The last eight days of the first semester for Boston College men’s hockey were triumphant ones. The Eagles erased the pit in their stomachs from an upset loss to Bentley with three wins and a tie in their next four games, taking 13 points from conference opponents—including a decisive sweep of Connecticut and four of six possible points from their rival in Boston University.
Fast forward a month, and that feeling has dissipated. BC returns home from a three-game non-conference swing without a win to show for it, dropping its road trip finale to No. 13 Arizona State on Saturday night, 2-0. The Eagles (6-9-2, 6-1-2 Hockey East) extended their non-conference winless streak to a remarkable 25 games, failing to crack Sun Devils (16-7-1) goaltender Joey Daccord as their sluggish offense was dealt its second shutout in three games. It’s now been 784 days since the Eagles last found a win outside of Hockey East play, coincidentally beating ASU back on Nov. 13, 2016.
It was Daccord’s nation-leading sixth shutout of the season, as he turned away 32 shots and outdueled BC’s Joseph Woll (25 saves). The North Andover, Mass. product piled up 14 saves in the opening period alone, setting the tone for an impressive day in net. Coupled with a spotless day on the penalty kill and goals from Brett Gruber and Jordan Sandhu, the Sun Devils continued to be the upstart on the college hockey scene, having arrived at the Division I ranks in 2015-16.
“Tonight, Joey [Daccord] stole that game,” ASU head coach Gregg Powers told thesundevils.com. “I mean we did some good things, I thought we were the better team in the third period. I loved how our guys for the better part of 16 minutes there controlled the play. We played our game the way we need to be successful and I really liked how our team closed it out.”
The loss sent the Eagles to 0-8 in non-conference play this year, and seven of those defeats have been decided by two or more goals. BC simply hasn’t been able to find offense outside of the comfort of Hockey East play, accumulating just nine goals in those games—five of which came in one particularly offense-filled loss to Wisconsin. Yes, the last three losses have come to ranked teams in No. 6 Notre Dame and the 13th-ranked Sun Devils, but the Eagles were a preseason top-10 team and have been nothing short of disappointing.
After Friday night’s loss featured just three combined penalties, play delved into scrappiness in the early going on Saturday. BC, after peppering Daccord for three quick saves in the first two minutes, committed three penalties in a span of under five minutes. Luke McInnis and Michael Karow were both called for hooking before the Eagles had too many men on the ice. It was a sloppy, seemingly disastrous start for BC, but it was able to kill off all three penalties and begin to take control.
No matter how clean the look on net, though, the Eagles couldn’t get anything by Daccord. Jack McBain and Marc McLaughlin both had partial breakaways that were turned away, then Jack Giles had a decent scoring chance that was denied. The turnaround from BC inspired confidence—despite not making a mark on the scoreboard, it still held a decisive 14-3 edge in shots and had already killed off three penalties.
The Eagles kept the momentum for the opening minutes of the second period, even going on the power play at the 50-second mark after a interference call on Steenn Pasichnuk. BC took plenty of shots while on the one-man advantage, but the only problem was that they weren’t finding their way on net. The four-man unit in front of Daccord got down on the ice time and time again, with blocks registered by Jarrod Gourley, Dylan Hollman, Joshua Maniscalco, and Anthony Croston. The Eagles continued to keep the puck in the ASU defensive zone, with Christopher Brown even hitting the post on one shot.
Momentum slowly began to shift in the Sun Devils favor, though, with Woll needing to come up with five saves in a brief three-minute span. BC was able to kill off a Julius Mattila power play, but just two minutes after it expired, ASU struck first blood. A shot from Brinson Pasichnuk kicked behind the net, where Sun Devils forward Johnny Walker caught up to and backhanded a pass to a wide-open Gruber in front of the net. Gruber didn’t hesitate, going down on one knee and burying it past an unprepared Woll.
Lead in hand, ASU killed off a penalty down the stretch in the second and took a lead into the final period, where it would add some insurance. Eight minutes into the period, after Daccord and Woll took turns coming up with big saves, McLaughlin went to the box for high sticking. A difference between the teams, numbers-wise, was that the Sun Devils boasted the eighth-best penalty kill in the nation as opposed to BC’s 21st-ranked unit. That discrepancy resulted in Sandhu scoring on the man advantage to let ASU breathe easy—a shot rebounded to Steen Pasichnuk and he deftly slipped it to his left, where Sandhu buried it past Woll. BC, meanwhile, couldn’t convert on its sixth and final power play of the night just five minutes later.
The nature of the 2-0 shutout loss should come as no surprise to anyone who’s watched the Eagles play any non-conference games the last year or so. They outshot their opponent for the fourth time in the last five games. The power play was unable to make the most of its opportunities, falling to 3-for-28 (10.7 percent) outside conference play. They couldn’t score in the first period despite a typical edge in shots and they couldn’t keep themselves in it in the third period. These are problems that have buried BC time and time again when the going gets tough, and it reveals the fact that even if the Eagles win the Hockey East regular season title, they’re still so far away from being the conference’s top team.
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor