Sports, Hockey, Featured Story, Men's Hockey

UConn Shatters Eagles’ Perfect Start

Midway through the middle period of Boston College men’s hockey’s second weekend matchup with Connecticut, Jonny Evans fired a rocket from directly in front of BC’s net. It sailed high and away, but the force of the shot was strong enough to completely shatter the plexiglass behind BC goaltender Henry Wilder. 

Evans’ shot could not have been a clearer metaphor for the Huskies’ play on Friday afternoon. What started as a slow, back-and-forth game ended with UConn displaying more than enough firepower to completely shatter No. 2 BC’s seemingly unbreakable front. After a ferocious 3-goal second period, UConn (1-2-1) handed BC (5-1) its first loss of the season, 3-1.

With four of BC’s best players—Alex Newhook, Matt Boldy, Spencer Knight, and Drew Helleson—all absent from the lineup in preparation for the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, BC hasn’t been itself over the last two games. The Eagles narrowly escaped the Huskies on Friday night, winning an overtime contest 4-3, but on the road trip to Storrs, the wheels fell off. The loss was just the third one BC has suffered to UConn in series history, and it was BC’s first loss since falling to UMass Lowell on Feb. 7 of last season. 

UConn netted three goals in four minutes in the second period immediately prior to the shattering of the plexiglass, the first on a power play at the hands of Evans himself. Then, Wilder made a diving save on a breakaway, but Marc Gatcomb poked the rebound in to take a 2-0 lead. Under one minute later, Nick Capone put away the Huskies’ third and final goal of the night.

So, after three quick goals for the Huskies, a 10-minute break to replace the plexiglass, and a BC timeout prior, was a welcome breather for the Eagles. The stoppage killed off some of the momentum that three goals had afforded to UConn, but BC still struggled to get back in it. 

“In the timeout, we thought ‘hey, we have half of the game left, let’s just start chipping away,’” BC head coach Jerry York said in his postgame press conference. “We had plenty of time, plenty of opportunity left, and we’re going to play 60 minutes. So it was a good opportunity to just remind them that we’re not going away. We’re going to play 60 full minutes.”

BC’s lone tally of the night came from Trevor Kuntar on a third-period power play with 7:03 to go in the game. 

The low final score for the Eagles was not for a lack of trying. In the first period alone, the Eagles fired two near-miss shots which rattled off the pipes. Logan Hutsko and Marshall Warren each notched four shots, and five other players each notched three tries apiece on UConn netminder Tomas Vomacka.

Other than the four-minute period that contained all of UConn’s three goals, BC played lockdown defense despite constant pressure from the Huskies. Wilder, with only one other collegiate game under his belt, made 36 saves, including turning away all but one UConn shot during 12 minutes of man-advantage penalty time for the Huskies. Wilder outmatched Vomacka, two years his senior, by nine saves. 

“I thought he had an exceptional weekend,” York said of Wilder. “Today he just made some unbelievable saves. … He certainly gave us the chance to win tonight’s game.”

Curiously, even down by two goals, York didn’t pull Wilder for the attacking advantage until there was under one minute to go in the contest. At that point, it was too little too late. UConn had taken away BC’s passing lanes all game long, forcing the Eagles to operate from the perimeter. And without two of their biggest scoring weapons in Boldy and Newhook, the Eagles were up a creek without a paddle. 

But just like the shattered pane of glass in Freitas Ice Forum, a single loss on the Eagles’ record can be fixed, and more hockey is yet to be played.

Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics

December 12, 2020