We’re two weekends into the season and it’s hard to imagine a better start for the Boston College men’s hockey team than what we’ve gotten through the first four games. Picked to finish first in the Hockey East preseason poll, the Eagles have taken on the two teams ranked right below them on back-to-back weekends and swept them both. Last week, BC picked up two wins against a UMass team ranked in the top 10 nationally to start the season and this week they did the same against a Providence team that was ranked #12. BC gutted out a tough 3-0 win on Friday night before blowing out the Friars 9-0 to wrap up the weekend and move to 4-0 for the first time in 18 years. And while none of these games have technically been Hockey East games, the early season returns absolutely have BC living up to their preseason billing.
Here’s some of what I thought stood out from this weekend.
WELCOME BACK SPENCER KNIGHT
It says a lot about how we think of Spencer Knight as a goalie when he opened the season with two 30+ save wins and was mostly an afterthought. He certainly didn’t play poorly against UMass, but he let up three goals in both games and that just doesn’t seem like something that happens all that often.
Well, Knight certainly made himself part of the story against Providence, shutting out the Friars in both games to pick up his first two shutouts of the season and numbers six and seven of his career. You could tell he was on his game right away too, as Providence really took it too BC in the first period of Friday’s game, outshooting them 15-6. Knight made 30 saves in Friday’s game and 36 more in Saturday’s blowout win and continued to look as steady as ever in goal. The team will definitely miss him next week when he and a few of his teammates take part in Team USA’s World Junior Camp.
MATT BOLDY LEADING THE ‘SECOND’ LINE
I feel like I spent a lot of time in the column last year talking about Matt Boldy and I didn’t want to go back to that well so soon but...he’s got eight points in four games and is playing some absolutely incredible hockey to this point. He had his second four point weekend of the season against Providence, starting the scoring on Saturday night with a wicked shot and adding a shorthanded goal later in the game. He also dished out a perfect assist on Trevor Kuntar’s opening goal late in the second period on Friday night.
Boldy was a part of second line last season with Alex Newhook and Mike Hardman that came on strong towards the end last season and could absolutely have been considered the team’s most productive line. Now, with Newhook unavailable until January, Boldy and Hardman are playing with Colby Ambrosio in the middle, but they haven’t missed a beat. Ambrosio had the first two goal game of his career on Saturday and Hardman already has six points of his own to start the season. This is a second line in name only, and if they can keep producing at anywhere near the level that they’ve managed through the first four games, this is going to be a tough team to keep off the board.
SPECIAL TEAMS TRENDING IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS
If you had to point out a negative though two weekends, it would almost certainly have the be BC’s power play, which has converted just once on their first 12 opportunities. It just hasn’t clicked yet with BC on the man advantage, as they’re having a difficult time just getting through the neutral zone to get set up. The struggles aren’t necessarily all that surprising considering how many contributors from last year’s power play are no longer with the team, but it’s at least something to keep an eye on going forward, especially considering how good BC has been at even strength to this point.
On the other end of the spectrum, the penalty kill has been spectacular so far. The Eagles are 15 for 16 while shorthanded and they really flashed signs of how dangerous they could be on Saturday night, when they scored three times while down a man. They continue to be very aggressive while on the kill and the it’s clear that their pressuring style of play can frustrate their opponents. They also managed to kill a few shorter five-on-three chances on Saturday night while looking to keep their shutout intact. Good penalty killing has been a staple of some of the better BC teams in recent history, so it’s good to see this year’s unit get off to a hot start.
OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE NEXT WEEK
As of now, BC is scheduled to play UConn twice next weekend, and there will be some openings all over the ice for some new faces. Goalie Spencer Knight, forward Matt Boldy, and defenseman Drew Helleson will all take part in team USA’s World Junior camp and Alex Newhook will still be doing the same in Canada. In net, sophomore Jack Moffat only has about ten minutes of game experience while the other option, Henry Wilder, is a freshman. On the blue line, Mitch Andres started to get some more regular shifts this past weekend and began to establish himself as the #5 defenseman, so we’ll probably see even more of him against the Huskies. Things get really interesting up front, as a number of the freshman have been playing well and could jump up to take Boldy’s spot on the second line. Trevor Kuntar has been playing mostly with the third line, but his three goal weekend may get him a look in the top six. Patrick Giles is the other third line winger who might be considered a candidate for promotion, or maybe Jerry York goes off the board and surprises us with his pick. Either way, next weekend’s lineup figures to look significantly different than the one that just handled Providence for six periods.