It’s that time of year again: the coldest month of the season and the time when the Boston College men’s hockey team needs to keep its game hot if it plans on making a postseason run. Thus far, the team’s had an impressive run with a 13-1-1 record in Hockey East play. With an overall 21-4-3 record, the Eagles are currently second in the USCHO Division I Men’s Poll and challenging for the number one spot because Minnesota lost twice this past weekend to Wisconsin. In order to win the NCAA title, they need to maintain their energy, focus, and dedication, and they need the continued support and talent of the 10 freshmen who have been physically and mentally devoted to the team’s triumph since they first laced up their skates back in September. This up-and-coming class has had to prove itself, and it is now a fundamental piece of the maroon and gold pie.
Last night was no exception to the solid play of these newcomers. While steamrolling over Merrimack College with a 6-1 victory, the defensemen, Scott Savage and Steve Santini, consistently executed plays that kept the Warriors away from freshman goalie Thatcher Demko. Savage also aided the Eagles during the third period on the power play by shooting a missile from the blue line that freshman Adam Gilmour was able to redirect past Merrimack goaltender Rasmus Tirronen.
During the third period, Santini made an outstanding play with a bruising body-check on a breakaway Warrior, who was trying to encroach the slot in front of Demko. The crowd roared its approval. The faith that head coach Jerry York has in Santini is apparent, as he was on the ice during several penalty kills, including a 5-on-3 with assistant captains Isaac MacLeod and Bill Arnold at his side.
The immense contributions of the freshman class do not stop with the defense. Ryan Fitzgerald and Austin Cangelosi made their presence felt by helping tally a goal. The two players are on the same line, and for good reason. During the first period, they deftly cycled the puck, which led to many shot opportunities for their teammates. That puck movement paid off eventually in the second period, as each of the freshmen earned an assist on captain Patrick Brown’s goal.
Cangelosi sent the puck to Fitzgerald who dished a perfect pass that Brown finished, sliding it behind Tirronen. Freshman forward Chris Calnan also had a big presence on the ice, playing several shifts, settling the puck in the neutral zone on multiple occasions, and walking into Merrimack’s zone to start the BC offensive attack.
Demko allowed only one goal out of 24 shots on net. He was recently named National Rookie of the Month and has a .932 save percentage after last night’s game. He’s supported by an exceptional defense that kept Merrimack out of the slot the entire first period. BC defenders consistently clogged Merrimack’s diagonal and centering passing lanes. Several Eagles endured sacrificial shots to the body to keep the puck from going anywhere near the white netting.
The Eagles cleaned out the front of the net throughout the entire game without screening Demko. The crushing physical play of the older players, such as Michael Matheson, Isaac MacLeod, and the ever-grinding Quinn Smith, seems to have rubbed off on Santini, Savage, and Ian McCoshen.
McCoshen was unable to dress for the home game, as he was out with an injury. He has benefitted the BC defense this season and has scored a total of four goals and seven career assists. Also notable are Matt Gaudreau and Evan Richardson, who have both capitalized during their playing opportunities by scoring one and two goals, respectively.
“They’ve come along, they’ve really grown,” said associate head coach Greg Brown on the players in the class of 2017. “Pretty much each month you can see that they’re better than they were the month before. They’ve been a huge part of our team, they give us much more depth than we had. The first part of the season we really relied on the older guys, and now we have four pretty good lines.”
BC hasn’t lost to Merrimack at Conte Forum in nearly 17 years, and the freshmen helped keep that streak intact. During their first year at BC, they have not shown any rookie jitters and look ready to continue to flourish during the rest of the season and beyond, when they will no longer be the youngest Eagles in the convocation.