Despite Alex Newhook’s absence so far this season from Boston College men’s hockey, the No. 2 Eagles have taken a blowtorch to their schedule, opening the season 4-0 and holding a 16-point goal differential across the opening four contests. Newhook, college hockey’s rookie of the year last season and an integral part of the Eagles’ team that finished atop the Hockey East, is with the Canadian team preparing for the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships and will return in January.
BC faced an even bigger test heading into Friday night’s game against Connecticut, as star forward Matt Boldy and phenom goaltender Spencer Knight, who shared Hockey East player of the week honors last week, also departed to prepare for the tournament. Drew Helleson is also participating in training for World Juniors and was absent from the Eagles’ lineup. The Eagles had shown themselves more than capable of thriving without Newhook, but could they do the same after losing three more of their stars?
The answer was mixed. BC looked far from its usual self against the Huskies (0-2-1) but did enough to grab a victory, as Marshall Warren lit the lamp three minutes into overtime to give the Eagles (5-0) a 4-3 win.
The win marked the Eagles’ first time playing under college hockey’s new 3-on-3 overtime rule, which is expected to increase scoring opportunities.
“We’ve always talked about this 3-on-3 overtime, debated it, pluses and minuses but boy its exciting to play,” Eagles head coach Jerry York said in his postgame press conference. “Of course we won the game so I’m excited about the 3-on-3, but there’s a lot of chances, there’s a lot of wide open hockey.”
BC held a 3-1 advantage with 5:32 to play in the second period, but UConn leveled the score within the first 10 minutes of the third period. The Eagles’ offense picked back up in the final minutes of regulation, but the late surge was not enough to net a winner before overtime.
Logan Hutsko carried the Eagles on offense with a pair of goals, both off of assists from Nikita Nesterenko.
Freshman goaltender Henry Wilder, playing in Knight’s absence, was largely solid in his first start on the Heights, notching a series of strong saves early on in the game, but he made just enough mistakes to let the Huskies back into the game.
“I thought our goaltender played exceptionally well, Henry, step in in his first career start, young kid out of Needham and right from prep school. I thought he was outstanding,” York said.
The game was chock-full of sloppy play and missed opportunities for the Eagles. BC’s forwards, most commonly Jack McBain, missed a number of golden scoring opportunities. The Eagles’ passing and positioning also looked sloppy for much of the later stages of the game. Errors on the defensive side also crippled the Eagles, as two of UConn’s goals came off of bad turnovers.
Colby Ambrosio opened the scoring with 10:10 to play in the first period, picking up a poor pass from UConn defenseman Ryan Wheeler and sniping a shot to the right of goalie Tomas Vomacka.
UConn responded with a goal by Marc Gatcomb with 2:51 to play in the period, and the game went to the break tied at 1. The even score was a disappointing result for the Eagles given their dominance in the period, racking up a shot advantage of 21-7 and missing a series of point-blank chances.
The second quarter had the opposite script, as the Huskies held a 26-11 shot advantage, but the Eagles capitalized on their limited chances with Hutsko’s pair of goals.
“Connecticut got stronger and stronger and took over a lot of the game for the second and third period, but we did just enough to stay in there and win the game in OT.”
2:05 p.m. on Dec. 12, 2020: This article was updated to include quotes from Eagles head coach Jerry York’s postgame press conference.
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics