Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Eagles Struggle To Gain Momentum Through Start of 2021-22 Season

Coming into the 2021–22 season, Boston College men’s hockey was hungry for success following last year’s disappointing end to an impressive regular-season performance. The 2020–21 Eagles, brimming with NHL talent, had won 16 of their 21 Hockey East games but heartbreakingly fell short in both the second round of the Hockey East Tournament and the regional finals of the NCAA tournament

After last year, the Eagles lost four key players, as Mike Hardman, Spencer Knight, Matt Boldy, and Alex Newhook left BC to sign professional contracts. Despite these losses, returning longtime contributors and new members entered the season with the collective aim to not only build on last year’s accomplishments, but also celebrate the program’s 100th season with a national championship title.

But over the course of the first seven weekends of the regular season, the Eagles (8–5–2, 5–3–1 Hockey East) have yet to sweep any of their back-to-back games. Despite seniors Brandon Kruse, Jack St. Ivany, and Jack McBain being tied for third in Hockey East in scoring with 11 points each, inconsistent play has plagued the Eagles’ chances of developing a substantial winning streak.

In fact, the closest to a weekend sweep for the Eagles was the season-opening Icebreaker Tournament, when BC tied Quinnipiac 2–2 through overtime Friday night before outshining Holy Cross 5–1 on Saturday. Although Casey Carreau’s shootout goal against Quinnipiac awarded the Eagles an extra point in the tournament’s standings, the matchup was officially recorded as a tie.

The next weekend, the Eagles beat Northeastern 5–3 in their home opener, only to have Bentley hand them their first loss of the season the next night. The Eagles allowed the unranked Falcons to score five goals in an embarrassing third period, and the 6–2 loss served as BC’s largest margin of defeat since October 2019.

The last two weekends of October were characterized by losses followed by wins. BC lost its 3–2 lead against unranked Colorado College after allowing three goals in the final period, but it rebounded the following night with an impressive 5–1 victory over then-No. 8 Denver. 

Similarly, in the opener of a two-game series against unranked Vermont, the Eagles surrendered their early 3–0 lead as the Catamounts scored four straight. After Patrick Giles’ tying goal, the two teams headed to overtime, where Vermont scored on a power play to secure a narrow 5–4 victory. Seeking revenge, BC heavily out shot Vermont in the next game before finally scoring a late goal and securing a 3–2 win to close the weekend.

“Early in the season, we’ve lost the first game and won the second game, you know, it’s just 60 minutes of consistent effort,” BC head coach Jerry York said in his postgame press conference after BC’s Nov. 19 tie with Maine. “But you know, over two nights, we’ve just gotta get better at it.”

Since splitting the series with Vermont, the Eagles have opened their weekends with wins, but remain unable to sweep as they fail to build on their successes the next day. After sealing a confident 4–1 victory against Merrimack, BC fell to the Warriors the subsequent night in a close 4–3 loss. The Eagles defeated UConn in a 2–1 win, but then devastatingly lost 4–2 against UMass Lowell, when they overcame a two-goal deficit only to allow two goals in the third period.

BC’s most recent two-game weekend came in the form of a home series against Maine. After scoring three first-period goals to win the opener by a commanding final score of 6–2, its first weekend sweep of the season finally seemed at hand. 

Like the previous matchup, the Eagles got on the board first the next day, but the Black Bears managed to keep the score deadlocked at 2–2 through the end of 60 minutes the following night. The two teams tied, but not before battling through a scoreless overtime and a shootout, where Maine came out victorious for the extra point in Hockey East standings.

“We’ve still got to be a 60-minute team and we haven’t shown that very many times this year,” York said after the tie.

Individual statistics and victories over some of their most competitive rivals confirm the Eagles’ sheer talent is not the root of their frustration this season. Rather, BC’s inconsistent play has translated to its shortcomings in playing unranked teams and preserving considerable leads, thus preventing it from not only completing a weekend sweep, but from performing to its full capability.

“I would think just more attention to detail in our defensive zone, you know, block shots, cut out passing lanes, you know, box out players in front,” York said after BC’s tie with Maine. “So it’s a lot of things we were doing, and I can say all three zones, but the D zone is where we’ll concentrate mostly on.”

According to York, BC will continue to focus on its stamina and ability to maintain a consistent defense to support its powerful offense.

“We just gotta be sharper, you know, just a little more urgency to our game over the course of the weekend,” York said after the tie. “If you play good defense, you’re gonna be able to break the puck out of the zone and create some offense.”

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Senior Staff

December 9, 2021