Sports, Men's Hockey, Hockey

Notebook: Cotton, Woll Bright Spots in Beanpot Championship Defeat

In a thrilling Beanpot final, Boston College men’s hockey gave one of its best performances of the season, but it still wasn’t enough against Northeastern. The Huskies raced out to a three-goal lead early in the third period, before holding off an inspired BC comeback attempt behind some excellent goaltending from Cayden Primeau to claim their second straight Beanpot championship, winning 4-2. Here are 10 observations from a hard-fought loss for the Eagles.

1) A Goalkeeping Showcase

The Beanpot final was also a matchup of two of the top goaltenders in Hockey East: Montreal Canadiens prospect Primeau and Toronto Maple Leafs third-round NHL Entry Draft pick Joseph Woll. Spectacular saves were to be expected, and both netminders delivered. Woll made several great stops to keep the Huskies from blowing the game wide open, including an incredible effort on a wraparound attempt that ended up only inches from crossing the goal line.

He finished the game with 31 saves, but was left the loser, as Primeau matched him block for block. The Northeastern sophomore made 33 saves of his own and finished the tournament as the Beanpot MVP and Eberly Award winner, boasting a .952 save percentage in the process. Perhaps most impressive, he remained impenetrable as the Eagles began to throw more and more shots on net with time winding down.

2) Action Around the Net

From the beginning of the game, it was clear that it was going to take great play to beat Primeau, and that one of BC’s best options was to continually screen the Northeastern netminder and hope for deflections. The Eagles tried that for a large portion of the game, to little success, but eventually found another way to score from close range. With just under 16 minutes left to play in the third period, Oliver Wahlstrom managed to dig the puck out behind the cage, before sliding a pass to the doorstep for David Cotton to tap home, with Primeau unable to react in time.

The second goal was almost a carbon copy of the first, as Cotton chased down a loose puck behind the goal line before delivering a pass just on top of the crease to J.D. Dudek, who buried the point-blank shot with Primeau once again left stranded.

3) Missing Hutsko

When line pairings were announced, BC fans got some bad news as it was revealed that Logan Hutsko—who entered the game third on the team in points—would be unable to play due to a concussion suffered against Massachusetts Lowell on Friday. It was a massive loss for an Eagles team that struggles to score. There’s no telling how different the final result would have been had the sophomore been available, but it’s also certain that BC could have used the sophomore’s speed and proficiency at crashing the net, especially in the final minutes when desperately tried to complete a comeback.

4) Comeback

Speaking of comebacks, the Eagles almost completed a spectacular one after being left for dead just two minutes into the third period. First, it was Cotton who chipped the puck just over Primeau’s right pad to get BC on the board, before Dudek drew the Eagles within one just eight minutes later on a similar play. There were still eight minutes remaining, and BC played excellent offensive hockey, as it tried to knot the score at three, peppering Primeau with shots and creating a couple of good looks to equalize. The energy and fight that the Eagles played with resulted in some of the best hockey BC has played all year, and gave signs that they can still go on a winning run to end the season.

5) Puck Movement

One week ago, when BC took the ice at TD Garden for the Beanpot semifinal, it managed to eke out a 2-1 win, despite struggling to string together passes or move the puck effectively for much of the game. The final was a much different story. The Eagles were more crisp with their passing, and worked together in the offensive zone to pressure a Huskies defense that entered the game allowing just 2.27 goals per game. After finishing the semifinal with just 18 shots on net, BC generated 35 against Northeastern, and could have scored more were it not for some fantastic goalkeeping from Primeau. The end result wasn’t the one BC was hoping for, but even without Hutsko, the Eagles looked improved and dangerous on the offensive end.

6) Cotton Spectacular in Defeat  

Cotton has been the Eagles’ most consistent offensive threat this season, but he saved perhaps his best performance for the Beanpot final. On offense, he chipped in a goal and an assist, and looked the driving force behind BC’s third-period efforts, flying to loose pucks and competing along the boards. He exerted the same amount of energy on the defensive end, racing all the way back from the goal line to regain possession in his own zone with a backcheck on one particularly notable effort in the second period. It didn’t result in a Beanpot championship, but on Monday, Cotton gave more than championship-level effort.

7) Winning Faceoffs

In a losing effort, the Eagles were spectacular in the face off circle, winning 43 of a possible 65. Julius Mattila in particular was excellent, winning 20 of 29 attempts. In fact, every BC player won at least 60 percent of their face offs, with the exception of Ron Greco, who won four and lost four. The excellence in the circles and on the dots allowed the Eagles to control puck possession and resulted in one of their better offensive performances of the season.

8) A Clean Game  

In contrast to the semifinal against Harvard, which featured a combined 11 penalties, the final was incredibly cleanly. Each team took one penalty in the middle period, as Wahlstrom was sent to the box for slashing while Northeastern’s Jeremy Davies got called for hooking. But for the most part, the referees let the teams play. There was also very little fighting, as the players seemed content to express themselves with their skating, and that also contributed to an entertaining final.

9) Losing Focus At the Wrong Moments

With under one minute to play in the first period, it looked like the Eagles and Huskies would go into the locker room tied. The only thing lacking from an entertaining frame with chances on both sides was an opening goal. But, as has been the case at times this season, BC lost focus at the wrong time. Northeastern won a faceoff and dumped the puck behind Woll’s net. The Eagles defenders were a split second too slow to react, and Lincoln Griffin managed to pick up the puck unchallenged before slamming it into Woll’s pads on the wraparound. It looked like the BC goalie had it covered, but Austin Plevy forechecked hard and forced it over the line for the opening goal. It was a sucker punch for an Eagles team that would have felt satisfied going into the locker room tied, but it also wasn’t the last time Northeastern would strike with the clock winding down.

As the second period drew to a close, the puck bounced out to Tyler Madden on the right wing. Perhaps due to tired legs, both Luke McInnis and Connor Moore attempted to lay hits on the Vancouver Canucks prospect, but whiffed. Madden lost the puck briefly, and it caromed off a stick to Matt Thomson, who cut through a crowd of Eagles defenders before skating behind the goal line and sending a pass to a wide-open Patrick Schule at the left dot. Schule’s low wrister found the five-hole and put BC in a 2-0 hole heading into the third period.  

10) Controversy

The game could have been much different if not for a couple of inches. Seven minutes into the first period, Mattila let a shot fly from the right dot that richocheted off Primeau high into the air. Cotton crashed the net, and the puck bounced around before eventually somehow finding its way into the back of the net, as the goal came off its mooring. After a lengthy review, however, it was determined that the puck had crossed the line just after the cage had begun to come loose. Had the goal counted, Northeastern fans would have likely been furious, yet as it stood, BC got the short end of the stick. It was a call that could have gone either way, but at the end of the game, left everyone wondering how an early lead would have changed the scope of the final.

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff

February 12, 2019