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On Senior Night, Men’s Hockey Ties With Vermont Again

Stefanos Lekkas stood up, screaming at the referees. The Vermont goaltender felt that Boston College men’s hockey star forward Colin White had interfered with him. But as always in overtime, even Hockey East’s dastardly devils in black and white refused to touch their lips to the whistles. Knowing this, White, alongside linemates J.D. Dudek and David Cotton, had to put up a flurry in Saturday’s waning seconds, praying for a goal. Julius Mattila almost answered those prayers with an attempt to go shortside high on Lekkas for his second goal of the game.

But Mattila’s shot went wide. And, unfortunately for the Eagles, the only unpleasant sound that blared was from the final horn. It could be one of the final horns on their season too.

On Senior Night, the Eagles tied with the Catamounts, 2-2. After Friday’s 3-3 tie with Vermont (17-10-5, 9-7-4 Hockey East), it’s the first time that BC (18-12-4, 13-4-3) has tied in back-to-back games since Jan. 19 and 25, 2008. But while picking up a point is typically a positive for a team, it makes life a little more tenuous for the Eagles.

Their once strong lead for the Hockey East regular-season title has been cut to just two points after Boston University’s dominating 8-4 win over New Hampshire on Saturday night. By virtue of a two-game sweep in conference play, the Terriers hold the tiebreaker against BC. The Eagles do control their own destiny, but can only guarantee the No. 1 tournament seed—and a Hockey East regular-season championship—with three points against No. 6 Massachusetts Lowell.

Perhaps more importantly, BC now sits on the outside looking in for the all-important PairWise Rankings. The Eagles are No. 17, just beyond the 16-team cut line for who makes the NCAA Tournament. Yet head coach Jerry York isn’t worried one bit. In fact, he’s surprised his team is in this position at all.

“I’m not concerned about PairWise Rankings,” York said. “I’m concerned about winning a trophy … If you had asked me in July if we’d be playing in the national tournament, I’d be saying that’s a stretch.”

Overall, York saw improvement from his club when compared to Friday night’s blown three-goal lead. That began on Saturday with the play of Mattila, the freshman center from Finland. He jumpstarted the Eagles with a goal only two minutes into the first period. After receiving a nice feed from Graham McPhee around a Vermont defender, Mattila skated up the bench side and chucked the puck at Lekkas. Mattila’s one-time wrister went high past Lekkas’ right shoulder to give the Eagles another early lead. The center’s strong play hasn’t been lost on his head coach.

“I thought Julius was outstanding for us tonight as a player,” York said. “He became a dominating player at this level for us tonight.”

BC escaped the first period following a couple of sharp penalty kills. But in the second, the Eagles couldn’t build any momentum offensively. Their anemic play allowed Vermont to keep the pressure on Joseph Woll in net, and Brian Bowen took advantage. After multiple miscues from Luke McInnis, and a questionable no-call from the zebras, Derek Lodermeier broke away on a 2-on-1. Instead of ripping a shot at Woll point-blank, Lodermeier dished it to Bowen for the wraparound, left-to-right, taking advantage of a sold-out Woll.

BC’s seniors nearly gave York’s crew the momentum it needed to open the third. An interference call on Ori Abramson just 1:19 into the frame gave the Eagles a power play. Their superstar senior line of Austin Cangelosi, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Matthew Gaudreau delivered, with some help from White. BC put up a flurry on Lekkas before White blasted a shot from between the circles. As he often has been this season, Cangelosi was ready between in front of the net for a tip-in goal—and a 2-1 BC lead.

Cangelosi’s goal was the brightest spot on the night for the graduating Class of 2017. With the departures of Steve Santini, Ian McCoshen, and Thatcher Demko to the NHL last year, the class is just down to five: R. Fitzgerald, Cangelosi, Gaudreau, Chris Calnan, and Scott Savage. The quintet has combined for 414 points, 95 wins, two Beanpots, two Hockey East regular-season titles, and two Frozen Fours. And York believes they’re the only reason his team is still in the hunt for the postseason.

“As a senior class, I think they’ve done an outstanding job keeping our team in this pennant race,” York said. “I’ve never had that before.”

But under a minute after Cangelosi’s goal, Bowen responded with his second of the night, the final scoring tally of the evening. It wasn’t a pretty one—Bowen squeezed it past Woll’s right, causing the goalie to throw his head back in exasperation. And, in turn, it sucked the air out of a then-jubilant crowd at Kelley Rink.

The overall takeaway from the 2016-17 season, as York emphasized in the press conference, may be positive. The fact that this freshman- and sophomore-laden crew has enough talent to compete with the rest of the conference when no one else thought it could is a fantastic sign for BC moving forward. But despite the good feels of Senior Night moments like Cangelosi’s, Bowen’s goal reminded the Eagles—and their fans—of what they don’t have.

They don’t have a shutdown defense that can protect Woll—or worse, can mask his mistakes. They don’t have enough offensive mojo behind the Fitzgerald-Cangelosi-Gaudreau line to create consistent offense during the team’s dry spells. They don’t have momentum after an 0-3-2 stretch has dropped them from a playoff lock to verging on the end of their season in early March.

And they don’t have enough time to make it up.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

February 18, 2017

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