Since the start of the season last weekend with the loss against Air Force and the win against the University of Denver, it has felt like one step forward and one step back for Boston College men’s hockey. Thankfully for BC, the game against the University of Wisconsin was a step forward for a team looking to get some traction early on in the season. BC’s win—an 8-5 victory—was largely helped by an awakened, rejuvenated offense led by a Christopher Brown hat trick.
This victory did not come without a struggle, however, as an energetic BC (2-2) offense was plagued by penalties and game-changing mistakes. This rollercoaster of a game displayed the talent and potential of a young team looking to gain some momentum for the season.
In response to Friday’s loss, head coach Jerry York made some slight changes to the lines, including making room for the return of captain Chris Calnan. It was clear from the start of the game that the Eagles were looking for puck possession and pursuing goals, something they struggled with in the first game against the Badgers on Friday. Off the first faceoff of the night, David Cotton took control of the puck with help from Brown and Casey Fitzgerald. As he skated past the Badgers’ blue line, he let a shot off toward the Wisconsin (2-2) net, which then trickled past the pads of Matt Jurusik. Cotton’s goal only 10 seconds into the game marked the beginning of 10 minutes dominated by the Eagles. On two separate power plays, the Eagles came out with speed and force, controlling the puck. No puck connected with the Badgers’ net, but the Eagles kept the pressure on Jurusik, often getting to rebounds first.
BC’s second goal of the night came from a hustling Brown around halfway through the period, when he skated towards the net and sent the puck just inside the post with a backhanded shot.
The frustrated Badgers tried to generate some rhythm in response to their two-goal deficit, drawing two penalties on the Eagles. Despite killing a 5-on-3 penalty, a five-minute major on Ron Greco for hitting from behind proved too difficult for BC to defend. During the Wisconsin power play, the Eagles had trouble clearing rebounds off the net, and the Badgers took advantage. Trent Frederic, a first-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins, deflected a backdoor shot on Joe Woll and brought the score to 2-1 in the last 30 seconds of the period.
The Eagles still had 2:12 to kill on the Greco penalty at the start of the second period, but skilled play by Woll kept them afloat. A crucial mistake by Graham McPhee, however, gave the Badgers their second goal of the game. McPhee attempted a pass through his legs to no one in particular, leaving Luke McInnis out to dry on a 3-on-1. J.D. Greenway easily beat Woll on his left, evening the score at 2-2. Two minutes later, however, a penalty for too many men on the ice at 5:04 gave BC a man advantage. The energy from this power play led to a goal by Matty Gaudreau just after the penalty expired. Off a rebound from a one-timer from Connor Moore, Gaudreau got his stick on the puck, sending it past Jurusik. The play was under review because Calnan entered the crease before the shot, but was ultimately confirmed.
About five minutes later, Brown scored his second goal of the game. Off a turnover by the Badgers, Brown grabbed the puck and skated to the net. He then dangled the puck for a beautiful top-shelf goal, bringing the score to 4-2. That was not the end for the BC offense. Julius Mattila tallied his first goal of the season, and Brown rounded out his hat trick only 20 seconds later on a blast from between the circles. It was the first hat trick for the Eagles since Colin White had one last season against Providence.
That was enough for Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato, who replaced Jurusik in goal with Jack Berry. The Badgers finally struck back with an outstanding between the legs shot from Cameron Hughes with three minutes remaining in the period. The Eagles ended the period with a hooking call on Colin White and a 28-16 shot advantage.
While BC continued its strong offensive play with aggressive forechecking in the third period, Wisconsin evened up the score with some newfound energy. After his shot was rebounded, Ryan Wagner, while sliding past the goal on his knees, shot the puck past Woll. This goal and one from a shot by Grant Besse that was originally saved by Woll but slipped through his legs, brought the score to a one-goal difference. BC was not in a comfortable spot anymore.
With the game suddenly up for grabs, both teams jostled for the puck and peppered both goalies with shots. Woll came up with some big saves to keep BC in the lead, and the time trickled down on the clock. With Wisconsin under pressure, Berry was pulled to give the Badgers another player on the ice. When Berry was pulled, however, the Badgers were in their own zone. This gave Ryan Fitzgerald the opportunity to get an empty net goal after stealing the puck from behind the net. White further solidified the Eagles’ lead with another empty netter a minute later and with 25 seconds left in the game.
As this matchup against Wisconsin showed, the Eagles are a young, growing team—talented, but also prone to mistakes and unnecessary penalties. Now that the Eagles have some goals under their belts—especially with players like White, Fitzgerald, and Brown—hopefully they will carry confidence and momentum into the rest of the season. The Eagles have a long way to go in their season, but if they can continue to progress, they can show they are deserving of their preseason No. 5 ranking.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor