BC Dominates Wisconsin Behind Third Line’s Strong Play

Few things went wrong for Boston College in its 6-0 blowout of the Wisconsin Badgers, but even if more had, not much would’ve changed. On this night, the Eagles were the bigger, faster, and smarter team, and the scoreboard showed it. While the power play still struggled at times, the Eagles were solid in nearly every other facet of the game. Showcasing a high intensity offense and a much improved defense, BC played a dominant, physical game that proved to be its best of the year.

The Eagles’ aggressive forecheck caused plenty of costly Wisconsin turnovers, and the majority of the game was played in the Badgers’ end. The line of Austin Cangelosi, Chris Calnan, and Miles Wood was especially impressive.  

“They were the leaders,” head coach Jerry York said. “Almost every shift they played, they won that shift.”

Cangelosi’s line was relentless on the forecheck, and moved the puck better than any other line on the team. Their hussle set the tone for the Eagles throughout the game. After BC would slow down for a few shifts, Cangelosi, Calnan, and Wood would go right back out and restore the intensity. A consistently fast style of play may not have been necessary to beat Wisconsin, but it will be against more talented teams.

Freshman Miles Wood was the best player on the ice. At times, he seemed to single handedly dictate the pace of the game. Wood is deceptively fast and created scoring chances left and right. He has the size and speed to force turnovers on the forecheck that result in chances for BC.

Another bright spot for the offense was freshman center Colin White, who netted his first two goals as an Eagle. He is probably the freshman with the most NHL potential on the team, and he showed it on his first goal, smoothly darting between two defenders and rifling a shot into the top right corner of the net. White’s combination of size, agility, and puck control make him a constant scoring threat. Since his linemate Adam Gilmour tends to pass the puck more often than shoot, expect many more scoring opportunities from the star freshman.

For all the goals, there was a glaring hole in the scoresheet Friday night: the first line of sophomores Zach Sanford and Alex Tuch and freshman Jeremy Bracco did not contribute to any of the six goals. For a line with such high expectations—Tuch was the Eagles’ leading scorer last year and Bracco holds the assist record for the U.S. National Team Development Program—this was a bit surprising. In three games, Bracco has yet to register a point as an Eagle. The line seemed out of sync early in the game, and Wisconsin intercepted a good number of passes between the three. They weren’t able to develop many plays and it seemed like whoever had the puck would be waiting for one of his linemates to find open ice instead of creating space himself by moving the puck.

The third period was a different story, though, and the chemistry between them had noticeably improved. Bracco looked much more comfortable on the ice and with the puck, and he needs to be if this first line is going to break out like it is capable of doing.

The quality of the Eagles’ power play varied a lot on the night. There were tons of penalties, but when BC had the extra man, sometimes it played with intensity. Other times, they fell flat. In the latter instances, BC cycled the puck too much. After setting up in the Wisconsin zone, it would wait a second too long to find an open man, instead of shooting or moving to create space. This hesitation allowed the Badgers to close up the shooting lanes that they often failed to close when BC attacked on even strength. The Eagles’ success on the power play came when they kept a quick pace and had lots of fast lateral puck movement and a fair amount of shot attempts.

Last night, the Eagles consistently forced Wisconsin forwards to the outside, steering them away from promising shot lanes in the middle of the ice. BC covered Badger players well in front of the net, rarely allowing them to get to rebounds or deflect shots from out wide.

Goalie Thatcher Demko praised his defense, saying, “The whole night, our D did a good job of boxing guys out.”

Rarely did a man go uncovered, forcing Wisconsin players have to rush passes and shots, many of which resulted in turnovers. As a result, the Badgers didn’t create many scoring opportunities, and most of those shots, Demko deflected with ease.  He was only tested once, but made a great save when Wisconsin winger Luke Kunin streaked across the middle and launched a quick backhand shot into Demko’s left shoulder, mid-slide.

Against Wisconsin last night, the Eagles controlled the game in large part due to their willingness to finish checks and force opposing players off of the puck. BC’s aggressive checking style should serve it well against teams like Denver and Providence, who are more physical and better disciplined than the Badgers.

The key for the Eagles is winning the games they are supposed to win, and on Friday night, they did just that.