Connecticut ripped off 70 shot attempts on Tuesday night, and 43 of them were on net. Even with a goalie like Joseph Woll, teams rarely survive that kind of defensive leakage. Though Woll and Boston College pulled it off against the Huskies, BC’s young and thin defense prevented the team from putting Tuesday’s game away.
After the Eagles took an early 2-0 lead, they were generating some rare zone time in UConn’s end about halfway through the first period. The puck got back to freshman defenseman Luke McInnis, but he let it bounce over his stick, leading to a Huskies’ rush the other way and eventually forcing him to commit his first penalty of the game. UConn didn’t convert on the ensuing power play, but it gave the team some much needed life.
McInnis is in an abnormally large role for a first-year defenseman. He plays with top blue liner Casey Fitzgerald and mans the point on BC’s second power-play unit along with fellow freshman Jesper Matilla, whose quad injury left Jerry York’s defense corps thinner-than-usual against the Huskies. At the risk of picking on the Hingham, Mass. native, McInnis partially stymied another chance to put the game away a minute into the second period, when he turned it over while taking a pass at the blue line on said power-play unit. Huskies’ speedster Corey Ronan burned by the freshman and McInnis had to take his second penalty just eight seconds into BC’s man advantage.
“They’re playing their hearts out,” York said of his four freshmen defensemen in McInnis, Matilla, Michael Campoli, and Connor Moore. “It’s a big jump for all of them. … But you can play forward in this league as a freshman and it’s difficult, but defense, that’s the biggest jump of all. We make mistakes but our hearts are good and we work really hard.”
McInnis wasn’t the only one to turn it over or take a penalty, as there were enough mistakes made by all to add up to those 70 attempts. Yet there were some bright spots among the defensemen, highlighted by Campoli cutting off a burgeoning breakaway attempt by UConn’s second-leading scorer Maxim Letunov a little later in the second stanza. With BC dressing five freshmen or sophomores on any given night, York is banking on a steady rate of improvement like Campoli showed in just his ninth game of his collegiate career.
“I think they’ve shown some really good improvements as the year’s gone on,” York said. “And our older guys, [sophomores Michael] Kim and [Casey] Fitz[gerald], they’re still learning too.”
Along with giving up 23 more shot attempts than it took, BC was even more fortunate in this win because the first line of Matthew Gaudreau, Colin White, and Ryan Fitzgerald was held off the board again. Though that line generated the most consistent offensive pressure of any Eagles’ unit, they just couldn’t connect on time for many prime looks at the UConn net. Their best look came with a few minutes left when Huskies’ goalie Rob Nichols flashed the leather and gloved White’s point-blank wrister, and then White couldn’t even bury an empty-netter in the game’s final minute. Other than opposing teams’ keying in on that line, there isn’t much rational explanation for why those three aren’t finding the twine of late. Though hockey is peculiar like that, it’s not so strange that such a trio won’t snap out of it soon and start scoring some goals.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor