Sports, Winter, Hockey

No. 2 Denver Outlasts No. 3 Eagles 4–3 in Front of Sold-Out Conte Forum

The sound of a one-timer from the top of an offensive-zone set play is crisp and satisfying—seconds after the dink of the puck, a swift swishing noise is produced from the laces in the back of the net. 

On Saturday night in Conte Forum, Denver produced this sound with just under 10 minutes to play to go up 3–2. Boston College men’s hockey goaltender Jacob Fowler was not prepared for the Tristan Broz rifle which sizzled by him on a Pioneer power play.

But the sound didn’t end there, as freshman forward Will Smith created some of his own moments later. And this time around, Smith’s goal produced a lot more sound that followed—sound that drifted from the black-adorned student crowd, rippling a tsunami of soundwaves to the ice. 

Smith’s power-play, game-equalizing tally at the 6:39 mark in the final frame marked his second goal of the contest. But a barrage of late-game penalties proved costly for the Eagles, who relinquished the game-winning goal to Carter King just over four minutes later. King propelled the No. 2 Pioneers (3–1–0) to a 4–3 victory over No. 3 BC (3–1–0) in Conte Forum’s first top-three matchup since Oct. 14, 2011. 

“Yeah, I’ll be honest, I mean usually it’s pretty quiet here,” Denver head coach David Carle said. “And tonight it was rocking. I hope it’s like this all the time.”

With just under nine minutes to play in the first period, Gabe Perreault crossed the blue line on Denver goaltender Matt Davis’ left side, sizzling toward the net. The closest Eagles’ shot of the game up to that point landed into Davis’ glove, however.

Prior to the season, BC head coach Greg Brown said that once his powerhouse freshman recruiting class started to create goals, it would give them the confidence to keep bolstering the offense and gel. Will Smith’s second goal of the season, and first of the game, showcased that belief coming true. 

With 4:02 left in the first frame, Smith grabbed the puck on the top of the circle to Davis’ left, coasting in with his stick off a loose rebound from behind the net. Turning his head on a dime, Smith squeezed the puck through Davis’ five hole, catching the goalie off guard with his zippy shot to grab a 1–0 lead for the Eagles. Linemate Ryan Leonard dumped the puck in for Smith, and Perreault screened the goaltender for the shooter. 

“They’re getting more comfortable,” Brown said of the Smith, Leonard, and Perreault line. “Every game, they read off each other. One of the key parts was Gabe going to the net and creating traffic, so when [Smith] sends it there, I don’t think the goalie got a clean look at it. They see the game very similarly.”

Fowler continued to be a rock in net for the Eagles five minutes into the second period, saving all 10 shots on net he had faced so far. After Colby Ambrosio nearly slotted home a one-timer, but whiffed, Denver’s Massimo Rizzo flew in on a two-on-one opportunity with just one BC defender wedged between the puck and the net. 

The defender crept all the way into Fowler, knocking him onto his back, and Massimo slotted home the easy chip shot to tie the game 1–1 6:12 into the second period.

“That’s where most goals are scored,” Brown said, referring to the close-range shot. “[Fowler] had a very good game. We have to be a little better boxing out, picking up sticks, but in general, defensively, we’ve been pretty decent. It wasn’t huge, glaring mistakes.”

Just when the student-crowd noise began to die down to less-audible whispers and jeers, Oskar Jellvik staged a second-goal effort. 

Locating the puck off a Will Vote zone entry, Jellvik corralled a loose dribbler and flung a shot to the far-left post. Davis wasn’t fast enough to lock his eyes on the puck, which sizzled past the Pioneers’ sole defender en route to BC’s second goal of the game—and Jellvik’s third of the year—with just over seven minutes to play in the second.

Aram Minnetian received a penalty just 1:45 into the third period, but Fowler’s staunch defensive efforts kept the Eagles on top. Part of that success originated with shot blocking—the Eagles blocked 16 alone in the first two frames.

That lasted until 15 minutes were left in the final period, as Denver’s Connor Caponi won a loose-puck battle in a clogged crease and slotted home the equalizer, making the score 2–2.

“You gotta execute better,” Brown said. “Can’t take three penalties late in the game. Can’t give the refs an opportunity to be involved.”

While Broz’s goal ignited a fire in Denver’s offense, making it 3–2 Pioneers at the 10:19 mark, those flames were short-lived as Smith’s buzzer deflected off Davis’ pads and sailed into the net on a rainbow-like trajectory to tie the game three minutes later. 

But moments after the Pioneers rang the crossbar on a BC penalty kill, King guided home the game-sealing goal from the crease once again with 2:02 remaining, landing a quick-reflex shot that Fowler could not halt.

“The kids are still so excited,” Brown said of his players’ reactions to the student crowds. “[The] student body the last two home games has been incredible. The players feed off their energy. That’s the atmosphere you want to play in.”

October 21, 2023