Top Story, Hockey, Men's Hockey

BC Beats No. 7 Providence, Advances to Hockey East Semifinals

Entering Boston College men’s hockey’s do-or-die Hockey East Tournament quarterfinal matchup against No. 7 Providence on Saturday, Logan Hutsko was enduring a scoreless streak of immense proportions. The sophomore forward, who led the Eagles in scoring in 2017-18, hadn’t found the net since Dec. 6 in a 4-0 win over Connecticut—a 19-game stretch. Fortunately for BC, he picked perhaps the best time to flip the switch, scoring the game-winner just 23 seconds into overtime as the Eagles won 4-3 to even up the quarterfinal series with the Friars.

Then, on Sunday, he pushed any memory of that scoreless run even further out of mind. With nearly 12 minutes gone in the third period and BC once again needing to win to keep its season alive, it was Hutsko who came up large. The sophomore forward picked up the puck in the right circle and buried a shot past Providence netminder Hayden Hawkey to stake the Eagles to a 2-1 lead. His goal proved to be the final one of the game, and ultimately the score that gave BC a series victory over the second seed Friars and kept the Eagles’ season alive.

The game started off at a fast pace, and the seventh-seeded Eagles (13-21-3, 10-11-3 Hockey East) were awarded the first good chance of the night. Scott Conway was whistled for a face-off violation just two minutes in and BC earned a power play. Julius Mattila won the ensuing face off, and the Eagles were immediately able to set up in the offensive zone. In fact, BC spent pretty much the entire man advantage in possession of the puck, and peppered the Providence (22-10-6, 14-7-3) net with eight shots, but couldn’t find beat Hawkey for the opening goal.

Casey Fitzgerald hit the box for charging just a few minutes later, giving the Friars a power play chance of their own. Providence managed four shots while on special teams, but Marc McLaughlin blocked a drive from Ben Mirageas, and the other three whistled wide as the Eagles successfully killed the opportunity.

The teams went back to even strength, but the quick end-to-end action continued. Hawkey covered a shot from Connor Moore, before Michael Karow and Jack Dugan took matching penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. Oliver Wahlstrom committed the fifth and final infraction of the first frame with just over a minute to go, and Tyce Thompson rang the post with a slapshot just before the clock expired. Providence couldn’t convert despite being a man up, though, and the teams retreated to the locker room scoreless after 20 minutes.

BC successfully stopped the rest of Wahlstrom’s penalty to begin the middle frame, but the physical play and penalties continued. Dugan took a seat for his second penalty of the game, this time for interference, and Conway and Wahlstrom found themselves also leaving the ice for the game’s second pair of matching penalties, but it wasn’t until Kasper Björkqvist took the Friars’ fifth penalty of the game that either team capitalized.

After the Eagles set up in the offensive zone, the puck was rotated to Michael Kim at the face-off dot, and the senior—who nabbed four points in the first two games of the series—let fly a wrister that found the top right corner through a screen from Christopher Brown. Much like in the first two games against Providence, BC claimed the game’s first lead.

The Eagles had two good chances to double the lead as the second period came to a close, and Hutsko—who nabbed the overtime winner against the Friars on Saturday and was a consistent offensive threat Sunday—was at the center of the attack. First, he sent a cross-ice pass to Wahlstrom, who was crashing the net, but the freshman’s shot skittered just wide. Then, with McInnis and Thompson off the ice for roughing, the sophomore winger skated into the high slot and sent an attempt crashing off the pipe with just over two minutes left. The joint penalties took the total number committed to eight through the first two periods, but as the horn sounded for the end of the middle frame BC still clung to a 1-0 advantage.

Any thought that another pause in the action would put an end to the whistles, however, was quickly put to rest. McInnis was sent off for cross-checking, then Conway committed his third minor of the game just 16 seconds after the Eagles successfully killed Providence’s third power-play chance of the night. BC presumably had an opportunity to double its edge, but Wahlstrom ruined that by being whistled for his third penalty of the game. After a minute of 4-on-4 hockey, the Friars were presented with an abbreviated power-play chance of their own, and finally cracked the Eagles’ defense on their fourth attempt of the game. Josh Wilkins fired a shot on net that Joseph Woll blocked, but the rebound dropped in front of the crease, and Conway, newly back on the ice, was there to stuff the puck home and tie the game.

Hutsko scored just six minutes later, giving BC a lead to sit on for the final eight minutes of the regulation, and the Eagles defended admirably. Crucially, BC avoided any more penalties, and though Woll had to make 10 saves in the closing minutes, the Eagles were able to prevent any clear-cut opportunities for the Friars. Kim just missed scoring an empty-net goal from his own end with 30 seconds to play, and the Eagles were flooding onto the ice to celebrate their biggest win of the season just half a minute later.

With the win, BC advances to the Hockey East Tournament semifinals at T.D. Garden for a date with top-seeded Massachusetts, the No. 3 team in the country. The Minutemen are certainly formidable, but the Eagles can take solace in the fact that they played two competitive games with them earlier in the season. It’s too bad that BC won’t be able to play Providence in the semifinal on Friday—four of the Eagles’ 13 wins on the season have come against the Friars—but, even so, it now stands just two games from a berth in the NCAA Tournament. BC now has a fighting chance if it plays like it did against Providence. After a largely disappointing regular season, that’s more than anyone would have expected coming into the weekend.

Featured Image by Ken Jancef / BC Athletics

March 17, 2019