Top Story, Men's Hockey

BC Falls to Bentley, Can’t Turn Page With Another Non-Conference Loss

About five minutes into the second period of a scoreless game, Boston College men’s hockey defenseman Jesper Mattila’s powerful shot clanged off the crossbar. While he did not find the back of the net, it seemed inevitable that BC would soon pull ahead on the scoreboard. After all, the Eagles had outshot visiting Bentley to that point, 14-4, and were the better side thus far.

Yet when BC’s J.D. Dudek was called for slashing around the six-minute mark, Bentley’s Tanner Jago struck first on the advantage, burying a deflection after a shot from the point. Still, one would assume that the Eagles would have no issue asserting their dominance and coming back from a small deficit against a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2014-15.

Unfortunately for BC, Friday’s contest had no happy ending. The Eagles fell in their first all-time meeting with the Falcons, 4-2, adding an embarrassing chapter to a season that has been defined by forgettable moments.

The first 20 minutes were controlled by the Eagles (3-6-1, 3-1-1 Hockey East). Within the first 60 seconds of the contest, BC went on the power play and generated a few great scoring chances involving star freshman Oliver Wahlstrom, who in the days prior was linked with swirling rumors of a possible departure. Although the Eagles continued to create offensive opportunities throughout the period, their best effort came on the power play once again. Junior forward Julius Mattila narrowly missed the goal off a rebound, one of five shots generated to no avail on BC’s two power plays.

The second period was a completely different story—as much as BC dominated the first 20 minutes of action, Bentley (4-7-1, 3-5-1 Atlantic Hockey) commanded the second. The Falcons started the scoring with Jago, then quickly doubled their lead on the power play once more.

Eight seconds after Luke McInnis went to the box for roughing just before the final minute of the period, Will Garin slid a wrist shot past BC netminder Joseph Woll. It was an impressive effort from Garin, as his initial attempt was blocked, but he alertly raced to put away his own rebound. The consecutive power-play goals were rare missteps from the Eagles penalty kill, a unit which entered having killed off 18-of-19 penalties during the team’s four-game unbeaten run. Bentley also outshot BC, 13-4, in the period, as the Eagles were never able to find a rhythm.

To compound BC’s issues on its home ice, the Falcons added a decisive third scoring play, just three minutes into the final period. Matt Lombardozzi picked up his first career goal, intercepting an attempted Eagles clearance and one-timing a shot from the left wing through a screen and past Woll.

Likely embarrassed by the poor showing, Jerry York’s team started to put together a comeback effort. In similar fashion to the draw against New Hampshire last week, when BC erased a two-goal deficit in the third period to salvage a point, the Eagles clawed back. While on the power play, David Cotton opened the scoring with his team-high 10th goal halfway through the final period, tipping a hard one-timer from Michael Kim into the top of the net.

Momentum in hand, BC began to pepper Bentley goaltender Aidan Pelino, who would finish with 23 saves in the win. Pelino was able to turn away shots from both Mattila brothers before denying Cotton twice. York pulled Woll with three minutes to go, and the extra attacker paid off. With just under two minutes to play, Casey Fitzgerald’s hard shot from the left side skipped wide and off the boards to Wahlstrom, who gathered the puck and buried it past Pelino from point-blank range.

Lightning didn’t strike twice, though, and BC’s final push was too little too late. With the puck bouncing around in the neutral zone with a minute left on the clock, Bentley’s Jake Kauppila hauled it in at his own blue line and fired in an empty net goal to ice the surprising victory.

Entering Friday’s tilt against Bentley, the Eagles hadn’t lost in four games and were showing signs of turning it around after a program-worst 0-5 start. It appeared as if BC, even with struggles at times, was finally kicking into gear and displaying its true talent. The Eagles were carrying momentum and creating excitement for the upcoming series against their bitter rival, Boston University. Instead, BC erased all the recent goodwill it had generated and suffered its worst loss in years.

Even though Bentley has not had a winning season in four years, BC has won at least 20 games a season in each of the last nine years. Before Friday’s contest, Bentley had also not picked up a single road win this year. Despite being located just nine miles west of Boston, Bentley could not possess a more different men’s hockey program than BC. For a team of the Eagles’ talent level—11 NHL Draft picks are on the current roster—a loss to an opponent of Bentley’s stature is simply unacceptable.

Ten games into the season, it is becoming nearly impossible to be optimistic about the Eagles’ future. While it would be foolish to completely dismiss York—the winningest coach of all time in college hockey—and a squad filled with talented players, more and more evidence is mounting to suggest that the Eagles might be heading to a disappointing third-consecutive year without an NCAA Tournament berth. Friday’s defeat to Bentley is just another nail in the coffin.

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / For The Heights

November 24, 2018