The Boston College men’s hockey team saw their ten game winning streak come to an end on Friday night, but bounced back with a strong effort on Saturday to salvage a weekend split. Here are some thoughts on the two game series with UMass.
FRUSTRATING FRIDAY SHOULDN’T DETRACT FROM WEEKEND
Friday night’s game was a tough one to lose. BC played some really good hockey for long stretches of the game and generated plenty of dangerous scoring chances. The box score had the final shot total at 42-24 in favor of the Eagles and a the eye test certainly backed up those numbers. BC was probably the better team on Friday night, but UMass goalie Filip Lindberg played a fantastic game, making 41 saves to lead his team to a 3-1 win. Spencer Knight was able to match him save for save, but a late goal was enough to give the Minutemen a win in the first game of the series.
Saturday night went better on all accounts, as BC was finally able to solve Lindberg, to the point where UMass changed goalies early in the second period. And while the win helped salvage the weekend from a results perspective, it’s important to consider just how well BC played in their two games. UMass is a team with legitimate NCAA Tournament aspirations — they are currently eighth in Pairwise Rankings — and BC largely outplayed them in both games. After a stretch in their schedule where they were playing mostly team at the bottom of the Hockey East standings, it was nice to see that their high level of play translate against a stronger opponent. It would have been nice to take some sort of result on Friday night, but a split against a good team isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially with how good they looked all weekend.
A RARE OFF NIGHT FROM THE STARS
BC’s first line has been nothing short of excellent all season, but Friday night was not their best showing. Logan Hustko saw his personal streak of scoring at least one point in every game come to an end and was also responsible for UMass’s first goal of the night, committing a bad turnover that gave up a breakaway. David Cotton and Julius Mattila were also held off the scoreboard, a very rare occurrence for BC this season. It was a game that felt eerily similar to some of the games last year, when the team just wouldn’t be able to overcome a game where the top line was held off the scoreboard.
Fortunately, things were back to normal on Saturday, with Mattila putting up three assists, Hutsko having a goal and an assist, and Cotton scoring an early power play goal. It certainly doesn’t get any easier when your best players are held off the scoreboard, but everyone is going to have an off night every now and again. Bouncing back in such an impressive manner on Saturday night was great to see, because when the first line is clicking, it’s a real treat to watch.
POWER PLAY GETS HOT
The power play looked a lot better when BC was on their winning streak even when compared to the beginning of the season, but their execution in Saturday’s game was simply phenomenal. BC went 3/5 on the man advantage on Saturday, getting goals from David Cotton, Logan Hutsko, and Ben Finkelstein. The Eagles moved the puck with a purpose when they got set up in the offensive zone - they made quick passes and had UMass chasing the puck the entire time. Cotton’s goal came from down low, Finkelstein’s came off a great passing play that originated from behind the net, and Hutsko’s was a result of a loose puck off of a pass that was directed towards the front of the net. BC has clearly made more of an effort to get the puck to more dangerous scoring areas on the power play, no longer settling for the point shots as they did in previous years. The Eagles are clicking at an impressive 28.2 percent on the power play so far this season, a massive step up from their 19 percent rate from last year.
As someone who has spent time in the last few seasons talking about some of the issues on the power play, it has been fantastic to see the unit improve so much. BC has been a much better scoring team this season, thanks both to being a stronger team at five-on-five and because of their power play ranking in the top ten in the nation. Continuing to click at such a high rate might be difficult, but the Eagles are a legitimate threat to score every time they get a power play now, which is not something that could have been said in previous seasons.
BIG WEEK FOR THE FRESHMEN
While Spencer Knight has been the best freshman for BC this season, the rest of the freshman class has been playing well as well. Four of the skaters scored a goal this weekend, with Alex Newhook’s spectacular individual effort being the only goal on Friday while Mike Hardman, Marshall Warren, and Matt Boldy scoring on Saturday. Boldy in particular was very noticeable in both games, and it was nice to get rewarded with a goal to finally break his long scoring drought.
Newhook and Hardman have been great all season, ranking fifth and sixth respectively on the team in scoring. Boldy has struggled in terms of raw point totals, but he’ll have a play or two every game where he flashes his potential. And Warren along with Drew Helleson have helped stabilize a blue line that was a major concern before the season started. BC’s freshman class has been impressive all season, and their play is a big reason for the team’s success to this point of the year.