Friday night’s affair in Kelley Rink left Boston College men’s hockey with its first loss of the season, as the University of Wisconsin earned a 5-2 victory. The Eagles (0-1-1) were swallowed in an all-around performance from No. 10 Wisconsin (4-1-0), behind a stellar performance from goalie Kyle Hayton. The graduate transfer stopped all but two BC shots, both of which were stellar. It wasn’t just Hayton that kept the Eagles from finding the twine, however. A solid defensive performance from the Badgers and a lack of execution on offense contributed to the loss. Additionally, first-round draft pick Trent Frederic had a stellar performance that saw him score a goal and contribute to others, while BC’s top offensive players were notably silent.
The Eagles had a disciplined and effective penalty kill. This was especially apparent in this game, as there were no shortage of penalties called against the Eagles throughout the entirety of the game. Wisconsin failed to convert on any of its six power play attempts, only recording seven shots as well. Even when 5-on-3, the Eagles’ defensive box never collapsed, and the chase-man was always on the puck. Wisconsin was unable to move the puck into the slot effectively, and with Joseph Woll sealing the near post, the Badgers couldn’t find space to score. Wisconsin has a high-powered offense this year, as was evident by the frequency and power of their shots off of beautiful passing sequences. But the Eagles’ PK unit was stalwart in this performance. One thing that was particularly notable in BC’s penalty killing performances is its speed. BC is a fast team, something not lost on Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato.
“That is a fast team that causes turnovers on account of their speed,” he said. “I think BC skates really, really well.”
BC’s speed forced turnovers in the Badgers’ offensive zone, which, especially playing a man down, led to good opportunities. The Eagles have to remember to use their legs later this season. BC has been a historically good skating team—that will have to continue if it wants to remain competitive.
Much to the dismay of the suited-and-tied pundits strolling the aisles of the press box, there was substantial fighting, shoving, and face-washing in this game. Big names were present in the fisticuffs as well, with David Cotton, Jacob Tortora, Woll, and Frederic all serving penalties for roughing following an extended scrap in front of the BC net. Many think this type of behavior is unnecessary and is detrimental to the spirit of college hockey. Those people are wrong. BC played with heart and scrappy determination against a team that outgunned them. Wisconsin is a better hockey team, but when the Eagles played gritty and got in the opposing players’ faces, Wisconsin suffered severe discipline breakdowns on the blue-line that led to good scoring opportunities from odd-man rushes. Not only this, but when their goalie got trucked and their number one defensemen got checked from behind after the whistle, the Eagles stepped to the plate to defend them. This shows that BC cares, an underrated and unmeasurable attribute that cannot be overstated. College sports are passionate for a reason, and there is no reason for BC to stop fighting and grinding the way it did.
Defensive Zone Play Against the Rush
Unlike the penalty kill, BC’s rush defense was poor at best. Yes, Wisconsin has a high-powered offense that is geared toward throwing good shots on net. Yet, three of the four non-empty net goals came on rushes that were poorly defended. There was a lack of aggression and physicality at the blue line, and turnovers in the neutral zone gave snipers like Frederic and Matthew Freytag the opportunity to capitalize.
On this rush, the blueliners were caught out of position and then sat back to allow the top line to work their magic. When a shooter like Freytag gets the puck in the high slot, it’s a top shelf snipe in the making.
Again on this rush, there was simply a lack of awareness on the ice. The sliding defensemen didn’t play this poorly, as he sealed off all pass options but one. But the other D-man skating backwards doesn’t cover his man and allows him to slide right in front of Woll for an easy tip in. BC can’t allow goals like this if it wants to win games in the future.
Graham McPhee’s goal was beautiful. Most of BC’s opportunities were not. There were many occasions in which BC had odd-man rushes or open shots in the slot that were either meager attempts on net or didn’t even reach the crease at all. Yes, Hayton put in a great performance and stuffed several good shots while snagging others with his glove. Unfortunately, those shots don’t count for anything. BC’s cycles were haphazard and rushes that could have lead to shots just didn’t. The Eagles came out of the locker room in all three periods with lead in their skates, and while they got good jumps because of their speed they couldn’t convert. That was the story of the game: the Badgers took advantage of their opportunities and the Eagles couldn’t find the twine.
This shows that BC can be a good scoring team. This is a classic 2-on-1 that lead to a solid goal, but far from every rush looked like this. This shows that the Eagles’ lack of scoring isn’t because of a lack of talent, but poor execution. In fact, the third line performed consistently well throughout the whole game. They put plenty of shots on net and played scrappy, effective D. The first two lines didn’t, and that was the difference maker.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor