Just 24 hours removed from a disappointing Hockey East opener, the Boston College men’s hockey team came out and delivered by far their best performance of the season in a 4-1 win over the same Merrimack team that they fell to on Friday. It took a dominant effort by a familiar top line and a perfect penalty kill, but the Eagles picked up their first win of the season and improved to 1-5-0 (1-1-0 Hockey East) on season.
BC got their first lead of the season with 4:30 left in the first period when JD Dudek banged home a rebound from just outside of the crease. Logan Hutsko made the goal happen, when he picked up the puck at the end of a shift spent largely in the defensive zone. Hutsko flew through the neutral zone, skate around a defenseman from Merrimack, and made a strong drive to the net with the same defenseman on his back. His shot was stopped, but Dudek was in the right spot to clean up the rebound after trailing the play well. The Eagles took four penalties in the first, including one that took up the last two minutes of the period, but their penalty kill was up to the task and they went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
The second period may well have been the best BC has played all season, as the Eagles came out rolling and quickly increased their lead. A great pass off of another strong rush by Logan Hutsko gave David Cotton an easy tap in goal less than a minute into the period and Julius Mattila made it 3-0 a few minutes later on a beautiful breakaway goal. Cotton picked up his second of the night on the power play after a nice passing play that saw four different Eagles touch the puck. Merrimack got one back late in the period and BC continued to take too many penalties, as they were forced to kill off an abbreviated 5-on-3 for the second straight period, but the special teams came through and kept the Eagles up by three goals after 2.
The third period was a textbook example of how to play with a big lead. Up three goals, BC focused less on the forechecking and clogged the neutral zone, making it hard for Merrimack to get anything going offensively. The Eagles stayed out of the box and kept Merrimack to the perimeter for the most part on the occasions that they did get set up in the offensive zone. Joe Woll only really had to make one or two saves of any consequence and the Eagles pretty much coasted through the last 20 minutes to pick up their first win of the season.
The two big winners of the night were the Eagles penalty kill and the reunited first line of Hutsko, Cotton, and Julius Mattila. The three players combined for seven points on the night and had a hand in all four goals that BC scored. After several games where the team struggled to generate much offense at all, the top line looked dangerous all night, constantly getting good looks off the rush and causing problems for Merrimack’s blue line from the opening shift. As the season goes on, it will be important for BC to get more out of their depth players if they truly plan on righting the ship, but for one night, the play of their first line was enough to carry them.
The Eagles will have a chance to get right back at it this week, when they host Vermont on Thursday and Friday. With the first win out of the way and a collective weight likely lifted from the team’s back, the focus now shifts to stringing together more strong performances like this one and starting to dig themselves out of their early season hole.