The Boston College men’s hockey team continued their recent hot streak last week, with two out of conference wins. A blowout Tuesday night win over Yale and a come from behind victory over previously undefeated Harvard on Friday afternoon brought the Eagles’ win streak to seven games in a row and brought their record to 9-4 overall. It was a good week of hockey for a BC team that continues to look significantly improved on those of the past few seasons.
THESE ARE GAMES GOOD TEAMS WIN
We saw two very different games this week, as the Eagles took on an over-matched team from Yale before traveling to face a very good Harvard team.
On Tuesday night, BC handled their business exactly as one would hope that they would. They scored early, they scored often, and they ended up running Yale out of the building. From the opening faceoff, the Eagles were the better team, and the 6-2 score reflected that.
Friday was a different story, as Harvard took a 2-0 lead late in the second period and put BC’s win streak in jeopardy. Instead, BC gutted out a difficult win against a good opponent. The Eagles scored three times in less than two minutes at the end of the second period to take a 3-2 lead and did just enough in the third to hold off Harvard. A shorthanded goal midway through the period made the score 4-2 and from there, BC did a masterful job at holding the puck from the Crimson, including a 90 second stretch towards the end of the game where BC’s constant possession kept Harvard’s goalie planted firmly in his net.
Good teams handle bad teams and find a way to get wins against the good teams. A four day span showed that the Eagles have the ability to do both. After a small hiccup at the beginning of the season, Boston College is firing on all cylinders and looking better than they have in the past few seasons.
POWER PLAY LOOKS WORLDS BETTER
Over the past few seasons, the BC power play has struggled mightily at times. Things just moved too slowly too often and what chances they did manage to create were often lower quality and far from the net.
With three power play goals in these two games, BC’s power play is now clicking at a 22.2 percent clip, good for 16th in the nation. For a team that hasn’t finished above the 20 percent mark since the 2015-16 season, this feels like a pretty big step forward.
So what exactly has changed to make the power play better? Well, it seems like a few things are being done differently. For one, it looks like the Eagles have gone to a four forward, one defenseman look instead of the 3/2 style that they have played in recent seasons. Additionally, there appears to be a bigger focus on getting shots from the higher danger chances than there has been in the past. All three power play goals from this past week came from below the faceoff dots, and two came on passes either into or directly through the slot.
Will it last? Maybe, and maybe not. The changes that have been made should certainly lead to more good scoring chances, but as teams adapt to their new style, things can always change. But the power play has certainly looked worlds better of the past few weeks, and that’s a huge reason for the seven game winning streak BC is currently on.
DEFENSE CHIPPING IN ON OFFENSE
Boston College’s defense just did not score last season. Michael Kim and Casey Fitzgerald lead the way with 15 and 14 points respectively with Ben Finkelstein being the next closest with 10. In total, the blueliners had 58 points in 39 games, near the bottom of the NCAA.
Through 13 games this season, the defense has accounted for 24 points, a pace that would come out to 72 points over 39 games. Goals from Finkelstein and Marshall Warren opened the scoring on Tuesday against Yale while Finkelstein and Michael Karow chipped in for important assists on Friday at Harvard.
Secondary scoring has been up all across the lineup this season, and to see the defense chipping in so much more is a real positive for the Eagles. It speaks to a better breakout, more time spent in the offensive zone, and more puck movement in general. You don’t always need a defenseman putting up numbers at a point-per-game pace, but getting more than they did last year was absolutely necessary if BC was going to be a successful team.
BC is currently fifth in the Pairwise rankings. Don’t tell me that it’s barely December, BC is currently fifth in the Pairwise rankings. That’s the best of any Hockey East team and a very nice spot to be for this part of the season.
Sure, it’s still a few months before this really matters. But after three seasons of looking up at the cutoff line and crossing our fingers for everything to work out, it feels good to be on the right side of things, even if it doesn’t count for anything right now. I’m dying to see BC get back into the NCAA Tournament, and if that’s the goal for this season, so far, so good.