In the first period of Boston College men’s hockey’s season-opening game against No. 15 Wisconsin, the Eagles found themselves on the penalty kill twice in the first 13 minutes of play. BC successfully killed off the first infraction, but, less than a minute into the second penalty, there was simply too much pressure on freshman goaltender Spencer Knight.
Wisconsin’s Cole Caufield was able to break away and found the back of the net, tying up the game. But BC wasn’t fazed. Fighting through heavy traffic, Julius Matilla, celebrating his 100th career game, snuck the puck past Daniel Lebedeff, putting BC back on top.
It was the kind of response that the Eagles replicated throughout the night, besting the Badgers, 5-3, after four separate Eagles lit the lamp.
The first five minutes of action saw No. 6 BC (1-0) take control of the puck, but the Eagles couldn’t find a hole in Wisconsin’s defense. That said, the No. 15 Badgers (0-1) were only able to cross the blue line once, and BC was able to clear the puck quickly.
The Eagles were the first to head to the box after Mike Hardman was called for high sticking. After just 30 seconds, it seemed that Wisconsin would get on the board first, but after Knight was knocked to the ground, the remaining Eagles were able to clear the puck for some breathing room.
Mere seconds after Hardman left the box to the fans’ cheers, Mattila was given a golden opportunity. After breaking free from his defenders, the Finland native drove Lebedeff to the right of the cage, took advantage of the open net, and secured his first of two goals on the night.
“It felt great,” Mattila said of his scoring plays. “Overall, we’ve had some struggles at the start of previous years, and it’s a good start for us.”
The BC goal wasn’t taken well by Wisconsin, and shortly after the puck dropped, both teams engaged in some physical extracurricular activity, drawing the whistle. The Eagles didn’t get a break, though, after Alex Newhook was called for holding, which resulted in the Badgers’ first goal of the evening. As a response, Matilla netted his second of the season, putting BC back in the lead to close out the first period.
BC hit the ground running to open the second, immediately taking two shots on Lebedeff. The Eagles would soon be rewarded for their tenacity. After breaking away from defenders, defenseman Marshall Warren closed in on the Finnish goaltender. He initially looked to be taking a shot from the right of Lebedeff, but at the last minute he circled around the cage and tucked the puck in from the left before Lebedeff could reposition himself.
And BC wasn’t finished. David Cotton fed a pass to Matthew Boldy in front of the net, and the freshman wasted no time sinking the puck in the back of the net, giving the Eagles a comfortable three-goal lead.
“We’re just better than we were last year,” head coach Jerry York said of his young talent. “The addition of the freshman class, that’s an excellent class. As the year goes on, we’re going to want even more contributions from the young kids.”
Wisconsin responded to the back-to-back rookie goals with a hard hit by Ty Emberson, who collided with Newhook, sending them both to the ground. Newhook lost his helmet following the hit, and after further review, the play was ruled a major penalty for illegal contact to the head, resulting in Emberson’s ejection from the game. The penalty was served by Ty Pelton-Byce.
Owen Lindmark snuck a shot through the pads of his former United States National Developmental Program teammate with just 45 seconds left of the penalty, logging a shorthanded goal for Wisconsin. Mattila’s successful night hit a roadblock after he was called for holding, resulting in a second power-play goal for the Badgers. Suddenly, what had seemed like an easy win for BC turned into a one-goal affair. The Eagles had a chance at redemption after Roman Ahcan was called for tripping, but after multiple scoring opportunities, the Eagles couldn’t capitalize.
Despite the second-period setback, BC came out strong in the final frame. Cotton picked up a pass from Logan Hutsko and whipped a shot past Lebedeff, giving the Eagles some breathing room. The captain’s goal was the only one of the period, and after falling to beat Wisconsin in the past three matchups, BC walked away from its season opener with a win.
“They played better than us tonight,” Wisconsin’s head coach Tony Granato said of the Eagles. “I think they’ve been waiting for this game for a long time. We’ve had some success against them in the past few years, but they played like the more experienced team.”
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor
Images by Lim and Ikram Ali / Heights Editor