Boston College men’s hockey started Saturday night’s game off fast—there were moments when it seemed as though the Eagles couldn’t hold off the Terriers forever. The Eagles looked to push the pace early on and lit the lamp twice, but BU was quick to match in the second period. In the third, the teams kept going goal for goal, but BC forward Julius Mattila scored the go-ahead strike that put the game away at 4-3.
BC (15-5, 9-3 Hockey East) has been strong lately with two consecutive wins against UMass Lowell and UMass Amherst, but the BC team that showed up on Saturday night was not quite the same dominant force from the previous games. BC failed to convert on a few early opportunities, but through mental toughness and persistent offensive drives, the Eagles outlasted a Terriers squad that wouldn’t go away quietly.
Here are a few takeaways from the Comm. Ave. rivalry game:
Flying Down the Ice
Struggling with the physical play of the BU defenders, BC had to find a new way to manufacture scoring chances. The Eagles resorted to a very simple solution to their woes: Beat the defense down the ice before it has time to get set. Both Logan Hutsko and Mike Hardman’s goals were the result of hustling down into the offensive zone before the defense could organize itself. Hutsko’s pure speed left several Terriers in the dust and gave BU goaltender Sam Tucker no time to react. Hardman managed to convert a breakaway one-on-two into a sweet little wrap-around goal before the BU forwards even crossed center ice. To his credit, though, Tucker stopped two other one-on-zero attempts in the first period, but both were excellent scoring chances for BC set up by fast breaks.
Outgunned and Outmanned
Despite its No. 5 ranking in the NCAA standings, BC seemed physically overpowered in the first period. BC was undoubtedly the faster team on the open ice, but the Eagles were repeatedly bullied below the goal line, along the boards, and even at the blue line. Five minutes into the first period, David Cotton was checked by BU’s Alex Vlasic so hard he ran into the net and dislodged it from its bearings. Moments later, during another BC possession, Connor Moore was shoved off the puck at the blue line by Case McCarthy. BC forwards were consistently hit out of the slot area by a squad of very physical and very determined Terrier defensemen. With games against Maine and the Beanpot tournament around the corner, the Eagles will have to work on their physicality to compete.
Power Play Struggles
BC, a team that had been converting on nearly 40 percent on its power plays, went 0-4 while a man up in the opening two periods, leaving many in the crowd wondering where the fast-paced offense had gone. Julius Mattila and Hutsko, who had both been lethal on the power play in recent games, all but disappeared in advantage situations. Moreover, it seemed as though BC was hesitant to force the puck into the slot area in the middle of BU’s penalty kill defense. Tucker, despite giving up two breakaway goals early on, was stellar on the penalty kill, and BC couldn’t seem to break him.
Hutsko’s Offensive Efficiency
Hutsko was a force to be reckoned with all night against BU. The Terriers had no answer for his speed when getting to the front of the net, and as a result, the right wing scored his 30th and 31st career goals in an Eagles uniform. He was also remarkably efficient, scoring two goals on five shots on net. The first goal was a breakaway just minutes into the game when a long pass found Hutsko all alone outside the offensive zone. The rest was pure poetry. Hutsko used his speed to blow past the remaining BU defenseman and fooled Tucker with two fakes before blowing the puck past him glove-side. Hutsko also came up big in the third period, scoring a much needed goal at a point when the momentum rested squarely with the Terriers. With the puck behind the net, Hutsko made a quick move to come unguarded in the slot. Tucker never saw the shot. Even though Hutsko was a machine on the ice, the Terriers had an offensive weapon to keep them in the game as well. Patrick Curry also had two goals in the rivalry game: one in the first and one in the third, both from the same area of the ice. Curry received the puck in the middle of the defense and squeezed two past BC goaltender Spencer Knight thanks to great screens from his teammates.
Even though they lacked on the power play, the Eagles had too much momentum from the home crowd for the Terriers to take them down in the high-energy game. The preview to BC’s first-round Beanpot matchup shows just how tight the tournament will be, and the Eagles can only hope to build on their success.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor