Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Despite Knight’s Efforts, No. 1 Denver Hands BC First Loss

With No. 1 Denver and No. 6 Boston College hockey squaring off on Friday night, college hockey fans everywhere were expecting an entertaining game from two of the sport’s highest-ranked teams. The programs didn’t disappoint. In a matchup between two elite freshman goaltenders, it was Pioneers’ rookie Magnus Chrona who registered a 23-save shutout, while the Eagles’ Spencer Knight stopped 28 of the 29 shots he faced, but it wasn’t quite enough for BC.

Denver’s Cole Guttman tucked away a rebound in the second period and the hosts eventually tacked on a pair of empty-net goals, handing the Eagles a 3-0 setback, their first loss of the season. 

Throughout the first period, both teams were evenly matched, playing great complementary hockey with back-and-forth movement of the puck up and down the ice. This led to both sides approximately taking the same number of shots on goal, with the Pioneers (5-0) holding a slight 8-6 edge. The best chance in the opening 20 minutes belonged to BC (3-1), though, as David Cotton hit the left post just under the crossbar with a wrister from the wing. By the end of the first period, it seemed that this game was destined for a tight finish with the score stuck at 0-0. 

Three minutes into the second, however, Denver got on the board. A few minutes after BC (3-1) forward Alex Newhook banged a shot off the post, Eagles’ defenseman Luke McInnis earned a five-minute major for cross-checking and was thrown out of the game for misconduct. Then, on one of its four power plays of the game—compared to just one for BC—the Pioneers  capitalized. Ian Mitchell lofted a shot on Knight from the blue line, and it deflected off his pad to Guttman, who tucked it home.

Knight stood tall after that, racking up 14 saves in the second period alone. His team struggled with Denver’s defensive pressure and managed just five shots in the final 17-plus minutes of the frame. The Eagles had their only power play chance at the end of the period when Denver’s Bobby Brink went to the box for tripping, but Chrona was only called upon for one save—on a Cotton shot—and the Pioneers won a pair of face offs while on the penalty kill.

BC improved its quality of chances in the third and final period, dominating the first four minutes. One of its biggest opportunities came during that span when Graham McPhee nearly scored the equalizer off a backhand at the post, but Chrona made an impressive toe save. Chrona would step up again later in the period, denying Mike Merulla from point-blank range after Zach Walker forced a turnover and sent the puck ahead to Merulla.

The Eagles went into desperation mode, pulling Knight with 1:20 on the clock in an attempt to force overtime. Yet it didn’t work as planned, with Denver stealing two easy goals in a span of 15 seconds during the final minute. First, Tyson McLellan scooped up a loose puck and skated in to light the lamp, then teammate Brett Stapley got on the board with a shot from beyond the blue line.

What had to be worrisome for head coach Jerry York was the volume of second-chance opportunities that Denver was creating—it led to the team outshooting BC, 31-23. On Saturday, the Eagles will have to work on clearing the puck, giving their defensemen some space and time to recover for the next wave of shots from the restless Pioneers offense. It’ll also be important for BC to be more disciplined, as the massive penalty by McInnis resulted in the decisive goal of the game.

For both teams, the goaltenders were the standouts. Knight, once again, played a terrific game but wasn’t supported enough by his offense. If BC is able to get the same level of production from Knight throughout the season, while improving on the number of scoring opportunities, this Eagles team can keep up with the country’s top challengers. And they’ll get a chance to prove that again on Saturday night in the back half of the two-game Denver road swing.

Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

October 19, 2019