The Boston College men’s hockey team has played three games since we last dove into how things look, picking up two wins over New Hampshire with a non-league tie against Northeastern in the process. And they’ve looked good in all three games, full stop. The first win over UNH was a nice rebound after a sluggish start to the season, but being able to skate with and at times outplay a Northeastern team that was ranked in the top ten during the preseason last Tuesday was truly impressive. Following that out with a dominating performance against UNH and the vibes around the team have to be good right now. Here’s some of what stood out in the three games.
FIRST LINE LOOKS GREAT...
Let’s start things off with the shiny new toy. Cutter Gauthier made his debut in last Tuesday’s game against Northeastern, centering BC’s top line. He was the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft and there were some pretty high expectations surrounding him coming into this season.
Through two games, he’s living up to them.
Gauthier has two goals and an assist in his first two games and he just looks like a special kind of player. He’s an excellent skater, not just for his size but overall, and he’s already putting that skill to use. He’s drawn a penalty in each of his first two games basically just by skating by a defender and forcing them to either hook or slash him to stop a scoring chance. And he’s already shown the scoring touch that was a key reason that he went so high in the NHL draft. Just take a look at the clip of his goal against Northeastern:
Nine seconds of video shows you pretty much everything you need to see to be excited about Gauthier. The Northeastern defender isn’t even in a terrible position and Gauthier just uses his incredible skating ability to go around him like he isn’t there. Gauthier gets slashed, drawing a penalty, but holds on to the puck and beats the goalie five hole. The play is impressive, but what’s truly notable to me is just how easy he made it look. That’s a ridiculous amount of skill on display, but Gauthier made it look like something he expects to be able to do any time he has the puck. That’s exciting.
It hasn’t all been Gauthier on the first line, however. Nikita Nesterenko and Colby Ambrosio have been playing on his wings. I’ve mentioned a few times that I thought both players had disappointing sophomore seasons after strong freshman campaigns, and so far, both have looked really good as juniors. Nesterenko looks dangerous every time he gets the puck on his stick, the perfect example being the incredible individual effort he had on his first goal of the season in Sunday’s game against UNH. Ambrosio is currently leading the team in scoring with five points and had a highlight reel goal of his own against Northeastern. The two juniors and Gauthier should be able to skate with and produce against pretty much anyone that BC sees this year, and having that strong first line can go a long way when it comes to winning games.
...BUT EVERYONE SHOWED UP ON SUNDAY
Sunday’s win was, for my money, either the best game BC has played in two seasons or just behind last year’s 5-1 win over Denver. They looked fantastic from the opening faceoff until the final buzzer, and it wasn’t just a few guys that made them look that way. The top line did have two of the five goals, but all four lines won their matchups and spent most of the time in the offensive zone. BC controlled the neutral zone for the entire game, gaining entries to New Hampshire’s zone with ease while not allowing UNH to do the same at the other end. The defense mostly took care of things when UNH was on offense, and Mitch Benson was able to clean things up the few times when New Hampshire did get a good look.
Trevor Kuntar and Mike Posma were the other forwards with goals on the day while defenseman Lukas Gustafsson scored his first collegiate goal to open the scoring on the power play. Add those goals on to Kuntar’s goal against Northeastern and the goals scored by Mitch Andres and Liam Izyk in the first game against UNH, and that’s three games in a row where the depth has come up big for BC. That’s something that was missing big time last season, so even though it’s still very early, it’s a promising sign that the Eagles are getting contributions from more than just the big names in the lineup.
FRESHMAN CLASS OFF TO A STRONG START
Gauthier is the big name among this year’s freshman class, but a bunch of the rookies have looked good to start their careers. Gustafsson has looked really good playing on the second pair next to Cade Alami, while Charlie Leddy has looked just as comfortable next to Marshall Warren. Up front, Andre Gasseau and Oskar Jellvik both already have multiple points as they’ve formed a bit of a Bruins prospects line with junior Trevor Kuntar. Jellvik in particular has had some impressive moments, including his cross ice pass to set up Gustafsson’s game opening goal on Sunday.
There were six freshmen in the lineup on Sunday afternoon and they combined for two goals and five assists on the day. You can’t really ask for much more than that
MITCH ANDRES GETS HIS GOAL
I mentioned this in passing earlier, but senior defenseman Mitch Andres got his first career goal in the first game against UNH, and that’s just a cool moment. Andres has been the seventh defenseman for BC for what feels like about forever, and even though he’s never really gotten regular shifts, he’s well liked and well respected enough to have been named an alternate captain for this season. Seeing someone like Andres who has clearly put in the work over his four years at Boston College finally get rewarded with a goal is just one of those things that makes you love college sports. It was kind of similar to when Michael Karow finally scored his first goal after playing more than 100 games a few years ago.
Andres also had a quieter moment in the second game against UNH, when he made a really nice play to get his stick in front of what would have otherwise been a clean shot attempt from the slot that might have ruined Benson’s shutout. It came late in the game when the result had long since been decided, but it was an all effort type of play that you love to see.