With a little over 10 minutes remaining in the second period, Boston College men’s hockey was in an unfamiliar place. Down two goals to UMass Lowell, the Eagles showed no signs of their usual, aggressive selves. The Eagles desperately needed someone to bring the spark and momentum back into their offense, and both Drew Helleson and Jack McBain were up for the task. After roughing penalties against both teams, BC capitalized on the 4-on-4 play as Helleson sent a beautiful cross-net pass to McBain, who fired it past the River Hawks’ goalie Owen Savory and earned BC its first point.
Less than two minutes later, Helleson struck again on a perfect pass from Nikita Nesterenko, and Helleson tipped the puck into UMass Lowell’s net to tie the score at 2-2.
“He was a big factor in both goals and he is a defenseman that also [has many] offensive gifts to him,” BC head coach Jerry York said about Helleson in his postgame press conference. “He moves [the] puck very well and he can score goals … that was [one] of the big turning points of the game.”
BC went on to win the game 4-3 despite a very slow start on offense. The night prior, the No. 1 Eagles (13-3-1) held UMass Lowell (4-7) to one goal while racking up seven of their own. BC looked like a completely different team when the puck dropped in Tsongas Arena on Saturday night. The Eagles’ usual quick passes and tenacious defense were replaced by much sloppier play, resulting in the early two-goal deficit.
“That was a much better Lowell team than the score indicated. … They had us back on our heels after the first period,” York said.
Less than five minutes into the first period, UMass Lowell’s Blake Wells fired a slap shot into the upper righthand corner of BC’s net, giving the River Hawks an early lead and plenty of momentum.
The River Hawks capitalized on BC’s stagnant defense once again in the final minutes of the first frame. Andre Lee easily sliced through the Eagles’ defense and beat BC goaltender Spencer Knight in a 1-on-0 situation with a drag to the right, bringing the score to 2-0 and further solidifying the River Hawks’ lead.
After Helleson and McBain’s efforts in the middle of the second frame, the game’s intensity increased exponentially. Frustrations over late penalties and offside calls riled up the Eagles. BC’s Jack St. Ivany led the Eagles in their aggressive defensive efforts to keep the puck out of their zone.
“You [have] got to have some balance in your scoring,” York said. “Secondary scoring is important for us, but Jack [St. Ivany]’s line—especially Jack—has been playing really, really well. He’s a junior now and he’s got two freshmen on his wings and I think he’s brought them along very, very well. And now that line’s pretty dangerous.”
Nine seconds into the third period, after McBain won a faceoff, Nesterenko went flying toward the River Hawks’ net and sent a beautiful slap shot into the upper righthand corner, earning the Eagles their first lead of the game.
“Tonight there were [many] game breakers for us, and that big goal by Nikita was certainly a big momentum change for us.” York said. “We have some scorers up and down the lineup, but [Matt] Boldy’s line is our number one line, and they’re going to take all kinds of checking during the course of the season. They try to shut that one line down, we’ve got to have help from the other lines.”
The Eagles only went up from there as McBain notched his second goal with another slap shot into the UMass Lowell net with the ever-present Helleson earning credit for the assist, giving BC a comfortable two-goal lead. The River Hawks scored with less than a second left to bring the score within one, but their efforts weren’t enough to take down the nation’s top team. Despite two very different games this weekend, a win is a win, and the Eagles added another weekend sweep to their record.
“I thought we responded really well and 4-on-4 [play] was certainly a critical part of the game,” York said. “We got two goals right back, and then Nikita’s early goal in the third period was a spark for us. Lowell never quit, and they are a good solid team [and] are hard to play against.”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor