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

Eagles Cruise Past BU For First Hockey East Tournament Championship Since 2012

BOSTON, Mass. — On Saturday night, No. 1 Boston College men’s hockey and No. 2 Boston University met for the 295th time and the fourth time in 2024, but this time, the rivals were fighting for a Hockey East Championship trophy. 

Under the lights of TD Garden and in front of packed student sections supporting both sides of the Battle of Comm. Ave., the long-time rivals went head to head. 

And under the brightest lights, one player stood above the rest. The Lexington, Mass. native and No. 4 overall draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, Will Smith, lit up the scoresheet, picking up four goals en route to the Hockey East Tournament MVP Award.

“I’ve been dreaming to come to BC for my whole life,” Smith said. “Like I said, just being around school is just amazing.”

(Kellen Davis / Heights Staff)

Behind Smith’s performance, the No. 1-seed Eagles (31–5–1, 20–3–1 Hockey East) handled No. 2-seed BU (27–9–2, 18–4–2) in a 6–2 win and earned their 12th Hockey East Tournament Championship, the most of any school in the conference. The win clinched the Eagles’ first Hockey East championship in 12 years. 

“We know we had expectations coming into this year and, I mean, 12 years is a long time and like I said, we knew that coming into this game and it’s amazing that we finally got one back to Chestnut Hill,” Smith said.

(Kellen Davis / Heights Staff)

Penalties proved to be detrimental to the Terriers in the opening frame, and throughout the entire game. BC scored four of its six goals on the power play.

“Clearly we didn’t get it done on the penalty kill,” BU head coach Jay Pandolfo said. “Didn’t have an answer for it, so that was really, I guess, the biggest difference in the game.”

At the 15:24 mark, referees called a slashing penalty on BU’s Shane Lachance, giving the Eagles, who rank fourth in the nation for power-play percentage, their first man-advantage of the night. 

BC did not let it go to waste. Just over a minute into the power play, the Eagles converted when Smith sent a wrister toward the net that ricocheted off Case McCarthy’s skate and past Mathieu Caron to make it 1–0 BC with 14:14 left in the first period. 

Less than three minutes later, Smith struck again. This time, a tripping penalty on Lane Hutson gave the Eagles another advantage. On the rush, Gabe Perreault sent a cross-ice pass to Smith, who unleashed a rocket into the top right of the net to double the Eagles’ lead with 11:23 remaining in the opening frame.

The Terriers, who rank second in the nation power-play percentage, failed to capitalize on their two power play chances, and BC took its two-goal lead into the second period.

“It was a heck of a hockey game,” BC head coach Greg Brown said. “Special teams were obviously a big part of it. Both our power play and penalty kill had very good nights.”

Less than five minutes into the second frame, Gavin McCarthy chopped the Eagles lead in half, though, when he fired a shot past Jacob Fowler’s glove and found the back of the net for the first goal of McCarthy’s collegiate career.

After an intense stretch of play resulting in no scoring, the Eagles were given their third power-play opportunity of the night with 2:09 remaining in the second. Perreault sent a pass from just in front of the crease that found the stick of Cutter Gauthier, who fired it past Caron to make it 3–1 BC.

Gauthier picked up his 35th goal of the season with the score, the most in the NCAA since 2016.

With 13:14 remaining in the third period, Smith delivered another goal and completed his hat trick to give the Eagles a three-goal lead and send the upper-deck BC fans into an uproar. Smith received the feed from Ryan Leonard and slammed it home, dropping to a knee in the process. 

Perreault added BC’s fourth power-play goal of the game with 8:28 left in regulation to make it 5–1. 

Jamie Armstrong picked up a five-minute major penalty with 7:33 left, but BU only picked up one goal on the advantage. An empty-net goal for Smith with 1:56 left in the game capped off his five point night and put any of the Terriers’ remaining hopes to sleep.

(Kellen Davis / Heights Staff)

Fowler anchored BC’s defense and finished the night with 34 saves. 

“I think games don’t get much bigger than playing BC-BU at the Garden, so super fortunate to be in the opportunity to play tonight, and it feels really good to get that win and move on to next week,” Fowler said.

(Kellen Davis / Heights Staff)
March 24, 2024