Boston College men’s hockey has squared off against Boston University 279 times in the Battle of Commonwealth Avenue, one of the most classic and storied rivalries in all of college sports. One would expect, then, that the two would’ve found themselves in seemingly every possible situation.
On Saturday night, though, that belief was upended. For the first time in almost 300 meetings, the game ended in a scoreless tie, 0-0. The Eagles (4-6-2, 4-1-2 Hockey East) and Terriers (4-7-2, 4-4-2) struggled greatly to finish their chances while BC’s Joseph Woll and BU’s Jake Oettinger produced very impressive performances in goal.
“Joe was rock solid, as was Oettinger,” head coach Jerry York said. The longtime coach went on to describe them as “two of the premier goaltenders in the country.”
Their play would certainly indicate that, as both turned out some of the best performances of their careers. After netting 38 saves the night before, Woll picked up another 26 in the shutout—an impressive two-game stretch for the netminder. Oettinger survived a barrage of BC shot’s and ended with 42 saves while holding the Eagles scoreless. It was a huge bounce-back performance for Oettinger, who conceded four goals the previous night.
On Friday, BC ventured east on Comm. Ave. to face the Terriers at Agganis Arena. Despite falling behind in the first period off of a BU power play goal, the Eagles proceeded to score four unanswered goals and walk away with a big road victory. Coming back to the friendly confines of Kelley Rink, it seemed quite likely that BC could sweep the series and leave the weekend with two huge victories over its biggest rival.
That second victory never materialized for the Eagles. BC fans filled up Kelley Rink for a sold-out game, and they brought the noise. The first 10 minutes featured domination by the Eagles. They thoroughly controlled the game, as they kept the puck away from the Terriers while putting plenty of shots on goal. The back half of the frame saw BU assert itself more as the matchup turned into more of a back-and-forth affair. Still, when the first frame concluded, the Eagles held a 16-10 advantage in shots.
The same narrative from the first period was mostly replicated in the second frame. BC came out of the gates swinging, as it continually launched shots on goal, only to watch all of them be absorbed by Oettinger. A pair of power-play opportunities presented themselves for each team, but neither could convert.
A crucial moment came near the end of the second period. As David Cotton was approaching the goal, BU defender Joel Farabee lost his balance and fell on his back. This left Cotton with a 1-on-1 chance, but unfortunately, the nation’s leader in goals was unable to convert on a prime opportunity. BC would proceed to hurl even more shots at Oettinger, but he stood strong in goal. BU put up a valiant fight, but the disparity in shots was even greater in the second frame as the Eagles outshot the Terriers, 14-5.
The momentum began to shift in the third period. BU controlled the puck and put much more pressure on Woll. BC’s goaltender blocked several shots but didn’t cover up the rebounds, allowing for several second-chance opportunities for Terriers. Woll may have bent, but he never broke as he held his own throughout the entire period as well as the entire game. BU even secured a crucial power play with three minutes left to play in the frame. The Terriers kept the puck on BC’s side of the ice and consistently threatened the Eagles. It was a tense two minutes in the stands, but whenever the Eagles cleared out the puck, they drew massive cheers. BC killed the power play, and the final minute saw the Eagles pressure the Terriers, but a game-winning goal would not be scored.
The game moved into the five minute overtime period. In the previous frame, BU outshot BC, 10-9. But this abbreviated period saw the Eagles retake control. There ultimately was not much action in the final five minutes. BC put three shots on goal, none of which found the back of the net. Seven faceoffs took place during this period, and incredibly, the Eagles won every single one of them. The Terriers’ lone shot on goal during overtime came with 0.8 seconds left as Joel Farabee was gifted with 1-on-1, but he could not score.
Some may view this contest as a disappointing draw, but York was positive after the game, describing the past two games as “a terrific weekend of hockey.”
“The team that I watched against St. Cloud is completely different than the one we saw tonight,” he added.
York was referencing the Eagles’ blowout loss in the home opener. BC was completely outmatched as St. Cloud State blew the Eagles out of the water, 7-0. In its first five games of the season, BC was winless, but in their past seven games, the Eagles hold a record of 4-1-2.
As far as BC fans are concerned, it’s encouraging to see the Eagles outshoot BU by a large margin and outduel them in several statistical categories. Ultimately, though, the stats will not mean much if York’s cannot find a way to put the puck in the net. After its disastrous 0-5 start, BC is playing better hockey. The kinks haven’t all been worked out, but as the long season progresses, the Eagles will likely only get better. Several huge concerns exist, such as BC’s inability to pick up a non-conference win and its issues on offense, but leaving this weekend with a win and a draw against a huge Hockey East foe is still a positive outcome.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff