockey

Oettinger Shuts Out Men’s Hockey in Weekend Sweep for Terriers

The clock wound down on a brilliant penalty kill for Boston College men’s hockey. Graham McPhee and Casey Fitzgerald had expertly kept the puck behind Boston University goaltender Jake Oettinger. The Terriers’ star-studded first line had no time to create scoring chances since they couldn’t get the puck out of their own zone.

A capacity crowd of 7,884 at Kelley Rink—likely with more in attendance standing up, but don’t tell the fire marshal—rose to their feet. With each waning second, they counted down the time until Colin White would be freed from the box. Unfortunately for the loudest collection of Superfans this season, they’d never get past two.

The Terriers, a team front-loaded with freshman talent, turned to a young gun without an NHL suitor. As time expired on that White penalty, Patrick Curry took advantage on a perfectly set-up screen. With a quick release, Curry went top shelf past BC goaltender Joseph Woll, before falling into a huge fist pump.

“In a [freshman] class that gets a lot of attention, he didn’t,” BU head coach David Quinn said of Curry. “He’s been very, very important to our team.”

Curry’s goal was all that was needed in a masterful, 34-save performance by Oettinger in net and the BU defense. For the Eagles, the 3-0 loss drops them to 14-9-2 (9-3-1 Hockey East) on the season, already surpassing last season’s loss total. It’s also the first time BC has dropped multiple games to its archrival since the 2011-12 championship season.

Throughout the game, the Eagles struggled mightily against a Terriers (14-5-2, 7-2-2) defensive corps that forced them away from solid scoring chances. Instead of putting shots on net that might lead to rebounds, BC often had to go high, knocking pucks off the glass. Oettinger attributed that to the strong play of his defensive tandems, particularly Doyle Somerby and John MacLeod. The six-footers took advantage of BC’s undersized forwards and defensemen, and made life difficult offensively all night for the Eagles.

“Our defensemen did a great job on keeping the puck away from me,” Oettinger said. “I don’t think I had to make any big Grade A saves.”

Statistically, Oettinger faced nine chances considered “Grade A” on the evening. Yet even those barely caused a bead of sweat to drip down Quinn’s forehead. Rather, they served to frustrate Jerry York.

In fact, the BC head coach estimated that his offense earned fewer Grade A chances than that. He pointed to two opportunities—one by Chris Calnan on a breakaway from the slot, another by Ryan Fitzgerald on a wraparound—that may have seriously threatened BU. Other than that, despite the 34 shots on Oettinger, York felt his team needed more opportunities to score.

“You’re not going to get a ton of big chances in big games, you’re not just going to,” York said. “But you’ve got to capitalize on the ones you have. You can’t go buy them at the store.”

On the night, BC was 0-for-3 on the power play, two of which were drawn on Somerby, the BU captain. On the first, Clayton Keller expertly kept the puck away from the Eagles with three clears. BC only got two shots from Casey Fitzgerald at the blue line, but nothing from its first line, despite playing the full two minutes. On the second, BC’s second line of David Cotton, Austin Cangelosi, and Christopher Brown got some momentum, but it was snuffed out by the first line. The third may have been BC’s best chance—and it barely did any good itself.

The final score overshadows a brilliant performance from Woll for the Eagles in net. For the second-consecutive game, Woll staved off strong chances from the Terriers’ plethora of first-rounders. Even after Michael Kim drew a penalty with three minutes to go, Woll remained on top of his game. He made a Thatcher Demko-esque sliding save to stone Kieffer Bellows on his right side, getting full extension with his pads.

Though BC did a solid job staying out of the box in terms of total minutes—something York was pleased with—the timing of its penalties couldn’t have been worse. White headed to the box with 1:15 to go, giving BU a 5-on-3. Despite only having 19 seconds with the two-man advantage, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson made BC pay with a shot that went off Woll’s back.

Despite their recent struggles, the Eagles still remain on top of Hockey East, if ever precariously. The road doesn’t get any easier for them, though. BC has five games to go (four at home) against ranked opponents in the conference: two against Massachusetts Lowell, two against Vermont, and one against Notre Dame. And yes, the Eagles will get one more guaranteed crack at the Terriers in the first round of Beanpot.

And there are certainly signs of some improvements. On the weekend, BC outshot BU, and Woll certainly proved he can hang with any goaltender in the country. Yet finding good performances within defeats doesn’t add up to championships. And pinpointing places where BC almost got there won’t cut it in the nation’s toughest conference.

“I thought we played pretty well over the weekend,” York said. “But pretty well isn’t going to win series.”

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

January 16, 2017