Last season, Boston College men’s hockey coach Jerry York assembled a line of freshman forward stars, including Alex Newhook, Matt Boldy, and Mike Hardman. Putting rookies together in one line is somewhat rare in college hockey, especially at a top-level program such as BC. Even so, the line excelled from the moment it came together through the cancellation of the 2019-20 season due to COVID-19 last March.
After the departure of many top-line seniors last year, Boldy, Newhook, and Hardman were next up for the top line spots this season. Newhook missed a majority of the season due to his participation in the IIHF World Junior Championships followed by an injury. With Newhook back on the ice, he retook his place among the nation’s elite. With 11 combined points between Boldy, Newhook, and Hardman—plus one from fellow sophomore Drew Helleson—the now-sophomore line cemented its status as one of the Hockey East’s best trios in Friday’s 7-1 blowout victory over UMass Lowell.
The Eagles (12-3-1) and the River Hawks (4-6) jumped into action from the opening puck drop, and the first five minutes saw two total goals between the two teams. Helleson, last weekend’s hero, got the scoring started. He received a pass from Colby Ambrosio in the high slot and wristed a shot past River Hawks’ netminder Henry Welsch on the stick side to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
The River Hawks struck back with a shorthanded goal. Lucas Condotta received a pass in front of Spencer Knight’s goal and slotted the puck into the back of the net, evening the score at one apiece.
Right after giving up a shorthanded goal, the Eagles’ power play finally clicked. Hardman scored on the power play to give the Eagles the lead for the second time, a lead which held through the end of the contest. He found the puck behind the goal, wrapped around and threw a shot off Welsch into the net to give the Eagles a 2-1 advantage.
The Eagles’ success on the power play—which had been lacking for most of the season in Newhook’s absence—continued into the second period. Under one minute into the middle frame, Newhook finished off a 3-on-0 chance for his first goal of the season. Even though he was not credited with an assist, Knight was the catalyst behind the odd-man rush by completing a long pass down the ice while the River Hawks went for a line change.
“He has the ability to do that,” York said of Knight’s versatility. “We have to recognize to get into position and receive that pass. Spencer made a really great pass tape to tape. That was a momentum push for us.”
The Eagles really broke the game open in the latter half of the second period. Forwards Boldy and Casey Carreau each beat Welsch from the high slot to give the Eagles a 5-1 lead at the second intermission. With his five-point night, Boldly became the team leader in points despite missing a few games while playing for team USA in the World Juniors.
The third period started just like the second with another Newhook goal on the power play. The second time around, he did all of the work himself. Newhook skated into the left faceoff circle and sniped one past Logan Neaton, who had replaced Welsch during the second intermission, to extend the Eagles’ lead to 6-1.
Since his return to the lineup last weekend, Newhook, the reigning National Rookie of the Year, has tallied four points in three games, reminding everyone how talented he is when healthy.
“He is just getting back to full strength from that injury he had at the World Juniors,” York said of Newhook. “That was the first time I thought he was a factor for us for 60 minutes.”
Coming into Friday’s game, the Eagles had a power-play conversion rate of 10.5 percent, the lowest of all 11 teams in the Hockey East, despite sitting at the top of the conference standings. With power-play goals in each of the three games since Newhook returned to the lineup, it seems that it has finally clicked for the Eagles on the man advantage.
“I’ve noticed in the last three weeks of practice and games that we’re starting to really think about where people are and move pucks correctly,” York said. “We have some really good players that when they work in unison, they’re going to be awfully hard to stop on the power play.”
Hardman finished off a Newhook pass for his second goal of the night with just over seven minutes remaining in the game to make it 7-1.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has kept hockey fans out of the building this season, the team has taken the most out of their home ice advantage. With Friday’s landslide victory, the Eagles remarkably remain the only team in the Hockey East without a regulation loss at home.
“We’re getting used to playing without fans,” York said. “I think we’re just more comfortable at home. It’s always nice to play at home.”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor