The Boston College men’s hockey team bounced back in a big way after dropping their first game of the season last weekend with a pair of impressive wins over a Michigan State team that came into the weekend ranked in the top 10. The Eagles left no doubt as to who the better team is at this point of the season, winning in a 5-1 blowout on Friday night after starting off the weekend with a 6-4 on Thursday that probably wasn’t as close as the score might indicate. The team is 5-1-0 right now despite a tough schedule to start the season and they just put together their best weekend of the early going, so let’s take a look back at some of the big positives that stood out over the past two games.
COLBY AMBROSIO WINNING HIS MATCHUPS
With so many exciting freshmen joining the team this year and with a good chunk of last year’s freshman class impressing in their rookie season, it was pretty easy to forget a bit about someone like Colby Ambrosio. One of BC’s few upperclassmen this season, Ambrosio had a decent if somewhat underwhelming 2022-23 campaign, where he put up 21 points in 36 games. For the most part, that’s a fine season, but Ambrosio was playing on one of the top lines and being asked to do a lot against other team’s top lines and there were stretches where he just wasn’t able to produce against that top competition.
One of the great things about bringing in a trio of freshmen forwards that can immediately play together as a second line is that it pushes a bunch of people down the lineup and gives them some more favorable matchups. This year, Ambrosio has been skating on the third line with Oskar Jellvik and another freshman Will Vote. And while all three players came into the season a bit under the radar, they have been excellent together as a third scoring line. We’ve already mentioned Jellvik’s hot start to the year and Will Vote has had some nice moments as he learns the college game, but Ambrosio has been playing some of the best hockey of his BC career as well. He’s got four assists in six games to start the year and while he hasn’t found the back of the net himself yet, his line is constantly creating scoring chances, and it shouldn’t be long until he breaks through.
His game on Thursday night was particularly impressive. He had a gorgeous assist to Jacob Bengtsson’s eventual game winning goal in the third period, and his effort to set up Jellvik’s goal in the first period was right up there with his most memorable plays as an Eagle.
That’s one heck of a burst of speed to turn a loose puck in the neutral zone into a 2-on-0 rush in the blink of an eye. Ambrosio and the third line have looked great all season and while they might not get the same hype that some of the players on the top two lines get, they’ve played just as big a role in BC’s hot start.
SPECIAL TEAMS ARE CLICKING
It’s still too early in the season to know exactly how things will turn out, but BC’s special teams play looks like its going to be a major strength. Both the power play and the penalty kill have been impressive through six games and both showed up in a big way in both games against Michigan State.
Let’s start with the power play. The Eagles have six power play goals on the season and most of them have come since they started rolling out a top unit that includes four recent first round draft picks. Cutter Gauthier has three power play goals of his own so far as he continues to fire one-times from the right circle. Will Smith is a great distributor with elite vision and Eamon Powell is continuing his impressive play from last year as the quarterback of the power play from the blue line. Michigan State has an incredibly aggressive penalty kill but any time that BC got set up in the offensive zone, the puck movement was just too quick for MSU to keep up with. The Eagles scored three power play goals this weekend and as their top unit gets more time together and builds more chemistry, the man advantage should continue to have success.
As well as the power play has been going as of late, the penalty kill might look even better. BC has let up three goals in 27 chances on the kill so far, good for about an 89 percent success rate. Add in their two shorthanded goals and the Eagles are only down a net of one goal while playing down a skater. There are a lot of good penalty killers on this team. Forwards who can both get in shooting lanes and pressure the puck handler and defensemen who have been very successful at clearing out plays from in front of the net. Add in Jacob Fowler playing well in net and you have all the ingredients for a successful PK. The one negative? Two of the three goals that the PK has allowed have come off of two blatantly obvious too-many men on the ice penalties. Cut down on those and we’re really cooking with gas.
ANDRE GASSEAU SHOWING PATIENCE
Jack Malone scored two goals in the third period of Friday night’s win, but Andre Gasseau should get something like half of a goal for his work in setting up Malone’s second.
First the steal and then the patience before making the pass. No one would have blamed him for taking a shot there, but instead he casually draws two defensemen and the goalie towards him before sliding the puck to Malone for an easy tap in. That’s one heck of play from the top-line winger