Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Spencer Knight Posts 34-Save Shutout as Eagles Blank Catamounts

Boston College men’s hockey is hitting its stride. Following a four-game losing streak, the Eagles have rebounded with five straight wins in which they’ve outscored their opponents, 22-4. The latest decisive victory took place on Saturday night, with No. 16 BC taking on Vermont in the back half of a weekend series in Burlington. 

The Eagles had thoroughly dispatched the Catamounts the night prior, 5-1. Saturday night was a more even contest, but BC was still able to pull away late in a 3-0 decision. Spencer Knight recorded his third shutout of the season, notching 34 saves—his second highest output of the season.

On Saturday night, BC (7-4, 5-2 Hockey East) was outshot by UVM (1-7, 0-5), but head coach Jerry York’s team was the one that was able to convert on its chances. BC won the special teams battle in convincing fashion on Saturday night, going 1-of-3 on the power play, while the penalty kill unit not only thwarted all three man-up opportunities for the Catamounts, but created a short-handed goal of its own.

Despite the crooked scoreline at the end, UVM came out shooting in the first period. The Catamounts outshot the Eagles, 17-7, in the first frame—Alex Esposito alone recorded four shots. Knight was up to the task, though, stopping everything that came his way. The freshman netminder has now allowed one goal or fewer in each of his past four starts. 

BC had its first power-play opportunity just 14 seconds into the game when Christian Evers was whistled for elbowing. But the Eagles couldn’t convert and got just one shot off on the man advantage. UVM had one power play in the period as well, but the BC penalty kill held the Catamounts shotless.

The script began to flip in the second period. BC was peppering shots at UVM goaltender Stefanos Lekkas, getting off 13 shots in the frame. The game was still scoreless until there was less than five minutes left in the period. 

Then, on BC’s third power play of the game, the puck finally found the back of the net. Controlling possession in UVM’s zone, Julius Mattila laid off the puck for Ben Finklestein. The senior defenseman fired off a one-timer from the point, and Lekkas made the save, but allowed the rebound to fall right onto the waiting sticks of David Cotton and Aapeli Räsänen. Cotton got the first piece of it before Räsänen tapped it home to earn a share of the team scoring lead with five goals, and more importantly, stake the Eagles to a lead.

Less than two minutes later, on UVM’s power play, Patrick Giles was able to squeeze past the last Catamount defenseman on the blue line, and he had Marc McLaughlin running by his side with just Lekkas to beat. Giles dumped the puck off to his fellow sophomore, who immediately sent it back over to the streaking forward down the right side. Giles finished on a one-time wrister, extending BC’s lead to two. Giles was skating in just his second contest of the season on Saturday, and he was able to convert for his first tally of the year.

After the second intermission, the Eagles came out in the third period with the same intensity with which they finished the second. In the fourth minute of play, Cotton delivered a pass to Logan Hutsko, who was cutting down the middle of the lane. The junior forward finished by beating Lekkas under his left pad, joining Räsänen in the five-goal club, after scoring against the Catamounts on Friday night as well.

BC’s defense stepped up in the third period as well. After allowing double digit shots and relying upon the stellar play of Knight in the first two periods, the Catamounts were only able to muster five shots in the final 20 minutes. Mixed into that defensive run was an impressive five-minute penalty kill after Jack McBain was sent to the penalty box for 15 minutes for contact-to-the-head roughing and a game misconduct. BC, however, held UVM to just one shot over the course of the five-minute major, cruising to the 3-0 victory.

While many Eagles fans began to worry after the four-game losing streak, three of those setbacks came to top-10 opponents. BC has seamlessly turned it around after that, and appears to be playing its best hockey right now.

The road ahead for the Eagles entails a four-game hiatus from Hockey East play, with matchups against Yale, No. 13 Harvard, and a home-and-home against No. 4 Notre Dame. It will be a tough test for York’s crew, but a string of wins against these quality opponents would certainly boost BC in the NCAA rankings.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

November 17, 2019