Sports, Top Story, Winter, Hockey, Men's Hockey

No. 2 Eagles Take Down No. 1 Boston University 4–1 in the 292nd Battle of Comm. Ave.

The Battle of Comm. Ave. between Boston College men’s hockey and Boston University is already intense enough, as the schools had met a whopping 291 times before Friday night’s matchup in Conte Forum. But on Friday, the familiar rivals met under new circumstances.

For the first time in series history, the Terriers and BC met as the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the nation, respectively, dueling it out in front of a sold out Conte Forum, filled with rowdy BC superfans. 

“The crowd, the support was incredible,” BC head coach Greg Brown said. “They’ve been here all year, but they took it to another level tonight, so that was great to see.”

On one of the biggest stages, the Eagles (17–4–1, 10–3–1 Hockey East) rose to the occasion  and dethroned Boston University (16–5–1, 11–2–1) 4–1 behind 26 saves from Jacob Fowler and two empty-net goals in the waning minutes of the game.

Fowler set the tone for the Eagles’ defense in the opening period. The Terriers’ offense set up shop in BC’s defending zone early in the frame. After officials tacked Jamie Armstrong with a cross-checking penalty, BU found itself with an early man-advantage.

Fowler stood tall, though, and tallied three saves, including a sprawling deflection with his right blocker, on the penalty kill to keep the game scoreless. 

“I mean we had a really good PK to start the period,” Fowler said. “I think our team just kind of built off that momentum and kind of brought it with us the rest of the 60. So credit to those guys, they played really well in front of me.”

The Eagles’ offense had a chance to respond on the power play with 6:31 left in the first, and they quickly made themselves comfortable, wheeling the puck to Cutter Gauthier in hopes of a swift one-timer. The Terriers eventually killed the penalty, but BC received a second man-advantage opportunity at the 1:17 mark that carried into the second period when Cade Webber was called for roughing. 

Despite a combined 26 shots on goal from BC and the Terriers, neither Fowler nor BU goaltender Mathieu Caron let the puck cross the goal line. 

The second period told a different story, though. 

After BU killed the remaining seconds of Webber’s penalty and the game returned to even strength, the Eagles ended the scoreless affair. BC captain Eamon Powell received the puck and relayed it to a patient Ryan Leonard, who launched a missile into the top shelf, sending Conte Forum into a deafening roar 3:34 into the second and giving BC the 1–0 lead.

Nearly 14 minutes later, Conte Forum erupted again. This time, the puck made its way to Will Smith, who skated down ice and sent a pass to a tracking Gabe Perreault. Perreault took the puck in stride and lifted a shot directly into the top shelf to make it a 2–0 game. 

“They don’t need much space to make a play,” Brown said of Leonard, Smith, and Perreault. “They start to read each other … they know how to find each other so well in space, so they created some great chances.”

As the third period ticked away, the emotions on the ice grew increasingly apparent, with scrums and chirps breaking out during stoppages of play.

At the 13:19 mark, Aidan Hreschuk and Doug Grimes received matching penalties for cross-checking to make it a 4-on-4, but neither team scored during the two-minute stretch. 

The Terriers refused to leave Chestnut Hill, Mass. without putting up a fight though, and at the 6:37 mark they cut the Eagles’ lead in half. Jack Hughes stopped the puck with his skate and launched a shot from the right circle that beat Fowler.

“After they scored in the third, I really liked the way that our guys played smart and really limited chances,” Brown said. 

As the clock hit two minutes, BC fans smelled victory with BU’s goal empty, and Conte began to shake.

At the 1:54 mark, Gauthier iced the game with an almost effortless empty-net goal to make it a two-goal game. Then, Andre Gasseau put the exclamation mark on the game when he potted the second empty-net goal just 51 seconds later to send BC fans into one final frenzy before the clock hit triple zeroes. 

“A lot of guys it was their first BC-BU rivalry game and nobody was, I guess, trying to stay invisible,” Brown said. “Everybody was out there making a difference and that was great.”

January 26, 2024