Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Freshmen Lead BC, Put Merrimack Through the Ringer

Spencer Knight moves with the concision of a robot and the grace of a ballerina. His motions are meticulously placed, but he flows from post to post with ease as if he’s practiced each step a thousand times—and he probably has. His play is a thing of beauty between the pipes, but Eagles fans got just a small taste of his elegance on Thursday night as he faced tests that were few and far between. 

Boston College men’s hockey has worked like a well-oiled machine as of late, and Thursday was no exception. As a result, Knight only faced as many shots as he could practically count on his fingers. The No. 4 Eagles (22-8-1, 15-6-0 Hockey East) emerged victorious at 6-1, earning a season sweep of Merrimack (9-22-3, 7-14-3). 

“BC is the hottest team in our league, maybe the hottest team in the country right now,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek after the game. 

With the win, BC secured a minimum of the No. 2 seed entering the Hockey East tournament at the end of March. 

Knight faced just three shots on goal in the first period. Meanwhile, Merrimack goaltender Troy Kobryn faced 15 and allowed two past him in the same time frame. And though Merrimack’s shots picked up in the second period, Knight handled nearly every shot with ease to secure yet another win for the Eagles. 

BC’s dominance was clear early on as Matt Boldy recorded his eighth goal of this season just a minute and a half in. The 2019 12th overall NHL Draft pick has proved he’s worth his weight in gold over the last few contests, recording two goals in BC’s dismantling of the Beanpot champion Northeastern, as well as two in the Eagles’ last meeting with Merrimack. He would go on to add another later in the game to make it two straight contests with multiple goals.

David Cotton followed up Boldy’s tally with one of his own seven minutes later. As traffic crowded Merrimack’s goal, Cotton stood squarely in the center of the crease awaiting a rebound. He soon got what he was looking for and swept a loose puck in over Kobryn’s pad. His goal meant the captain’s career-high 37th point this year.

As soon as the puck dropped for the second period, BC was off and running once again, this time quite literally. Jesper Mattila sprinted up the ice on a partial breakaway assisted by his brother, Julius, to finish it off and give the Eagles a 3-0 lead. The last time the twins connected on a goal was Jan. 11 of 2019, when Jesper assisted Julius for the game-winner over Providence.

Alex Newhook’s assist on Boldy’s goal gave him his ninth straight game with points, but he wasn’t done there. He grabbed a goal of his own later in the second period, but this time it was Boldy’s turn to assist. He fired a cross-ice pass just above the crease, and Newhook finished it with a one-timer past Kobryn’s glove side before the goaltender even saw the puck. 

After Newhook’s goal came one of the only lags in BC’s performance all night. Luke McInnis went to the box, but his penalty was offset by a major on Merrimack for three minutes of 4-on-4 and three minutes with BC a man up. When McInnis returned to the ice, Mac Welsher nailed Merrimack’s only goal of the night past the BC stalwart in goal. 

Then, just as the clock on the second period began to expire and Merrimack seemed to relax for a bit, Mike Hardman received a pass from Newhook at the corner of the crease for BC’s fifth goal of the night. The freshman second line was impressive all night long as the regiment of first-years had the majority of the goals and a good number of assists. 

Near the middle of the third period, the pace of play had changed dramatically. BC was playing as defensively as if Merrimack was a man up, but the game was at full strength. Knight was forced into some uncomfortable saves, but he never broke. The Eagles returned to their usual selves soon after, but it was a strange departure from BC’s dominance the rest of the game.

Boldy secured his third and final point of the night with 9:30 left to play in the game as he faked out a Merrimack defender to set up a precision shot into the top corner of the cage. Boldy seems to have made a seamless transition to college hockey, and head coach Jerry York agrees. 

“It’s still a huge jump to come to the Hockey East,” York said. “I think he’s going to be an outstanding player for us here. He’s taking strides: very creative, and good strength on the puck.”

With two minutes on the clock and the Eagles ahead five points, York pulled Knight in favor of Adin Farhat, a mid-season addition who hasn’t seen the ice at all this season thanks to Knight’s dominance between the pipes. Knight ended the evening with 19 saves on just 20 shots from Merrimack, and though Jerry York said he wanted Farhat to record a save, Merrimack didn’t get a single shot on him.

“It’s just momentum, momentum,” said York. “We’ve got a lot to look forward to the rest of the season, and I think our team’s just getting better and better as the year progresses.”

Featured Image by Kait Devir / Heights Staff

February 27, 2020