Boston College men’s hockey saw its successful 2019-20 season come to a premature end before it could partake in their scheduled Hockey East quarterfinal against Providence. Over eight months later, a new squad of Eagles hit the ice to begin the 2020-21 season with a new mantra: accept the challenge.
Despite the key losses of former captain David Cotton, defenseman Ben Finkelstein, and Jesper and Julius Mattila, this Eagles squad remains extremely loaded with talent, which is reflected in BC’s No. 2 spot on the USCHO rankings.
After their scheduled opening series against New Hampshire was postponed last weekend, the Eagles (1-0) were finally able to open up the new, highly anticipated campaign with a 4-3 victory over their instate rival UMass (1-1-1) on Friday night at home. Matt Boldy scored the game winner early in the third to break a 3-3 deadlock and open the weekend with a victory.
It is always interesting to see how Hall of Fame coach Jerry York will shuffle his lines in the opening games of the season, especially after losing so many key players like he did going into this season. He also found himself without reigning National Rookie of the Year sensation Alex Newhook, who will be competing in the World Juniors with Team Canada until January.
In the postgame press conference, York also mentioned that he expects a few more of his players to play in the tournament with Team USA. With World Juniors taking place during the college season, York will likely tinker with his lines all season long. With Newhook out of the lineup tonight, freshman winger Nikita Nesterenko and junior center Jack McBain suited up on the offensive first line alongside senior winger Logan Hutsko.
“We’ll fit,” York said in his postgame press conference. “We’ll move people. Someone else will have to take quality minutes. I think it is a great reflection of the program and Boston College when we can have players of this caliber.”
Both teams took penalties early in the first period, but neither team found the net on the power play. The contest remained scoreless behind strong play from both teams’ netminders, Spencer Knight of BC and Matt Murray of UMass.
The Eagles finally broke the ice a little over halfway into the period on a goal scored by the Eagles’ new top-line center McBain. Hustko deked by the UMass defense and found McBain in the slot, who wristed it right past Murray to give the Eagles the 1-0 lead, which held into the first intermission.
The Eagles found themselves on the power play yet again early in the second period. Despite having the man advantage, the Eagles let Minutemen defenseman Zac Jones streak down the ice and rip a shot past Knight’s glove to tie up the game on the shorthanded goal.
On that same power play, however, the Eagles were able to take the lead right back within seconds. Mike Hardman received a pass from Boldy and beat Murray on the backhand to give the Eagles the 2-1 lead. With seven minutes to go in the period, the Eagles doubled their lead. McBain received a stretch pass from Nesterenko, took his time, and rocketed a wrist shot past Murray for his second goal of the day. With two goals in the opener, McBain surely proved he deserves his spot on the top line.
The lead seemed rather comfortable for the Eagles until the final five minutes of the second period. BC took another penalty, and this time the Minutemen managed a conversion. The Eagles’ lead fell to only one goal after freshman forward Josh Lopina deflected the puck past Knight.
Only 13 seconds later, Lopina beat Knight yet again off of a feed from Oliver MacDonald to tie the score up at three. With only two periods of college hockey under his belt, freshman Lopina had already notched two goals. Despite a tie on the scoreboard, it seemed that the Eagles had lost the majority of their momentum heading into the second intermission.
“I thought the shorty was a key one that gave them a lot of momentum,” York said. “They moved the puck pretty well on the power play. They moved pucks well and got a shot on goal. The third goal was a breakdown in our defensive zone coverage. All things that we can fix.”
The Eagles quickly regained that momentum and regained the lead in the first minute of the final frame. Colby Ambrosio completed a stretch pass onto Boldy’s stick, who fired it into the top corner past Murray for the goal to give BC the 4-3 lead, which held all the way through the end.
The Eagles had several chances to extend their lead, but they couldn’t manage a score on two breakaway chances, one by Hutsko and the other by Ambrosio. Knight and the young BC defense killed off two penalties in the final half of the period and ultimately held on for the one-goal victory.
“It was a great battle for us,” York said. “I thought that some of the keys were killing two penalties in the last ten minutes of the game and the six-on-five in the last 35 to 40 seconds. I thought we had standout performances from Jack McBain and Matt Boldy, and Spencer Knight was solid in goal again.”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor