The Boston College men’s hockey team opened their season with two wins over UMass Amherst this past weekend, winning their season opener 4-3 at home before going on the road and winning 6-3. Just a quick bit of bookkeeping if you haven’t been following or couldn’t catch either broadcast, but as of now, these games do not count towards the Hockey East standings. This was one of Hockey East’s flex weekends, and will only count towards the actual regular season standings if there are future cancelations or schedule changes as the season continues.
With that out of the way, here’s some of what I thought stood out from BC’s first weekend back on the ice.
FIRST LINE PASSES FIRST TEST
With David Cotton and Julius Mattila no longer on the team, a big question entering the season was who would play on the top line with Logan Hutsko and whether or not they’d be able to produce at the level that we’ve been used to over the past few seasons. Well, through two games, the results have been pretty encouraging. Junior Jack McBain was elevated from a complimentary role last year (6 goals and 21 points) and immediately made his coaching staff look smart with two goals on Friday night while freshman Nikita Nesterenko iced Saturday’s game with an empty net goal for the first of his career. Hutsko, for his part, added three assists over the two games.
It’s unfair to expect the top line to immediately replicate the brilliance we saw from the Hutsko-Mattila-Cotton line for the past two seasons, but this was still a good showing against a good opponent to get things started. Hopefully this is just a sign of things to come from from these three, as BC could look really strong at forward once Alex Newhook returns to the team.
IMPRESSIVE DEBUTS FROM TWO FRESHMEN
There were a bunch of freshmen that jumped into BC’s opening night lineup, but at least to my eyes, the two that looked the most impressive were center Colby Ambrosio and defenseman Eamon Powell.
Ambrosio centered Matt Boldy and Mike Hardman on the second line (taking the place that Newhook played so well in last season) and looked awfully dangerous throughout the two games. He had a goal and an assist on the weekend and flashed moments of individual brilliance in which he created a few great scoring chances basically out of thin air. Ambrosio already looks like one of the faster skaters on BC’s team, and his straight ahead speed created at least two dangerous looks in Friday night’s game. He should be a fun player to watch going forward.
On the blue line, Powell played huge minutes in both nights (more on that in a second) and really didn’t look out of place for a freshman. He had two assists in Friday’s game, both the result of a really nice stretch pass that allowed BC to hit UMass quickly in transition. It wasn’t perfect for Powell and he certainly will need to work to grow his game in his own end, but the positives far outweighed the negatives in these two games.
BLUE LINE LOOKS AWFULLY THIN FOR NOW
If it seemed to you that Marshall Warren or Drew Helleson never left the ice this season, we’ll you’re not alone. BC dressed six defensemen in both games, but Warren, Helleson, Powell, and Michael Karow were the only four that really saw consistent ice time. Mitch Andres and Gentry Shamburger (who is actually listed as a forward) only saw a handful of shifts over the two games and virtually none down the stretch.
Obviously this worked for the two games this past weekend, but it clearly isn’t something BC would want to rely on in the long term. Jerry York mentioned after Friday’s game that Tim Lovell - a freshman defenseman who should see some time - was dealing with an injury and should be back around Christmas, while Jack St. Ivany (a transfer from Yale) would be available to play starting in January. So while this may be a bit concerning for the next month or so, there does appear to be some help coming in the not so distant future. Still, these four will have to play a ton of hockey in the next few weeks unless the coaching staff decides someone else can step in. It can work, as we saw this weekend, but it’s worth keeping an eye on for now.
A WEEKEND OF FIRSTS
As I said earlier, there were a lot of new faces in the lineup for BC this weekend and a few already made their marks on the scoreboard. So congrats to Colby Ambrosio and Nikita Nesterenko on their first college goals and to Eamon Powell and Trevor Kuntar for their first career points. And finally, congrats to Spencer Knight, who picked up an assist on the fifth goal of Saturday’s game for the first point of his career to go along with two wins on the weekend. It took a bit longer for Knight to get on the board than any of the freshman listed above, with his first point coming in his 35th career game.