It was not a good weekend to be a top-five team in college hockey. Every single one received a blemish on its record, and with Boston College’s 2-1 loss to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Sunday afternoon, the Eagles stand at 1-1-0 on the young season. Falling to the unranked Engineers may be a bit surprising, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
BC came out strong in the first period. The Eagles beat RPI to nearly every open puck and dominated puck possession. The forecheck was aggressive and relentless, continuing the pattern from the Friday’s season-opening win against Army, even on the penalty kill. Still, the Eagles had nothing to show for it.
As the second period commenced, it was clear that the longer BC let RPI to stick around, the more confident the latter school became. The Eagles’ pace slowed down considerably in comparison to the first period, and RPI took advantage. With 46 seconds left in the period, Engineer forward Riley Bourbonnais rifled a shot that just slipped under BC goaltender Thatcher Demko’s right shoulder and into the back of the net.
The end of the period allowed BC some time to regroup. In the first few minutes of the third, however, the Eagles still lacked a sense of urgency. Just three minutes into the period, Bourbonnais cut across the slot to score another goal, which was the product of a collapse and lapse in the BC defense.
After this, the Eagles regained the intensity that allowed them to dominate in the first period. At 8:36 in the third, Zach Sanford received a pass from Teddy Doherty and squeezed it through the five-hole of RPI goalie Jason Kasdorf to put BC on the board.
But it was too little too late for the Eagles. In the remaining minutes, BC controlled the tempo but couldn’t manage to put one past Kasdorf. Jerry York pulled Demko with 1:20 remaining to provide an extra skater, but the RPI defense held firm and waited out the clock to knock off the No. 1 team in the country.
Despite the final score, BC played well throughout. Ian McCoshen and freshman Casey Fitzgerald played exceptional defense, while Sanford and Fitzgerald’s brother, Ryan, were the standout forwards for BC, as they lead the team in shots with five each. Austin Cangelosi also impressed with his admirable two-way effort in the game.
No goal in hockey can ever be blamed on one player, and that holds for the two BC gave up today. Demko was solid as usual in net, saving 26 of 28 shots. He is phenomenal at avoiding rebounds by deflecting pucks into the corner and out of harm’s way. More importantly, Demko looked limber and quick and seems to have put the effects of his offseason hip surgeries behind him.
BC was only 1-5 on the power play, but that stat is not indicative of reality. They still generated several scoring opportunities, but were shut down by excellent goaltending by Kasdorf. The energy and quickness of the power play unit is encouraging, since last year, the Eagles’ power play was anemic, scoring just 15.6 percent of the time. In this game, they cycled the puck well and got off enough timely shots to keep RPI on its heels for most of the power plays.
The pressure on both the power play and even strength was largely applied by upperclassmen. BC’s highly touted freshman class played well, but not to their potential. Much has been made about the talent of the freshman class, and for good reason. The reality, though, is that it might take some time for these guys to adjust to college hockey, which is a much more physical game that what most are used to.
RPI played physically and BC just couldn’t match them. The Engineers were impressive. Once the second period rolled around, RPI was quick and put a lot of pressure on the BC defense. On the other end of the ice, its defensive corps blocked an astounding 45 shots and Kasdorf saved an additional 36. The Engineers had their fair share of miscues, but managed to minimize any damage.
On the other hand, poor defensive positioning by BC cost them two goals. However, the Eagles committed very few turnovers and were able to keep the puck in RPI territory for much of the game.
The Eagles are still elite and, most likely, the best team in the country. In the 68 years of Division I college hockey, only one team has ever gone undefeated (Cornell in 1970). Upsets are common in college hockey and do not signal a failed season as they do in college football. BC did not play poorly by any means, but it has a lot of work to do to remain college hockey’s top team.
Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Editor