Sports, Winter, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Kuntar’s Shootout Goal Powers BC Past BU in Battle of Comm. Ave.

It had been 650 days since Boston University fans last flooded Agganis Arena for the Battle of Comm. Ave. On the brink of a grueling finals week, Terrier fans turned the seats red and white on Friday night. 

When overtime ended and shootouts began, cheers were audible for blocks down Comm. Ave. BU fans brandished homemade signs reading “Not From Boston” and “Chestnut Hill Community College,” and a chant of expletives rained down on the ice. 

From the other side of the arena, Boston College men’s hockey fans’ enthusiasm presented itself almost identically. Vulgar cheers crescendoed as Trevor Kuntar poked the puck past BU goaltender Drew Commesso on BC’s fifth trip down the ice, and those cheers erupted into chaos when BC goaltender Eric Dop deflected BU’s final penalty shot. 

“The atmosphere was outstanding,” BC head coach Jerry York said. “We’re slowly getting back to a college hockey season. … It seems like now we’re back to the old days.”

After three periods of momentum shifts between BC (8–5–3, 5–3–2 Hockey East), BU (6–9–3, 5–5–3, and the fans, the game was tied 3–3. Five minutes and an overtime period later, the score remained stagnant. It took 10 tries—five by each team—but Kuntar eventually made his mark for the Eagles. 

Although the game goes down in the books as a tie, nobody in the arena seemed to realize, and BC’s shootout victory gives the Eagles an extra point in Hockey East standings. 

When BU missed its final penalty shot to hand BC the game, the entire right side of the stands exploded. BC’s bench hopped onto the ice and skated straight at Dop, surrounding him behind the goal and just in front of the BU student section. A sole BU flag remained flying behind the celebrating Eagles, as the Terriers assembled in mourning on the other end of the ice. 

He did not score the winning goal, but Dop saved the game for BC five times during the shootout. BU took 35 shots Friday night, and Dop was there for almost every one of them. Excluding his shootout work, Dop tallied 32 saves while allowing just three goals.

“I thought our goaltender made at least two A-plus saves,” York said. “He was our player of the game—Eric Dop.”

Despite his late rally to keep BC alive, Dop looked lethargic to start the night. BU took hold of the momentum early on with just under 11 minutes left in the first period, and Dop let another puck find the net just over eight minutes into the second period. 

“You can’t ever give up,” York said. “The game’s never over.”

York was right. 

After two quiet periods, BC took control of the third early on, and when the Eagles’ momentum finally showed up, their fans did too. Just one minute into the third period, captain Marc McLaughlin put the Eagles on the board. BC’s fans erupted in a long-awaited “let’s go Eagles” chant, and the Eagles began to capitalize on the crowd’s enthusiasm—just as BU had been doing all night.

“Everybody wants to play in front of a crowd,” York said. “We’ve missed it for too long.”

BC did not give the atmosphere a chance to die out. Instead, it kept feeding its fans exactly what they made the quick trip to BU’s campus hoping to see. Just over six minutes after BC’s first goal, Nikita Nesterenko tied the game and the crowd erupted, garnering a response from BU’s student section.

If you had sparked a match in Agganis Arena after BC’s game-tying goal, it felt like the entire facility would have exploded. The atmosphere was electric, and the game refused to stay even for long. 

Fifty-two seconds after the tying goal, Patrick Giles found the net on assists by McLaughlin and Jack St. Ivany. For the first time all night, the game was BC’s to lose. 

Just over three minutes later, BU took back over. 

“The first minute of the third period gave us life,” York said. “We had straight goals, and BU answered, which didn’t surprise any of us.”

With a tie game and almost nine minutes left to play, the arena was at its loudest point of the night. Momentum was once again up for grabs, and both teams’ fans were doing their best to grab it. As the game seemed to reach its boiling point, however, nothing happened. 

Regulation ended, a five-minute overtime came and went, and six players skated down the ice, each with a chance to win the game. Still, neither team would yield. 

Finally, Kuntar did it. Commesso made a costly mistake on an otherwise successful night, but the game was not over. BC fans nervously celebrated Kuntar’s goal, but before they knew it, BU’s Matt Brown was gliding toward the BU student section and ready to stomp out BC’s hope. 

As he had all night, Dop stepped up

Featured Image by Ethan Ott / Heights Editor

December 11, 2021