Saturday night was the 297th edition of the Battle of Comm. Ave, and, oddly enough, it was the first time in the extensive rivalry that neither Boston College men’s hockey nor Boston University were able to find the net. Despite the 0-0 result, the game was anything but boring, as the sides combined for almost 70 shots. Unfortunately for attackers on both teams, both goaltenders were up to the task and prevented any opportunities from finding the net. The momentum swung like a pendulum, with neither team ever being able to control the tempo of the game. The Eagles (4-6-2, 4-1-2 Hockey East) were arguably the better side in the matchup, but the Terriers (4-7-2, 4-4-2) had the best player on the ice in goalie Jake Oettinger.
Faceoffs: BC dominated the faceoff circle, winning the battle, 39-22. Julius Mattila was especially proficient for the Eagles, winning 20-of-28 attempts at the spot. The faceoff battle was extremely important in keeping the Terriers away from the BC goal, especially on the penalty kill. Winning faceoffs also helped generate high quality shots for Eagles forwards, with many pre-designed plays leading to one-timers that couldn’t slip past Oettinger (42 saves).
Penalty Kill: BC managed to kill all five of the power-play chances it gave up during the game, an improvement on the previous game where the Terriers’ lone goal came on the advantage. BU managed only three shots on 10 minutes of penalties, but the effectiveness on the penalty kill goes way beyond the statistics. Throughout the game, BC defenders were consistently able to clog the Terriers’ offensive lanes and force BU to waste time looking for a clear shot or pass near the net. The Eagles were also very quick to clear the puck once they gained possession, forcing the Terriers to regroup and waste even more time chasing the puck down the ice. Head coach Jerry York has to be pleased with his team’s short-handed efforts, as BC is currently tied for 20th in the nation in the penalty kill at 84.1 percent.
Physicality: It was obvious from the start that these two teams do not like each other. At the first stoppage of play, the teams almost began fighting when opponents crowded BC goaltender Joe Woll. A few shoves were thrown, but the referees managed to keep it from spilling into a brawl. This set the tone for a contest that was full of huge hits and extracurriculars after a play had been blown dead.
Power Play: The Eagles could not get much going on the power play themselves, despite facing a below-average BU penalty kill unit. BC managed six shots in eight minutes of power plays and were able to get a lot of clean looks at the goal, but weren’t able to find a way past Oettinger. Careless passing also plagued the Eagles’ power play, with mistimed attempts at moving the Terrier defense. Forced passes into the middle of the ice were broken up easily and cleared back down the rink.
Finishing: The Eagles had a lot of high-quality chances to put this game away. The biggest opportunity came when BC was playing a man down with four minutes to play in the second period. BU defender Joel Farabee whiffed on an attempted pass to his teammate in front of his own goal, which forced Oettinger to come out of his net to try and collect the puck. Oettinger was beaten to the puck by David Cotton, who smoothly glided towards the center of the ice with no netminder to protect the Terriers’ goal. Yet, somehow, his wrist shot sailed over the bar. This highlights how the Eagles were simply unable to take the chances they were presented with.
Jake Oettinger: Oettinger was simply unbeatable. The Eagles peppered the junior with shots but he was up to the task. As the reigning Hockey East Tournament MVP, Oettinger showcased some beautiful snags on high wristers and diving saves on rebound putbacks. He was a first round pick by the Dallas Stars in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and was arguably the main reason that BU was even in the game. A lesser goalie simply wouldn’t have been able to stop the barrage of shots that BC fired off on Saturday night.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff