Men's Hockey

For Men’s Hockey, Weekend Sweep Comes at the Right Time

A much-needed weekend sweep of Merrimack has Boston College men’s hockey ready to enter the brunt of their Hockey East schedule, fresh off snapping a four-game losing streak.

The Eagles’ (3-5-1, 3-1-0 Hockey East) early struggles were predictable. Entering the season with the youngest roster in the country and losing its top five points scorers, BC was thrown into the fire with six ranked opponents in a row. It went about as well as could be expected.

The team lost four of five, conceding five-plus goals in three of the defeats. The offense, which ranked 12th in the country a scoring a year ago, has dipped to 59th—under two goals a game. Meanwhile, the Eagles have conceded an even three goals per game, despite returning the core of the blue line unit.

Granted, the early struggles are inflated by matchups with No. 1 Denver (a 6-1 defeat) and No. 10 Wisconsin (5-2). The Eagles have easily played one of the toughest early schedules in the country, but it’s also worth noting that perhaps they’re not at the same talent level as years past.

Still, back-to-back wins against the Warriors brought out plenty of positives moving forward. Penalty struggles plagued BC, but it killed off all seven of Merrimack’s power plays. The Eagles have climbed in the penalty kill rankings since the start of the season, currently ranking 27th in the country. They’ve consistently faltered when on the advantage themselves, but that speaks to a problem with the forwards as a whole.

Currently, the Eagles’ leading point scorer is junior defensemen Casey Fitzgerald, with six. The production from players up top isn’t there yet—but there were certainly flashes of potential over the weekend. Forward J.D. Dudek took it upon himself to finish off Merrimack on Friday night, working all by himself to create and finish a goal from the left circle. On Saturday, the eventual game-winning goal came via a 3-on-2 break, with Christopher Grando finishing off a great pass with a laser.

The talent is there, clearly. The execution on Grando’s goal was perfect, as was BC’s first goal of Friday night. Grando set up teammate Jesper Mattila for a one-time finish at the right post, feeding the fellow underclassmen for the easy goal. The spurts of pure playmaking that these players are capable of is enough to have many optimistic about the Eagles moving forward.

As one of the youngest teams in the country, they don’t have a go-to scorer yet. The cost of losing the bulk of your scoring is that nobody lower down on the list has had to be responsible for consistently contributing points. Austin Cangelosi piled up 21 goals a season ago, but the Eagles obviously don’t have that this time around.

BC and head coach Jerry York have plenty of work to do moving forward, but sweeping Merrimack to move to 3-1 in conference play is a good first step. As he said after Friday, “Our club was improving even if the record didn’t indicate it.”

Featured Image by Sanket Bhagat / Heights Staff

November 5, 2017