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Boston College Men’s Hockey Weekend Thoughts

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Thoughts after two big wins for the Eagles

2020 Beanpot Tournament - Semifinals Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

The Boston College men’s hockey team put together a statement weekend (or Thursday/Friday) with two wins over rival Northeastern. Here are some final thoughts after a sweep of the Huskies.

PASSING A BIG TEST

This weekend felt like a real make or break series for BC’s Hockey East chances. Wind the clocks back a few days and it felt like any of the top four or five teams in Hockey East could win the conference, including a Northeastern team that had been on a bit of a roll.

Two big wins later and we have a slightly more clear picture, at least at the top. BC is two points clear of second place UMass and three clear of Maine with a game and two games in hand respectively. Things went pretty well around the conference for BC as well, with UMass and Lowell splitting their series, Maine dropping a point against Vermont, and UConn sweeping BU in a two game series.

This was an important two games for BC. Winning at Matthews Arena is never easy and following that up with such a dominant win at home is impressive. With four games remaining, BC is the favorite to finish at the top of the standings, and with a win against Merrimack on Thursday, could be four points ahead of second place when Friday’s slate of games get underway. Just two impressive performances by the Eagles to put themselves in this situation.

BREAKOUTS BECOMING A STRENGTH

There are plenty of reasons why the Eagles struggled so much in the last few seasons, but the inability to consistently break the puck out of their own zone had to rank pretty highly on that list. Far too often, BC would squander a chance at possession by either turning the puck over or by flipping the puck off the boards to clear the zone. Everything just looked a step slower than we were used to, and the team was worse because of it.

This season, however, the breakout has returned to the level that we expected from the truly competitive BC teams. Instead of conceding possession and just clearing the puck to the neutral zone, the Eagles are exiting the zone with speed. They have become a much more dangerous on the rush as the season has gone on and their massive jump in offensive production from a year ago starts because of the improvement in their own end.

To me, the development of the breakout was particularly noticeable in the first period of Friday’s game - before things got completely out of hand. After a big win on Thursday night, it was fair to expect a big push from Northeastern to start the game. Instead, BC held them to just six shots on goal, and the Huskies barely ever had the puck in the offensive zone. That’s because BC was consistently able to beat Northeastern’s forecheck, break out of their end, and transition to offense with speed. This was such an issue particularly last season and to see it becoming a strength of the 2019-20 team has to make you excited about what this group can do.

THIRD LINE COMING TOGETHER

With much of the scoring in recent weeks coming from BC’s two biggest lines, it was nice to see the third line get on the board a few times on Friday night. Granted, just about everyone got on the board in that game, but still, the trio of Jack McBain, Graham McPhee, and Marc McLaughlin has been together for a handful of games now and has mostly looked pretty good.

None of the three are going to jump off the page when you look at their numbers - McBain leads the way with 18 points in 30 games - but there’s an awful lot of value in a third line that can consistently put together solid shifts even when they’re not scoring a ton. As we get closer towards the biggest games of the season and teams start to lean on their best players more and more, it’s good to know that this is a line that we can feel confident about every night. They might not combine for three goals in a game for the rest of the season, but if they can keep up this level of play, it may not matter.

FRIDAY NIGHT NUMBERS

Alright I’m not done with this game yet.

BC’s 10-1 win over Northeastern on Friday was one of the more remarkable games that I can recall seeing in person, especially since it was just 1-0 after the first period. As you might expect, there are some pretty ridiculous numbers that come as a result of a game like this. Here’s a few of the highlights:

  • BC dressed 12 forwards and 7 defensemen. 14 of those 19 skaters recorded at least one point on the evening.
  • Four Eagles tied for the team lead with three points: Matt Boldy (2 goals, 1 assist), Marc McLaughlin (2 goals, 1 assist), Alex Newhook (1 goal, 2 assists), and Luke McInnis (3 assists)
  • Northeastern starting goalie Craig Pantano had a tough night, letting in four goals on 16 shots before getting pulled in the second period. Of this 3 goalies who saw time for Northeastern in this game, his .750 save percentage was the best of the bunch. Third string goalie Curtis Fryle let in one goal on two shots and Connor Murphy let in five on just nine shots. Not a fun night to be in net for the Huskies.
  • The 10th goal of the game was a shorthanded shot by Aapeli Rasanen, who broke a personal goal drought dating back to January 4. He had not scored in 13 games since then.
  • Northeastern’s only goal came from sophomore forward Matt Thomson. This was Thomson’s first collegiate goal in the 45th game of his career.
  • The ten goals BC scored gives them a total of 121 on the season, good for just a tick above four per game. They scored 90 all of last season

This really was an amazing game from start to finish.