Top Story, Men's Hockey

BC Clinches 16th Hockey East Regular Season Title With Pounding of Maine

This season, Boston College men’s hockey’s success has been more polarized than just about every other team’s in the country: Not only have the Eagles struggled outside of Hockey East, failing to win a single non-conference game (0-8-3)—they also finished last in the Beanpot for the second consecutive year, the first time that’s happened since 1974-75. When it comes to conference play, though, BC has been absolutely dominant. The Eagles’ 17-5-0 record against Hockey East foes is the program’s best conference mark in six years, and the sole reason why they’re still ranked.

BC’s tear continued on Friday night—about a week removed from orchestrating a five-goal shutout in Orono, the Eagles put on another show against Maine, this time on their home ice. For the fourth straight game, BC found the back of the net four or more times, a remarkable stat considering that the Eagles are only lighting the lamp an average of three times per game this year. Graduate transfer Kevin Lohan logged his first two goals of the season, and BC tallied a total of six in the final two frames, pulling away for a 6-3 victory, effectively clinching its 16th Hockey East regular season title.

The No. 20 Eagles (17-13-3, 17-5-0 Hockey East) came out of the gates thriving on offense. After Maine (16-13-4, 10-10-3) forward Patrick Shea’s shot was stopped by BC goaltender Joseph Woll in the first minute, the Eagles took control. They generated four shots on goal in four minutes, while preventing Maine from getting any shooting chances. Soon BC was given a power play that was then extended with another call, resulting in a brief 5-on-3 for the Eagles. Yet, even so, the one-man advantage failed to provide BC with an offensive boost, as it managed just one shot during the second half of the power play.

Instead, the Black Bears took the offensive momentum, getting on the board only 19 seconds after the penalty kill. Mitchell Fossier dropped a slow pass across the blueline that was picked up by Veli Tiuraniemi, who fired a wrist shot past Woll to give Maine the 1-0 edge. BC took another hit when Jacob Tortora was called for hooking—luckily for head coach Jerry York, the Eagles killed what would be the Black Bears’ only power play of the game. BC returned to the power play itself a couple minutes later, but Maine netminder Jeremy Swayman stopped all three shots that got to him. The Eagles had a few more good chances in the closing seconds of the first, but finished the period down, 1-0, despite leading 14-8 in shots.

If Eagles fans were worried about the offense going into the second period, they were quickly relieved. Logan Hutsko skated the puck around a defenseman to the front of the net, and deked Swayman to tie the game, only 39 seconds into the period. After the goal, both teams created chances to break the tie, but the goalies kept the puck out of their respective cages. A little more than six minutes into the period, BC defenseman Kevin Lohan looked to pass the puck to the front of the net. Instead, his exchange was blocked by a Maine defenseman’s stick, and the puck redirected past Swayman into the net. It was Lohan’s first goal of the season, and it gave the Eagles their first lead—one they would keep for the rest of the night. After the game, captain Casey Fitzgerald had some praise for his teammate.

“That was great to see,” he said. “He’s one of the best character guys we have in our locker room … everyone was so happy. Me, personally, I think I was more happy to see him score a goal than I’ve ever been for myself.”

The game continued as a back-and-forth, until Michael Kim fed a great pass to Lohan in the middle of the slot. The former Michigan Wolverine then fired the puck into the net to stretch BC’s lead with five and a half minutes remaining. Maine nearly cut its deficit two minutes later when Shea blasted a hard shot from the slot that Woll turned aside. The rebound was immediately picked up and shot by Sam Becker, but Woll managed to block that too, as well as a third rebound. Neither team scored again in the second, though Jesper Mattila came close with a shot at the buzzer. Despite outscoring Maine, 3-0, in the period, BC was outshot, 18-12. Quite simply, the Eagles had more of the high-danger opportunities.

BC carried its momentum into the third frame, forcing Swayman to make three saves in the opening minutes. Three minutes into the period, Zach Walker delivered the puck from one circle to Casey Carreau in the other. Carreau launched a wrist shot to beat Swayman and put BC up by three. As with Lohan earlier, it was Carreau’s first goal of the season. Maine was quick to strike back, however, with Patrick Holway getting off a shot that deflected off the skate of a falling Emil Westerlund. The goal was subjected to a lengthy review, but it was ultimately upheld.

BC responded three minutes later, off an extraordinary tic-tac-toe sequence from Hutsko to David Cotton to J.D. Dudek right in front of the crease. Dudek had a wide-open net and cashed in, putting BC ahead, 5-2. At the halfway point in the period, the Eagles received another chance on the power play that was once again extended to a 5-on-3. This time, they were quick to capitalize, as Hutsko dished the puck to Fitzgerald from point to point, and Fitzgerald fired a slapshot past Swayman. When all was said and done, Hutsko—then acting as a creator rather than a scorer—recorded a goal and two assists in the game, continuing a five-game point streak.

Maine didn’t give up and pulled the game closer when Shea tapped the puck over Woll’s glove off a great pass from Tim Doherty behind the net. But Maine’s comeback would not progress any further. The Black Bears got three shots to Woll, none of them dangerous, in the final five minutes of the game, and the Eagles coasted to the finish line.

With the win, BC locked up the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Hockey East Tournament, setting up another run to the conference championship game—all York can really ask for, given the circumstances.

“It’s been a year of ups and downs for our club, to close with the outright trophy for Hockey East, we really feel proud of that fact,” the longtime coach said. “That’s a huge accomplishment, of course.”

Featured Image by Jake Evans / Heights Staff

February 23, 2018