We’re just six games into the 2020-2021 season, but the Boston College Men’s Hockey team is going away for a little while as they head into their holiday break with a 5-1 record after splitting their weekend series with UConn. It was a much different looking BC team than we’ve seen to start the season, as a number of key players were taking part in Team USA’s World Junior camp and therefore unable to play. Still plenty to talk about from these two games, so here’s a few takeaways from what took place over the weekend.
HENRY WILDER IMPRESSES IN DEBUT
One of the players that BC was missing against UConn was star goalie Spencer Knight, who started in every game except for one last season. With a few options to choose from in the weekend series, the Eagles went with freshman Henry Wilder in both games. Wilder looked good in both games, picking up a 30-save win (and an assist on the overtime game winner) on Friday night before stopping 39 shots in Saturday’s 3-1 loss. And with few exceptions, Wilder had to be on his game early and often, as UConn really carried the play and took it to BC for long stretches in both games.
Wilder wasn’t perfect, and you could tell from pretty early on that he’s not quite as polished as Knight, but that’s an awfully high standard to hold a player to. He made some big saves and honestly kept Saturday’s game from getting out of hand early, even if the team in front of him couldn’t quite get back in it. It’s probably going to be Knight’s net in every game that he’s available in going forward, but Wilder absolutely showed that if Knight is ever a bit banged up or just needs a night off, the team has a backup goalie who is more than capable of winning them a game.
MARSHALL WARREN PLAYS THE HERO
Even before this weekend, the Eagles were pretty shorthanded on the blue line - really only playing four or maybe five players with any regularity. Warren was already playing a ton of minutes, but with his usual partner Drew Helleson away at Team USA’s World Junior Camp, that number was only ever going to go up.
What wasn’t as predictable was the shift that Warren turned in during BC’s first taste of 3-on-3 overtime of the season in Friday night’s game. If you’ve watched just a bit of 3-on-3 play at any level, what is immediately apparent is how important it is to change lines at the right time. With so much ice to cover, the absolute last thing that you want is to have a player or two get caught defending for long stretches of time and getting tired.
Overtime on Friday lasted 3:13. Marshall Warren was stuck on the ice for the last 2:25. And his shift ended with this.
BC’s rush really starts with Warren basically on his own goal line and it ends with him beating a UConn player up the ice and jumping on a loose rebound to give BC the win. I have no idea how he was able to get up the ice that quickly at the end of a brutally long stretch, but I’d say his goal celebration was well earned. Warren had a good freshman season and he’s been leaned on to do a lot of the heavy lifting to start this year, so it’s nice to see him get his moment after all the work he’s been asked to do.
SHORT BENCH IS VERY NOTICABLE
It’s been mentioned a few times, but you could really tell that BC spent a lot of the weekend make some different things work. Down Kinght, Helleson, and Matt Boldy, the Eagles only dressed 11 forwards and despite dressing six defensemen, really only played four again. The top line of Nikita Nesterenko, Jack McBain, and Matt Boldy stayed together, and the third line of Trevor Kuntar, Marc McLaughlin, and Patrick Giles was still listed as the same, but there was a lot of line juggling and double shifting going on all weekend. On defense, Mitch Andres stepped in as the new #4 defenseman while Gentry Shamburger got an occasional shift (I’m not sure whether or not I saw Jack Agnew on the ice at all, but if he did play, he certainly didn’t get regular shifts).
The result was a team that struggled to find much rhythm or create much outside of that first line. Even in Friday’s win, where BC controlled play early and jumped out to a 3-1 lead after two periods, it was UConn who ended the game with the stronger play. Saturday was more of the same, with the Eagles getting outshot 42-28.
It’s not like this is a huge surprise, but it was abundantly clear in both games that BC is missing four of their most important players. These were two games that weren’t particularly impressive showings by the Eagles, but gutting out a win and going into the break with a split isn’t the worst result in the world either.