In a game that had more twists and turns than a rollercoaster, it was easy to feel exhausted just by watching No. 1 seed Boston College men’s hockey (17-5-1) matchup against No. 7 UMass Lowell for a spot in the Hockey East Tournament finals. Things looked all too perfect for the Eagles as they cruised through the first two periods with a comfortable three-goal lead—that is, until the River Hawks responded with three explosive late-game goals. The Eagles’ hopes of emerging victorious quickly diminished as the game went into two overtimes, where the Eagles fell to the River Hawks 6-5. Here are four takeaways from Wednesday’s game:
Too Close for Comfort
BC is a team that scores in bunches, often scoring another within seconds of its first goal. In most cases, once the Eagles net one, they net many, but they also go through periods where they don’t net any at all. On Sunday, they racked up a 3-0 lead against New Hampshire in the quarterfinal game only to give up two and eke out a one-goal win. Despite their offense faltering in the third period, the Eagles held on for the win in that game.
Before Wednesday, the Eagles had a 13-0-0 record when they scored at least four goals in a game. Most teams can’t match their rapid goal-scoring tendencies, and the Eagles come out triumphant. Wednesday’s game, however, was an exception.
The game started off very similarly to Sunday’s quarterfinal, with the Eagles earning an early 3-0 lead over the River Hawks. Entering the third period, the Eagles maintained a comfortable 4-1 lead, but UMass Lowell suddenly took control of the game. The River Hawks scored four goals compared to BC’s one in the last 20 minutes of regulation to tie the game at 5-5 and force it into overtime.
An early lead is important for any team—it generates intense momentum and establishes dominance. On the flip side, it might feel too comfortable, allowing the team to think it is untouchable.
In the Eagles’ case, they started Wednesday’s game with so much intensity that the sheer physical and mental toll of two overtimes may have led to their faltering defense and ultimate demise. UMass Lowell challenged the Eagles and forced them to push for late-game goals out of necessity.
Although the Eagles were only awarded two power plays on Wednesday, one of which they scored on, they had to fight off five of UMass Lowell’s. BC killed off the first four power plays by sending lob passes to UMass Lowell’s end whenever they got the chance. When they didn’t have possession, the Eagles looked for any way to get the puck out of their zone. The team generated a total of 17 blocks, while the River Hawks only recorded four.
Late in the third period, UMass Lowell sent a slap shot past Spencer Knight’s left side, bringing the score to 4-3, and a delayed-call penalty awarded the River Hawks an opportunity to tie it up. BC’s Michael Karow went to the penalty box for holding. When it mattered most, up with a one-goal lead and less than four minutes left against a team with growing momentum, the Eagles’ penalty-kill unit lagged for the first time all game. Lowell’s Anthony Baxter sent a quick five-hole slap shot past Knight to tie up the game.
Banner Day for Newhook
If there was one bright light for the Eagles, it was Alex Newhook. It’s quite impossible to describe all that Newhook adds to his team, considering his aptitude at winning faceoffs and outskating other players. Newhook’s clutch scoring is arguably his most valuable asset. On Wednesday night, Newhook earned a career-high five points, with two goals and three assists. The only other player to record a five-point game this season is Newhook’s linemate Matt Boldy on Feb. 12, also against UMass Lowell.
Newhook works especially well with his linemates Boldy and Mike Hardman, as exemplified by the Eagles’ third goal. Midway through the second period, a quick steal at the opposite blue line by Boldy turned into a quick 3-on-0 chance, with Newhook and Hardman stampeding toward the UMass net alongside him. Rather than looking to score for himself, Boldly sent a quick give-and-go pass to Newhook before sending the puck to Hardman in the center. Their quick passing left UMass goaltender Henry Welsch unsure where to focus on, and the Eagles extended their lead.
The Drought Continues
The Eagles have not won the Hockey East Tournament since 2012. But since 2012, they have been the No. 1 seed entering the tournament six times. Although it seems shocking that the highest seed has lost so frequently, this pattern is a new reality in college hockey. There is less of a gap between the higher and lower seeds, and upsets happen all the time, especially in a single-elimination tournament, which is the case this year. In the last five years, only six of the 24 No. 1 seeds across Division I college hockey won their conference tournament titles.
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics