In just one weekend, Boston College men’s hockey has started to prove it’s just as dominant as the 2019-20 season, even without some of its key players from last season. The nearly gutted team—after losing most of its top line to graduation—hasn’t appeared to lose any steam in its path to the top of Hockey East. After Friday night’s close game, No. 2 BC was looking to improve upon any mistakes made and tighten the margin of error against its closest competitor in Hockey East.
While the Eagles opened the scoring and never once fell behind, No. 7 UMass Amherst seemed to find holes in BC’s defense, slowly but surely cutting down the gap. Despite those close calls, the Eagles (2-0-0) secured a definitive 6-3 victory and a series sweep over the Minutemen (1-2-1), displaying the Eagles’ ability to bounce back from the eight-month offseason.
For the second night in a row, a BC veteran netted the first goal of the game. Captain Marc McLaughlin ripped a one-timer past UMass netminder Filip Lindberg for his first of the season. UMass had given the nod to Lindberg in place of senior Matt Murray after the seasoned goaltender had struggled to close out a win the previous night.
Unlike Friday night’s game, the Eagles couldn’t hold onto the 1-0 lead for the remainder of the frame, as Philip Lagunov tied the game up after poking the puck past Spencer Knight.
UMass couldn’t celebrate the small victory long, however, as an interference call on Colin Felix sent the Eagles’ strong special teams to the power play. Drew Helleson, after assisting on McLaughlin’s tally, netted one of his own to put the Eagles back up by one heading into the first intermission.
BC wasted no time extending its lead following the puck drop in the second frame. While exiting their zone, UMass defenders fumbled the puck, allowing Mike Hardman to turn it over and speed back toward the net. After Hardman sent an initial shot into Lindberg’s pads, BC freshman Colby Ambrosio collected the rebound and sent the puck into the back of the net, tallying his first career goal.
This two-point lead for the Eagles stood for most of the period, including a BC penalty kill following a holding call on Gentry Shamburger.
UMass cut the Eagles’ lead to one when freshman Oliver MacDonald finally found the back of the net. A screen by UMass forwards blocked Knight’s line of sight long enough for the freshman to slide the puck through traffic and into the back of the net.
Less than two minutes later, McLaughlin mimicked MacDonald’s goal. Drawing the puck back to the blue line, McLaughlin took advantage of a UMass screen in front of Lindberg to fire the puck past the moving goaltender. With the two-goal lead safely secured once more, the Eagles and Knight went into shutdown mode, closing out the period, leading 4-2.
While BC ended each frame ahead, it was the Minutemen who were beginning to dominate the ice. UMass edged the Eagles in shots 33-23 by the end of regulation, but it was shot attempts that told the story of the game.
The Eagles tallied only 37 shot attempts on the night while the Minutemen made 65 attempts, most of which came during the final period. While BC was focusing on its defense to secure the sweep against a Hockey East rival, UMass was shifting into a new gear, desperate to tie up the game and take its first lead of the night.
BC sophomore Mitch Andres gave the Minutemen an advantage to start off the final frame, heading off the ice for cross-checking in the second Eagles penalty of the night. While nothing got past Knight, UMass peppered the sophomore with shot after shot, trying to get anything to stick.
Even with the man up, it took eight minutes into the frame and a return to five-on-five play for the home team to put another point on the board. A bouncing puck made it difficult for the Eagles to shut down the scrambling UMass offense, and after a couple of rebound opportunities, Jake Gaudet placed the puck in the back of the net for a 4-3 game.
A centering pass from sophomore Matt Boldy gave Hardman a goal of his own and a safety net for the Eagles as the clock began to wind down on the match. UMass pulled Lindberg with just over three minutes left, but the extra man did little to help the drowning Minutemen.
With an empty netter in the final minute of regulation, freshman Nikita Nesterenko’s first career goal simultaneously secured the win for the Eagles and extended Knight’s undefeated record in Amherst after his two wins the season prior.
Midway through the game, however, a crucial component of the Eagles’ lineup was missing from the ice. After contributing to the second goal of the night and making key plays against the Minutemen, Logan Hutsko left the ice and didn’t return for the remainder of the matchup.
“[Hutsko] hurt his knee, and we’ll have to kind of wait probably a minimum of two weeks,” head coach Jerry York said after the game. “We’re going to wait to see how that develops … but he’s still going to miss some practices and some games for us.”
According to York, Hutsko had been walking without crutches following the game, but the team was taking the necessary precautions as it headed back to Boston following the night’s win.
The Eagles lost 12 players after their incredible 2019-20 regular season, including former captain David Cotton. Yet, the addition of 11 new freshmen and an extended preseason has given York and the Eagles an opportunity to recreate last year’s incredible run. If this opening weekend has been any indication of what’s to come, BC’s ready for another stellar season.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor