In boxing, it’s crucial to be able to take a few punches.
There will never be a time when you can go an entire match without being hit at least once. Therefore, the ability to roll with the punches, to absorb your opponent’s best shot, and then to launch an attack of your own is an invaluable ability for a boxer.
Over the last week, the Boston College men’s hockey team absorbed some punches. It started on Wednesday night against UConn, when the team let up an early goal and was unable to battle back, falling 1-0. New questions surrounded the team: “Was that just a fluke?” and “How will they respond against Boston University?” Friday night, BC dished out some punches, but took a few more, as the Terriers topped the Eagles 5-3.
The game began with the two teams feeling each other out, circling in the ring. They both had their opportunities, but the play of Thatcher Demko kept BU off the board, while Matt O’Connor kept BC at bay.
One of the most concerning things about BC’s loss at UConn was the power play’s complete inability to generate scoring opportunities. BC was unable to bounce back on Friday night. In four attempts with a man advantage, the Eagles generated six shots and no goals. Their first power play came in that first period, and it gave BC fans cause for concern. The Eagles looked as if they were unable to shake off the memories of Wednesday’s failure, getting just one shot toward O’Connor and having trouble entering the offensive zone and keeping possession.
It took until the second period for BC to land its first body blow. Two minutes into the period, O’Connor made a valiant effort to stop several point-blank opportunities by the Eagles, but he couldn’t hold out forever. The puck found Chris Calnan in front of the crease, and he put it under the arm of a diving O’Connor for a 1-0 BC lead.
For a while, it looked as if BC would continue to jab at the Terriers. The Eagles had another power play almost immediately after their goal, and while they improved, they were still unable to finish.
BU regrouped, and then it responded. Evan Rodrigues took a BC turnover, danced around several defenders, forced Demko down, and calmly fired the puck into the net. BC refused to back off, as Ryan Fitzgerald soon made his presence known.
With a two-on-one breakaway, Fitzgerald decided to keep the puck and shoot it himself. The punch was perfectly aimed, popping O’Connor’s water bottle and restoring BC’s one-goal lead.
The Eagles went into the break needing to hold out for 20 more minutes, absorbing what would undoubtedly be BU’s best shot. They were unable to do so. BU’s first goal of the period came off of what would later be described by BC head coach Jerry York as “puck luck.” After a scrum in front of the goal, Demko went down in the crease. BU’s Mike Moran picked up the puck and his momentum carried him behind the net. Moran threw the puck in front, and it hit Demko’s leg before careening into the net.
BU pressed its advantage, with the Eagles needing more stellar play out of Demko to keep the game tied. Then, Matheson went to the box for a slash. BC braced for another punch from the Terriers, but Fitzgerald had other ideas. Twenty seconds into the kill, Fitzgerald picked the pocket of a Terrier and found himself in the clear.
Fitzgerald skated in on O’Connor, deked him out of his shoes, and finished his short-handed goal off with a flourish. Immediately, it seemed as if the Eagles had landed a knockout punch, as they upped their offensive pressure. BU kept its composure, with Jack Eichel making his presence felt in his first Battle of Commonwealth Avenue. Eichel tipped in a slapshot from Brandon Hickey, beating Demko in what ultimately turned the tide.
Two minutes later, BU landed the final blow, and the Eagles staggered—unable to respond. Rodrigues skated around the back of the net and whipped the puck out front. In another example of puck luck, the puck grazed off of Matheson’s skate and slid through the puck-sized gap between Demko’s pad and the post, giving BU its first lead of the game.
BC put pressure on the Terriers as time wound down, but an empty netter proved to be insurance. York maintained that his team didn’t go through the up-and-down roller coaster of emotions that the fans did, despite blowing three one-goal leads.
“I thought we stayed pretty even-keel—it was a tight one-goal game for most of the game,” York said.
BU dealt the Eagles another knockout punch in this young season, but whether it proves to be more than that remains to be seen.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor