Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

No. 1-seed Eagles Avoid Upset, Defeat No. 8-seed UConn 5–4

One would think allowing the second-best scoring offense in the nation in No. 1-seed Boston College men’s hockey to rattle off three goals in the first eight minutes of the Hockey East quarterfinals would set the Eagles up for a swift win over No. 8-seed Connecticut.

But at the beginning of the third period, the Huskies looked like a new squad. Within the first six minutes of the final frame, they tied the game at 4–4 and the Eagles’ backs were suddenly against the wall.

“Very hard-fought game, which you might not have seen coming after the start we had,” BC head coach Greg Brown said.

That is until graduate forward Jack Malone potted his second goal of the night to give the Eagles the edge. With 9:25 left in the game, Malone tipped an Andre Gasseau pass into the net to notch the winning goal.

“They really had our back against the wall there,” Malone said. “But you know, I think that we responded, we did what we had to do to get the job done. But it was definitely a big relief to get that one and to kind of have that little bit of a cushion in those last seven, eight minutes.”

Despite establishing an early three-goal lead in the opening minutes of the tilt, the Eagles (29–5–1, 20–3–1 Hockey East) allowed UConn (15–19–2, 9–14–1) to make its way back into the game before Malone gave BC the edge in its 5–4 win.

At the 8:00 mark of the first period, Drew Fortescue corralled a puck trickling away from the net and launched it right toward UConn’s Arsenii Sergeev, beating him to make it 3–0 BC and sending a packed student section sporting all black into its third frenzy of the night. 

“The student body has been incredible,” Brown said. “They have their themes with outfits they’re wearing and everything, so it’s been a pleasure to play in front of them for our guys and you know we’ve done pretty well at home, a huge part is because of the fan support.”

The Eagles went 15–2 in home games this season, many of which featured sold-out crowds.

“They’ve been, you know, unbelievable,” Malone said. “I can’t say anything but great things about the type of support that we’ve had. And having that type of energy behind us is something that gives us an extra boost for sure.”

Jacob Bengtsson and Malone also potted goals in the opening minutes of the game, and the Huskies found themselves in search of a response.

UConn finally stopped the bleeding with a much-needed goal with 11:19 left in the first period to cut the Eagles’ three-goal lead back to two. John Spetz unleashed a wrist shot that got the better of Fowler to make it 3–1.

The intensity of the single-elimination tilt became clear when Ryan Leonard got into a shoving match after a breakaway opportunity and was promptly sent to the penalty box for roughing with 6:15 left in the first period. 

But UConn failed to score and the offensive display slowed down until the final moments of the second period.

Leonard reestablished BC’s three-goal lead with just 12.1 seconds left in the frame. BC captain Eamon Powell sent the puck toward the net from deep where Leonard waited and tipped the puck past Sergeev to give the Eagles a dominant 4–1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes of the night. 

The Huskies quickly erased the Eagles’ three-goal lead, and flipped the script on BC in the first 1:05 of the third period. Just 11 seconds into the frame, Jake Richard scored, and less than a minute later, Matthew Wood launched a one-timer from straight away to beat Fowler and cut BC’s once-daunting lead to one goal. 

“Only took them 11 seconds to get that first goal to swing that momentum and then it was hold on for dear life for a while,” Brown said.

Four and a half minutes later, Wood tied the game and what was supposed to be a simple closeout period quickly became one focused on avoiding a choke at the hands of the Huskies. 

Behind Malone’s presence on the bench and performance on the ice, though, the Eagles avoided disaster and advanced to the semifinals where they will take on UMass Amherst.

“I give Jack a ton of credit,” Brown said. “He was the vocal guy on the bench, and he was leading by example on the ice.”

March 17, 2024