After some schedule juggling late in the week, the Boston College men’s hockey team wound up sweeping Merrimack in a hard fought Saturday/Sunday weekend series. While the Hockey East standings remain essentially impossible to interpret thanks to such a large gap in games played between some teams, BC currently has an 8-2-0 record and is on a three game winning streak after dropping a few games in a row. From a results perspective, this was another solid weekend for the Eagles. Here’s a few more thoughts from the past weekend.
WINNING WITHOUT THEIR A GAME
Just looking at the records of the two teams, this felt like a weekend where BC could have rolled in both games. The Eagles came in at 6-2-0 with some impressive wins while Merrimack entered at 1-5-0 and in the midst of a four game losing streak. As it turned out, BC had to grind these two games out, holding on for a 2-1 on Saturday before coming from behind for a 5-3 win on Sunday.
Merrimack looked an awful lot better than their record in both games, and as the broadcast team made sure to point out on Saturday, they’ve played a brutal schedule even before this series (2 games against UMass, 4 games against Northeastern). BC looked dominant for about six or seven minutes to start Saturday’s game, but after that, the two teams looked mostly even.
On the one hand, it would have been nice for BC to look a little more in control for stretches of these two games and win a bit more decisively. At the same time, as in any season, there are going to be nights where they just don’t have their A game, and it’s important to be able to find a way to win those games. On Saturday, it was a couple freshman scoring their first career goals and Spencer Knight turning in a dominant performance in net. On Sunday, some of the bigger names stepped up after BC fell behind 3-2 to secure the win for the Eagles.
The larger issue may be that it’s been a little while since we saw a truly dominant performance from this team, and it would be nice to get one in the near future. If the schedule remains in tact going forward, that would mean two more games against Merrimack this weekend, so we’ll see if BC could have one of their big games against a familiar opponent.
DEFENSE STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE
One thing that was extremely noticeable in the early portions of the season was that BC was essentially playing four defenesmen in every game, with Marshall Warren, Drew Helleson, Eamon Powell, and Michael Karow logging huge minutes every night. It was pretty clear that the coaching staff just didn’t trust some of the younger players farther down the depth chart, but this was something that didn’t seem to be sustainable over the course of a long season.
Fortunately, reinforcements were always on the way. Jack St. Ivany transferred in from Yale and Tim Lovell recovered from an early season injury and both have drawn into the lineup over the past four games to round out the defensive core, with Mitch Andres dressing as the seventh defenseman and getting a handful of shifts. And while neither has lit up the scoreboard (St. Ivany had his first two assists this past weekend while Lovell picked up one for his first collegiate point), it’s been nice to roll six defenseman as consistently as they have in years past. On Sunday, Marshall Warren missed a few shifts after taking a big hit, and the Eagles looked mostly fine while he was out. Even just a month ago, those would have been some anxious minutes - with someone likely being forced to play in situations that they weren’t typically asked to play. Now things are a bit more clear on the blue line, and that should benefit BC going forward.
DEPTH SCORING CONTINUES TO SHOW UP
Seven different players scored goals this weekend for BC, and they came from all over the lineup. Eamon Powell was the lone blue liner to score this weekend for the Eagles while Danny Weight chipped in a big goal from the fourth line that stood as the Saturday night winner. On Sunday, Trevor Kuntar and Nikita Nesterenko continued their impressive freshman campaigns with goals before the big names (Logan Hutsko, Marc McLaughlin, and Matt Boldy) added tallies of their own to clinch the win.
A quick glance at the raw scoring totals shows you everything you need to know about the scoring up and down the lineup. A total of 13 players are currently averaging at least a half a point per game and five are at a point per game pace or better (including Alex Newhook who has one point in his only game played). The team has come a long way from a few seasons ago, when they had a hard time doing anything if their top line didn’t score a couple goals every game (in comparison, nine players had at least half a point per game last season, and only four hit the .5 points per game mark in 2018-19). Even when they’re not playing their best hockey, this team is very deep and any line can chip in on pretty much any night.
A BRIEF SPENCER KNIGHT ASIDE
Here are Spencer Knight’s stats through his first seven games of the season. A 7-0 record, a 1.71 Goals Against Average, and a .946 save percentage. His ‘worst’ game of the season might have been on Sunday and he still made 30 saves and looked awfully sharp.
Even compared to some of the goalie play we’ve seen at BC in the past decade plus, Spencer Knight’s start to the season has been beyond exceptional. If the schedule stays in tact and BC can get enough games in, don’t be surprised if he starts to get some Hobey Baker buzz. He’s been that good.