ALBANY, N.Y. — Boston College men’s hockey has tested its early game heroics to the max over its previous two contests, nearly blowing a 3-0 first-period lead to New Hampshire in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament before crashing out in the next round despite holding an early 4-1 advantage. The loss to UMass Lowell was not enough to keep BC out of the NCAA Tournament, but the Eagles (17-6-1) continued to play with fire with their late-game antics and ended their season with a 4-1 loss to St. Cloud State (19-10). Here are three main takeaways from the game:
Stoppages Killing Momentum
Although the Eagles came into the game having not played in 11 days, BC seemed to have no trouble adjusting back to game speed with its strong performance in the first period. But adjusting to the changing pace of play within the game proved a much greater obstacle. There was hardly a whistle in the first period as both teams kept it clean and Spencer Knight and David Hrenak seldom picked up the puck. The Eagles looked comfortable with the free-flowing style of the game, as they used their speed to take advantage of the open play. The second period was much choppier, and BC’s play promptly plummeted.
Much of the slowdown in play came from factors outside of both teams’ control. Times Union Center, the site of the Albany Regional, has not regularly hosted hockey games since 2017 before this weekend, and the quality of the playing surface was an issue all weekend. During Saturday’s first-round clash between St. Cloud State and Boston University, a panel of glass broke along the boards, causing a 10-minute delay, and the skate of a Huskies defender tore up a chunk of ice that had to be patched with a fire extinguisher.
The bad conditions again wreaked havoc on Sunday night, this time most noticeably in the inability of the nets to stay put. The goals came unmoored an astounding seven times throughout the game, six of which came on Knight’s end, and the majority of the dislodgings came in the second period. Several of the dislodgings on the Eagles’ end came with hardly any contact, and St. Cloud State head coach Brett Larson pleaded with the referees that Knight was doing it strategically.
While several of the dislodgings prevented potential Huskie scoring chances, the stoppages slowed the game down and killed the momentum that BC had built up during the first period.
As opposed to the wide-open play of the early game that had allowed BC to get out on the rush, the game became dominated by a series of scrums in front of the net. Knight did well to keep the Huskies off the board on the first couple of chances, but BC’s continued inability to clear its lines proved too much, and Will Hammer poked in St. Cloud State’s second goal to cap a long scrum.
Individual Talent Shines
Despite the final result, many of the Eagles’ stars put together highlight-worthy moments throughout the game and proved why 13 members of the 2020-21 team have been drafted into the NHL. Although BC head coach Jerry York opted for an unusual starting forward line of Trevor Kuntar, Marc McLaughlin, and Patrick Giles, the Eagles’ deadly trio of Mike Hardman, Alex Newhook, and Matt Boldy dazzled throughout the first period. The group often seemed to be toying with the Huskies as they deftly moved together up the ice, perfectly timing their dekes and no-look passes to match each other’s movements.
The trio were not the only Eagles to show off on Sunday night. With just nine minutes left in BC’s desperate third-period assault to get back in the game, Marshall Warren picked up the puck at the Huskies’ blue line and beat a pair of St. Cloud defenders. As the rest of the defense closed in on him, he slid the puck over to Boldly, but it took Boldy a beat to gather the pass, and that was all that Huskies wing Jared Cockrell needed to make a diving stop on Boldy’s shot.
Missed Opportunities Abound
Stellar plays like Warren’s deke, followed up by an inability to convert golden chances, were the story of the night for the Eagles. Although BC was outshot 36-27 and shut down for much of the game after the first period, BC had plenty of quality opportunities to get more than its single goal and repeatedly came up empty. Casey Carreau set the trend early, as he found himself one-on-one with Hrenak just minutes into the first period but sent his shot right into the netminder’s chest.
Minutes later, BC had a 2-on-1 right in front of the net but again sent the puck right into Hrenak’s pads. Chances kept coming for the Eagles in the first period, but apart from Boldy’s goal, BC’s finishing ability was unable to match the high level of its build-up play. Kuntar got a well-placed feed right in front of goal with six minutes to play in the first, but rocketed his shot right into Hrenak.
The Eagles’ inability to convert became particularly glaring as their scoring opportunities dried up in the second and third periods. Whiffs were a theme of the night. Five minutes into the second period and with BC still up 1-0, Boldy won the puck right behind the St. Cloud net and whipped around to slide a pass to Hardman. Hardman was all alone in front of the net but Boldy’s pass caught him unaware and the puck slid under his stick and back toward the Eagles’ end.
Hardman found himself in Boldy’s position later on in the second, as he slid a pass to Newhook from behind the net, only for the Eagles star to come up empty on a mighty slap shot attempt.
Featured Image Courtesy of Rob Simmons