The last time we checked in on the Boston College men’s hockey team - two weeks ago- the vibes we mostly good. After an opening night loss to Quinnipiac, the Eagles had strung together three solid games in a row and were looking like they might be off to a pretty strong start to the season. Three games later and it’s a completely different feeling now. BC dropped a somewhat back and forth game to UConn last Thursday and looked downright bad in two losses to Merrimack this weekend. There have been plenty of reasons for concern over the last week and a half when it comes to this team, so let’s look back a bit and try to see what has been going on with the Eagles so far this season.
EVEN STRENGTH SCORING A HUGE RED FLAG
Let’s start with something mildly positive. BC’s power play has been pretty decent to start the season. The Eagles have six goals on the man advantage so far and have looked pretty dangerous more often than not. They’re operating at a 20 percent clip so far, which they haven’t done since the 2019-20 season where they went 24-8-2 before the season ended early due to Covid. That’s a pretty good start to the season, and if they can sustain that success, that could go a long way to solving some of their other problems. Because their other problems are extremely concerning.
BC has 10 goals at even strength through seven games. Four of those even strength goals came in their second game against UNH and they have scored exactly zero goals at 5-on-5 in the three games since then. And they haven’t exactly been getting unlucky and not finishing scoring chances. Just from watching Saturday’s game alone, they barely created anything outside of their chances on the power play, and a very winnable game got away from them in a hurry.
It’s stating the obvious here, but this team just isn’t going to win many games if this trend continues. This iteration of BC was never going to score a ton of goals, but they absolutely can be better at 5-on-5 play. Hopefully that happens sooner than later, because the upcoming schedule gets quite a bit tougher in the coming weeks.
PENALTY KILL ISSUES
While the power play has had a pretty solid start to the season, BC’s penalty kill hasn’t been quite as good. The Eagles have let up six goals on 28 chances so far, good for just a 78 percent kill rate. That’s a bit of a step up from last year, when the Eagles let up goals on almost a quarter of their penalty kill chances, but it’s a long way from where we’re used to seeing even some of the weaker BC teams operate.
It’s still too early to know exactly how the penalty kill will look this season, but this ties back into the scoring issues that this team has. If they’re not going to score much, they have to be good on the penalty kill, or every single game is going to feel like an uphill battle from the start. Even last year when the PK was struggling, they did manage to put up six shorthanded goals on the season. Through seven games, BC doesn’t have any of those so far, and it’s hard to remember them even getting a great look while down a man. This is something that needs to get fixed fast, or we could be in for a long season.
BAD PENALTIES ENDING GAMES
So we’ve got a team that is struggling to score much and that hasn’t had a great start to the season on the penalty kill. How do we make things even worse?
In Saturday’s game, BC was trailing 3-1 about six minutes into the third period, already a bad spot for this team to be in. But they had an offensive zone draw coming out of a media timeout with a chance to get themselves back into the game. Instead, Andre Gasseau got called for a tripping penalty after a Merrimack won the faceoff and had the puck behind their own net - 200 feet from BC’s goal. Merrimack scored a little over a minute into the ensuing power play to make it 4-1 and essentially put the game out of reach.
It’s unfair to single out Gasseau for Saturday’s game - and he did somewhat make up for that by scoring a later power play goal of his own for the first of his BC career later on - but it was a bad penalty to take. With that said, he certainly wasn’t alone. BC was shorthanded 13 times in their two games against Merrimack. It’s hard to win a game when you’re spending that much time shorthanded.
MITCH BENSON CHECK IN
Really quick look at Mitch Benson’s season in net so far. Benson has started all seven games for BC and has a save percentage of .896 and a goals against average of over 3 per game. He got pulled after letting up the fifth goal in Saturday’s loss to Merrimack. It’s still early enough that he can have two straight good games and have those numbers looking a lot better, but it’s been a bit of a disappointing start from someone who put up two consecutive seasons with a save percentage north of .920 at Colgate. Hopefully he can turn things around in the coming weeks.