Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Eagles Play Lockdown Defense in Rout of Notre Dame

Before Boston College men’s hockey took the ice on Friday night, head coach Jerry York was commemorated for his recent induction into the NCAA Hockey Hall of Fame, as he becomes just the fifth NCAA coach to earn a spot. Entering his 48th as a coach (his 25th with the Eagles), York touts the title of being the winningest coach in college hockey history, bringing BC to four NCAA titles, 12 Frozen Four appearances, and nine Hockey East Tournament championships. 

You can add another tally to his record-setting win column after Friday, as an explosive second period propelled BC (10-4-0, 5-2-0 Hockey East) to a 4-0 victory over No. 7 Notre Dame in front of a home-ice crowd of more than 7,000.  

After dethroning the previously undefeated Harvard Crimson, No. 9 BC entered Friday night’s matchup against the Fighting Irish (8-5-2, 4-2-2 Big Ten) looking to extend its already impressive winning streak to an eight-game stretch. Notre Dame, on the other hand, tried to play spoiler on BC’s home ice as it sought to get back onto the winning column after losing its previous three contests. 

The first frame of play was uncharacteristically quiet for the two high-flying offenses, as no shots threatened either goaltender until around halfway through the period. From there, both teams exchanged shot after shot, but neither squad found the back of the net.

While goal scoring might have been absent in the first period, the physicality was all present, as one might expect from the two powerhouse rivals. A crowd-pleasing open ice hit from BC’s Michael Karow was enough to break the floodgates for both benches, as hits flew back and forth throughout the rest of the period. 

An action-packed second frame proved to tell a much different story, though. It was marked by a plethora of one-man advantages with a combined 10 penalty minutes in the period. It was the Eagles who capitalized, however, and they put together an onslaught of opportunities, finding a path to the back of the net on power plays, even strength, and even shorthanded occasions. 

Just two minutes in, BC was able to capitalize on a sloppy Notre Dame penalty, which paved the road for Julius Mattila’s fifth goal of the season. David Cotton deflected Logan Hutsko’s pass from the left corner into the slot, providing Mattila with a perfect opportunity as he ripped a low shot past Fighting Irish goaltender Cale Morris’ glove side. 

The Fighting Irish came up empty-handed even after being granted two back-to-back power play opportunities of their own immediately thereafter. A few stingy BC defensive stands take credit for this lack of scoring, which, as indicated by the final scoreboard, played a consistent lockdown game throughout the entire matchup. 

Halfway through that same period, BC’s continued application of pressure in the Notre Dame zone ended up in a couple of forced turnovers, one of which resulted in Hutsko’s seventh tally of the season. He picked up a deflection at the top of the crease and doubled the Eagles’ lead with a chip into the top shelf right above Morris’ glove side.

The goal scoring did not slow down from there. The Eagles’ penalty kill unit did more than just protect its earlier 1-0 lead––it actually proved strong enough to even extend the lead after Graham McPhee’s second penalty of the night. A shorthanded 2-on-1 opportunity resulted in a Patrick Giles snipe, as he fired a bottle-popping wrister right above Morris’ blocker. Just like that, the Eagles found themselves with a comfortable three-goal lead over one of the nation’s top squads.

BC’s top line––Cotton, Hutsko, and Mattila––combined for a five-point effort on the night, as Hutsko builds onto his 10-game point streak. Cotton is just one goal away from registering the 50th of his career. 

Nonetheless, despite surpassing BC’s shot totals and even dominating the puck possession game, Notre Dame simply could not develop any type of response, not only throughout the second period, but for the rest of the night. Much of the credit for Notre Dame’s low-scoring affair goes to the red hot Spencer Knight, whose presence in between the pipes has played an integral role in the Eagles’ recent success. 

Knight generated half of his 26 saves during that fast-paced second frame alone, including two breakaway denials that could have easily put Notre Dame back in the game. The Fighting Irish created opportunities at a consistent enough rate all night long––a narrative that the lopsided scoreboard did not tell. 

Knight made his presence known, however, posting his fourth shutout in 14 starts thus far in the season, building on his already dominant save percentage. 

A fourth goal from Cotton in the bottom half of the final frame was the icing on the cake for the Eagles––he flicked a wrist shot clean past Morris, putting the game far out of reach with just seven and a half minutes left to play.

From the opening face-off all the way down to the final buzzer, it seemed that BC was determined to cap off what proved to be another statement win. With national attention on a matchup between these two top-10 teams, the Eagles proved their worth. Keep a lookout for yet another jump in BC’s ranking, as they continue to climb to the top of the Hockey East standings as well. 

Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

December 7, 2019