Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Notebook: BC Overcomes Slow Start Thanks To Power Plays

From 2018 to 2020, Boston College men’s hockey lost to Maine a total of five times. Three of those losses came in overtime, and four of them were by one point. The Black Bears have been a point of weakness for the Eagles in recent years, but if there’s one thing No. 1 BC shows no signs of this season, it’s weakness. Maine, playing its first game in almost a month, put up a fight, but BC was unstoppable, particularly on special teams, taking home its third win in a row. Here are four takeaways from Friday’s game, the first in a weekend doubleheader:

The Newhook Effect

It’s usually hard to evaluate what exactly a player brings to the table simply because hockey requires intense collaboration among its entire roster. Alex Newhook, however, makes his impact so obvious that it’s practically impossible to miss. Newhook missed the first half of the season while he was training for and competing in the IIHF World Junior Championship, and since his return, BC has seen a striking uptick in power-play success. Newhook is a dominant forward, but his presence is most notable on special teams. Before Newhook’s return to the lineup, BC was mustering just a 10.4 percent conversion rate with the man advantage. In just two games since then, BC has jumped to a 13.8 percent conversion rate, and that statistic doesn’t even take into account BC’s success on the man advantage against Maine.

Since Newhook’s return to the lineup, he’s scored three power-play goals—more than anyone else on the team—including the game-winning power-play goal against Maine on Friday. Something about his presence on the ice makes the power play click, as two of the Eagles’ four goals on Friday came with the man advantage, and Newhook was on the ice for both of them.

Four Score and One Year Ago

No. 1 BC isn’t just used to sitting at the top of the polls, but also at the top of the national stat sheets. The Eagles top the charts with a 4.06 goals per game average through last weekend’s contests with UMass Lowell. Plus, the Eagles are undefeated (11-0-0) this season when they score at least four goals in a game. 

It took BC a while to get its prolific offense going against Maine on Friday, but once it did, there was no turning back. Matt Boldy’s game-sealing empty-netter with under one minute left on the game clock pushed BC to the four-goal threshold, which has become commonplace for the Eagles this season. In last year’s much longer season, the Eagles recorded four goals 19 times and finished with a similar 4.0 goals per game average. 

First-Period Slump

Though BC has been prolific on the offensive end this season and continued to do so against Maine, it took the Eagles until the second period to get anything going. They looked lackluster in the first, largely thanks to five penalties against the Eagles in the first 20 minutes alone. 

Slow starts have been a pattern for the Eagles this year. In the second game of BC’s series with UMass Lowell two weeks prior, the Eagles fell behind by two goals before coming back in the latter half of the game to win 4-3. In a Dec. 12 loss to UConn, BC didn’t even get on the board until the third period, and by then it was too little, too late. Granted, four of BC’s top performers, two of whom account for a large portion of BC’s offense, were out for World Juniors. 

Raising Helleson

Sophomore Drew Helleson made headlines two weeks ago for his game-winning overtime goal against BU. It was a rare chance for the defender, who, as his position would imply, focuses more on defending than scoring. Helleson, though he often flies under the radar, has been a game changer for the Eagles this season. He’s currently on a career-high five-game point streak, thanks to his assist on Boldy’s empty-netter late in the game. His plus/minus currently sits at +19, the highest on the team other than goaltender Spencer Knight (+35). His +19 also ranks first in the Hockey East and third in the NCAA. Against Maine on Friday, Helleson also added three blocks on the defensive end.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

February 20, 2021