Top Story, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Eagles Fall in Hockey East Final, Come Up One Game Short of NCAA Tournament

The 2019 Beanpot final against Northeastern was a case of what could have been for Boston College men’s hockey. Early in the first period, the Eagles had a goal following a scramble in front of the net waved off because the cage had come off its mooring just moments before the puck crossed the line. Then, after falling behind, 3-0, early in the third period, goals from David Cotton and J.D. Dudek looked like the start of an improbable comeback, but BC simply ran out of time, losing, 4-2.

The Hockey East Tournament final, again at TD Garden versus the Huskies, was eerily similar. In the opening minutes, a scramble saw a would-be Eagles goal waved off, this time because it had been pushed in with a hand. Then, after falling behind, 3-0, BC mounted an inspired comeback attempt but once again couldn’t quite pull it off, suffering a 3-2 defeat and seeing its improbable NCAA Tournament hopes come to an end.

In the Beanpot final, it took the No.6 Huskies (27-10-1, 16-8-1 Hockey East) over two periods to build their three-goal lead. Saturday night, it required just 12 minutes. Three minutes into the first period, the puck was dumped into BC’s (14-22-3, 11-12-3) defensive zone, and Joseph Woll sticked it away behind the net. Northeastern’s Brandon Hawkins won the race to the puck, though, and sent it back toward the crease, where Matt Filipe was waiting. The Carolina Hurricanes prospect wristed a shot high above Woll’s shoulder pads to give the Huskies the early 1-0 lead.

It didn’t take long for the Eagles’ misery to multiply. Two minutes later, Hawkins drove into the circle, where he sent a weak shot directly at Woll’s glove. It looked like an easy save for the junior, as he grabbed it out of the air, but Woll couldn’t control it and dropped it into the slot. He recovered to block a follow up attempt from Ryan Shea, but the second rebound fell to Hawkins and the senior slid a shot inside the right post to double Northeastern’s lead.

Hawkins compounded BC’s troubles after Luke McInnis took a tripping penalty on a Huskies rush to give Northeastern a power play. After extended puck possession time for the Huskies, the senior sent a drive into the roof of the net from the high right circle. Two minutes past the halfway mark of the first period, Northeastern had a commanding 3-0 edge.

Nothing was going right for the Eagles. Jerry York used his timeout in the aftermath of Hawkins’ second goal to inspire BC, and the Eagles began to create some chances but couldn’t seem to make them count. Logan Hutsko saw centering passes on two 2-on-1 opportunities deflected by Northeastern defenders, and Marc McLaughlin was stonewalled by Cayden Primeau on a point-blank shot in the crease.

A glimpse of hope presented itself right as the first period ended, with Jeremy Davies whistled for cross-checking just before the horn. It gave the Eagles a 5-on-4 opportunity as the second period began and a chance to gain some momentum. It was only a matter of time before they seized it.

BC won the opening face off, which allowed it to get set up in the offensive zone immediately. Before long, the puck was pushed down into the slot for Cotton, and he used his body to screen it and slide a pass across the ice for Oliver Wahlstrom. The freshman, who has endured a difficult season, was nonetheless in the right spot to tap the puck into an open net and get the Eagles on the board just 18 seconds into the frame.

Davies took his second penalty 34 seconds after Wahlstrom scored, giving the Eagles another chance to cut into the Northeastern lead. It was a chance that didn’t go to waste. Hutsko skated into the right circle and fired a shot that bounced off Primeau’s pads and fell directly in front of the crease. Cotton somehow won a scrum in front of the net and was able to stuff the puck home to cut the BC deficit to 3-2. Much like in the Beanpot final, two quick Eagles goals had them back in the game.

It looked like BC had all the momentum, and Wahlstrom whistled a shot just wide that would have tied the game. But Northeastern went back the other way, and Woll had to be alert to turn aside a wrister from Lincoln Griffin before deflecting a rebound. The puck was recycled to Zach Solow, and his shot was saved by Woll before skittering around in the crease. A scrum ensued in front of the net, and in the aftermath Woll, Michael Karow, and Solow were all called for penalties. The resulting 5-on-4 was killed without much incident by the Eagles but also slowed BC’s offensive momentum. Davies took his third penalty of the night with 10 minutes gone in the frame, and Wahlstrom had a shot from the right circle stuffed by Primeau, but the Huskies successfully killed the power play.

The Montreal Canadiens prospect—who finished with 38 saves and was named tournament MVP—left his line to poke a puck away from a chasing Hutsko, and a breathtaking period ended with Filipe nearly notching his second goal of the game before clipping the side of the goal with a close-range effort.

Fans of both teams were left holding their breath early in the third period, but for a different—and much more tragic—reason. Hutsko was checked by Jordan Harris into the boards, fell awkwardly, and lay motionless on the ice for some time before trainers entered the ice to check on him. Eventually, the sophomore forward was stretchered off with a neck brace to a round of applause from the crowd. The extent of the injury was unclear immediately following the game, but Jerry York did mention after the game that he had movement in both his fingers and toes and was being further evaluated at Massachusetts General Hospital.

In Hutsko’s absence, BC struggled to generate puck movement or clear chances and the game became choppy, with face offs frequently breaking up play. A slapshot from Patrick Giles was deflected just wide, and still needing a goal with under two minutes to play, the Eagles pulled Woll.

The man advantage nearly resulted in a BC goal, but Primeau shifted to his right to deny Wahlstrom with seven seconds to play, and Michael Kim’s desperate last effort was blocked by Pecararo as the Eagles’ NCAA Tournament hopes withered away. For the second time in three years, BC came up one game short.

It was a fitting end to a season that started with so much promise, yet saw the Eagles come up short in nearly all the biggest moments, from the Beanpot final to Saturday night.

“I think our team would have made some noise in the NCAA Tournament,” York said postgame. “We were getting better and better.”

We’ll never know if the long-time Eagles coach would have been right.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

March 24, 2019