Even before the puck dropped for the gold medal round of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship on Tuesday, fans knew that at least one Boston College men’s hockey player would finish with the trophy in hand. With three Eagles—Matt Boldy, Spencer Knight, and Drew Helleson—competing for Team USA and one Eagle—Alex Newhook—on the other side of the ice with Team Canada, no matter which way the scales tipped, BC was guaranteed to continue its tradition of success at World Juniors.
Knight made 34 saves in the deciding contest to post a shutout—the first in a medal round in U.S. history—as Team USA blanked its rivals from up north 2-0. Boldy, Knight, and Helleson’s gold medals made them the eighth, ninth, and tenth World Juniors gold winners in BC history, reflecting a longstanding tradition of success at the next level.
“If we have an opportunity for players to play at that level and represent their country, whether it’s Finland as we’ve had in the past, Canada, or the United States,” BC head coach Jerry York said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We push our players, we hope they get selected … In the long run, it’s something that kids dream about.”
With players on both sides of the championship match, York said that even though he, a Boston native, favored the U.S. to win, he found himself rooting for Newhook to perform to the best of his ability.
If there was any bad blood between Newhook and his three American teammates after the game, it had to dissipate pretty quickly, as the quartet returned to Boston on a private charter flight in order to limit their contact with others and reduce the chances of contracting COVID-19. Flying privately, York said, will allow them the potential to see the ice in No. 2 BC’s home-and-home against New Hampshire on Friday and Saturday.
BC returns to the ice this weekend for its first game since a 3-1 loss to UConn on Dec. 12, the Eagles’ first loss of the season. Boldy, Knight, Helleson, and Newhook were already absent from the lineup at that point in order to prepare for World Juniors. Since then, the team traveled home to spend Christmas with their families before they returned to Boston to quarantine in a hotel near campus, York said. The Eagles each had to present three negative COVID-19 tests before they could resume practice.
“We’ve been practicing for a good week now, so we’re ready to play some games,” York said.
During the break, York added two new players to the Eagles’ roster: goaltender Adin Farhat and defender Jack St. Ivany. Farhat has played for the Eagles before, for a total of two and a half minutes last year after being tapped from the BC club hockey team.
St. Ivany, on the other hand, has more experience. The junior transferred from Yale and was eligible to compete with the Eagles at the conclusion of the first semester. While at Yale, St. Ivany played 62 games for the Bulldogs over the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, selected by the Philadelphia Flyers.
“He’s been terrific,” York said of St. Ivany. “We recruited him a long time ago, so we knew about him. I’ve watched him over the last couple of years at the USHL and then at Yale, but he’s a terrific person, a great player, and a [there is] promising future in hockey for him.”
The Eagles have renewed depth on the defensive end, and York said he feels that that unit is right where it needs to be after some of the key defenders from last season graduated. With the second half of the Eagles’ season on the horizon, York said their game plan is simple: focus on the team’s strengths, and minimize its weaknesses.
“I don’t like to complicate it all too much with talk about, ‘Here’s what New Hampshire does, here’s what they’re going to do,’” York said. “Let’s see how we can play the best we can.”
Featured Image by Jason Franson / AP Photo