Men's Hockey, Hockey, Winter, Sports

Notebook: Turnovers and BU’s Stars Keep Eagles From Advancing to Beanpot Final

As Will Smith aimed a one-time shot at Mathieu Caron’s net in the final seconds of Boston College men’s hockey’s Beanpot semifinal matchup against Boston University, Eagles fans rose to their feet.

The 2023 fourth-overall NHL Draft pick from Lexington, Mass. hitting a one-timer to complete a comeback and tie up a Beanpot game against BC’s archrival seemed too good to be true. When the shot hit glass instead of twine, Smith, the Eagles, and BC fans realized it actually was too good to be true.

As the clock hit triple zeroes, BU won the contest by a score of 4–3, snapping a five-game win streak for BC that included the Eagles’ home-and-home sweep of the Terriers nine days prior.

Here are some reasons BC couldn’t complete its comeback.

The Battle of the Best Goes to BU

Both BU and BC feature an elite goal-scoring top-line center. On Monday night, Macklin Celebrini’s performance far outclassed Cutter Gauthier. Celebrini scored two goals in the contest, both in spectacular fashion. His second goal came on a bar-down snipe that left Eagles’ netminder Jacob Fowler with no chance to make a save.

On the biggest stage, the 17-year-old phenom and presumptive 2024 first-overall NHL Draft pick Celebrini left very few questions about his talent. Every time he took the ice, he played at an elite level, resulting in him lighting the lamp twice.

The same cannot be said for Gauthier, BC’s elite sniper. The sophomore forward took 17 shots in the game, with nine reaching Caron. When he got an opportunity to showcase his world-famous one-timer late in the game, his stick snapped—epitomizing how the game went for BC. 

A Headstart for the Terriers

BC has not played from behind often this season, and it showed after the Eagles let up two goals to Celebrini within the first 6:10 of the game. BC did not look like it belonged on the ice with the Terriers in the first period, especially after BU killed off a slashing penalty on Devin Kaplan that came just 32 seconds into the game. 

After Celebrini’s second goal, BC looked almost unrecognizable from the No. 1 team it played like over the last month. This difference in play was showcased when Aidan Hreschuk took a frustration penalty 9:16 in, throwing Celebrini into the boards and giving the Terriers’ dangerous power play another chance to impact the game.

An argument could be made that BC was the better team in both of the second two periods. The Eagles were, after all, up on the scoresheet 3–2 without the first period, but the hole they dug themselves in the first proved to be too deep to escape from. 

Untimely Lapses

The two BU goals after Celebrini’s pair both came on turnovers from BC’s top defensive pair. The Terriers are simply too good of a team to be given free opportunities, which proved to be true in this game.

The first gift came with 8:11 left in the second period when BC captain Eamon Powell attempted to pass the puck to Drew Fortescue below the goal line, but failed to send the puck to Fortescue’s tape. Instead, the pass reached Fortescue’s feet. The puck bounced right into Luke Tuch’s lap in the faceoff circle, who buried the puck behind Fowler to give BU a 3–1 lead.

The second came 4:47 into the third when Jack Malone won a faceoff back to Fortescue in the corner. Tuch and Quinn Hutson immediately swarmed Fortescue, forcing him to cough up the puck. Tuch dished it to Ryan Greene in the slot, who shot the puck past Fowler to give BU a 4–1 lead—its biggest of the game.

Tuch is a talented veteran who knows how to take advantage of opponents’ lapses, but Powell and Fortescue have been among BC’s best defensive pair in its own zone. Powell owns a plus/minus of +11, the best on the team among defensemen, and Fortescue’s +9 is BC’s third-best mark among defenders. Players of such caliber are expected to avoid making those kinds of mistakes in the biggest moments.

A Heartbreaking Finish

Despite the turnovers, the slow start, and Celebrini’s dominance, BC still found a chance to tie the game up late and send it to overtime. Eight minutes and 36 seconds remained on the clock when Gabe Perreault cut the Terrier lead to one goal, and BC outshot BU by a margin of 20–4 after Perreault’s goal.

Gauthier’s stick snapping and Smith’s missed one-timer are two of the more memorable scoring chances from that period of time, and those aren’t even included in the tally of eight shots that BC put on net. Caron was up to the task on each of those shots, and BU came up with seven blocked shots, protecting its lead and suffocating the Eagles’ offensive attack.

The third-period goals by Gentry Shamburger and Perreault fueled BC fans’ comeback hopes, but they provided no solace when the game ended with the Terriers still up by one. Nevertheless, the fight displayed by BC does inspire confidence that a potential matchup between these two teams down the road could end more like the first two.

February 6, 2024