Hockey, Men's Hockey

Men’s Hockey Overcomes Sloppy Start, Ties New Hampshire

Two minutes into the third period of Boston College men’s hockey’s game against New Hampshire, nothing was going right for the Eagles. Despite having outshot the Wildcats, 30-28, to that point, BC still trailed, 2-0, and had looked out of sorts offensively all night, with passes regularly going awry. To make matters worse, the puck simply wasn’t bouncing the Eagles’ way.

UNH netted two goals off rebounds, while BC had just barely missed connecting on a few second chances of its own. But sometimes, the only thing necessary to turn around a game is one lucky break, and when the Eagles needed a little fortune the most, they got it.

The puck dropped to Michael Kim on the left wing, and the senior captain lined up a shot from distance. It looked to be an easy save for Wildcats goaltender Mike Robinson, but instead the puck took a bounce off Jack McBain—who flashed in front of the crease—and Robinson, and squirmed into the net, cutting BC’s deficit in half, effectively sparking a comeback. The Eagles found one more goal with seven minutes to play, rallying for a 2-2 draw after looking discombobulated for most of the game.

Both sides struggled to find much offensive rhythm. BC (3-5-1, 3-1-1 Hockey East) was the first to create scoring chances, as just over five minutes into the game, Logan Hutsko burst past a defender on the right wing and sent a cross-ice pass in the direction of David Cotton, but the junior just missed the puck as it flew through the slot. Then, a minute later, Kim was left alone on the right wing and ripped a slapshot that Robinson saved with his glove. On the other end, the Wildcats were nearly able to force the puck into the cage after a scrum in front of net, but Joseph Woll covered puck and ended the scoring threat. It was a similar play that resulted in the first goal of the game.

After UNH (1-5-3, 1-2-2) successfully killed the first power play of the game, the Wildcats quickly broke out of their zone, and Charlie Kelleher dumped the puck into the crease from the left wing. Following another scrum, the Eagles weren’t able to clear the puck, and UNH center Jackson Pierson got his stick on it, poking it past an outstretched Woll and giving the Wildcats the lead.

The UNH goal seemed to energize the Eagles a little bit, as they were able to outshoot the Wildcats, 9-4, over the course of the rest of the period. Even so, BC created few clear-cut opportunities, and a desperation slapshot from J.D. Dudek whistled wide as the horn sounded, sending the Eagles to the first intermission down a goal.

The brief BC surge continued, as just over a minute into the second period, Hutsko forced a turnover at the Wildcats’ blue line, creating a 2-on-1. The sophomore opted to shoot, but saw his wrister swept aside by Robinson. Any thoughts of sustained offensive pressure, however, quickly vanished two minutes into the frame when Oliver Wahlstrom was penalized for slashing, killing BC’s offensive rhythm. UNH used the one-man advantage to pepper the Eagles’ goal with seven shots over the next two minutes, but BC stayed strong on the kill.

Even when the teams moved back to even strength, it was the Wildcats who looked more likely to score. First, Woll stood tall and blocked a shot from Pierson in the low slot after Jack McBain was sent to the box for interference. Then, the junior goalkeeper denied an Eric Esposito attempt before making the save of the game. The puck dropped to Chris Miller just above the crease, and his point-black shot was deflected out to Woll’s right, where Joe Sacco waited, ready to slam the puck into an open net. But Woll somehow instantaneously moved across his goal, sprawling out and barely getting a piece of the puck, keeping the BC deficit at one with five minutes left in the second period.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, his heroics were all for naught. Two minutes later, Anthony Wyse streamed up the ice and maneuvered into the slot, where he found space to shoot. His drive bounced off the chest of Woll, straight to Ara Nazarian, who buried the rebound into the roof of the net with no BC defender in sight.

Robinson made one more save before the third period ended, scrambling a Jesper Mattila shot wide and just out of the reach of a straining Hutsko, and UNH headed to the locker room ahead, but still wary.

With the Eagles still out of sync offensively, it was difficult to see them mounting a third-period comeback, until McBain’s first career collegiate goal. After the score, BC started to press UNH’s back line more frantically, seeking to force turnovers and generate easier chances. The difference in energy was noticeable, and it didn’t take long to yield results.

With seven minutes to play, Hutsko received the puck behind the net, and delivered a pass out to Cotton, who was camped on the goal line. From a tight angle, he somehow forced the puck under Robinson’s leg pads to tie the score with seven minutes to play. Cotton now has nine goals in nine games to start the season.

Sensing opportunity, the Eagles continued to push for a winner, and Wahlstrom nearly found it with a minute to play, as he unleashed a fierce slap shot that Robinson barely got shoulder pads to. Woll snatched a shot out of the air with his glove with 0.4 seconds on the clock, and the game went to overtime.

The extra period saw very few chances for either team, and BC’s last two opportunities ricocheted wide as the final buzzer sounded, giving both teams a point.

Despite an up-and-down performance, the resiliency that the Eagles showed to find a way back into the game was impressive, and it’s a game that can serve as a building block going forward.

“Tonight we showed flashes of being just a little bit better than we were last weekend against Vermont,” head coach Jerry York said. “And I like that for a start. But there’s certainly things we can get better at.”

As far as BC is concerned, those flashes will have to become the norm with the bulk of the Hockey East schedule and much tougher tests on the horizon.

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / For The Heights

November 17, 2018