BOSTON — Coming into Monday night’s Beanpot Tournament consolation game against Northeastern, Boston College men’s hockey appeared to be the clear favorite. After all, the Eagles stood atop the Hockey East standings—eight spots ahead of a Huskies team which has consistently struggled to remain at .500 all year. Not to mention that BC had already downed its conference foe twice this season and had never lost a consolation game in head coach Jerry York’s 23 years as head coach.
But those are just numbers. And by now, Eagles fans know that a statistic of any sort doesn’t guarantee a victory, especially when it comes to this year’s group. BC’s loss to Boston University in the opening round of Beanpot play marked the first time it had failed to tally a point in regular season matchups against the Terriers since the 1994-95 season. Less than a week later, the Eagles fell to Merrimack on home ice—the first time that happened since 1997.
On Monday night, there was another “first”. After David Cotton’s potential game-winning goal was reversed with just minutes remaining in the third period, the Huskies scored two goals in the final 43 seconds to claim the 4-2 victory and a third place Beanpot finish.
1) Joseph Woll
The first 10 minutes of Friday night’s game versus Merrimack were more than forgettable for goaltender Joseph Woll. Right off the bat, the freshman conceded three goals, the last of which sent him to the bench. And it wasn’t just a fluke.
Following a 42-save career outing against Connecticut on Jan. 24, Woll gave up a combined 14 goals in the next four games. But against Northeastern (13-12-5, 6-9-3 Hockey East), the sixth-best offensive team in the nation, the netminder looked sharp.
Woll held off the Huskies’ scoring effort for close to 28 minutes. And when Northeastern found the back of the net in the second period, it wasn’t even his fault. The St. Louis native was left without a defensive line, as three Huskies pursued the net on the break. Without hesitation, Matt Filipe flung one past the helpless Woll.
One can also argue that he, or the whole team for that matter, wasn’t to blame for Northeastern’s game-winning goal. While York was preparing his team for what was believed to be a final stand, BC’s (18-12-2, 13-4-1) then-third goal was overturned, giving the Eagles no time to reset.
Overall, 26 saves may not look impressive. But it was Woll’s leg extensions, sprawls, and glove work that kept the Eagles in the game until the final minute.
2) Penalty Kill
Entering Monday, the Huskies had scored 45 power play goals on the season—four more than any other team in college hockey. Headed by Adam Gaudette and Zach Aston-Reese, Northeastern’s power play attack has produced almost half of its goals.
The Huskies had a handful of chances to up that total versus BC. The Eagles were called for five penalties, some of which were boneheaded. Less than five minutes into the game, Chris Calnan smashed a Husky defender into the boards, sitting the senior for two minutes.
Thankfully for York, his team elevated its play on the penalty kill. While Northeastern applied pressure in BC’s zones, it failed to light the lamp on special times for the first time in 19 games.
3) David Cotton
Northeastern dominated the first period, drawing a pair of power plays and outshooting the Eagles 15-8. BC didn’t have a legitimate scoring chance until the closing minutes of the opening period. But as soon as it got one, it capitalized. More specifically, David Cotton capitalized.
Following a Calnan-Colin White exchange, Cotton received the puck. Soaring down the left side of the ice, the freshman angled a shot past a crowd of Eagles and Huskies, and most importantly, goalie Ryan Ruck. The goal gave BC its first lead of the night and Cotton his ninth of the season.
Then, at the tail end of the third period, Cotton snatched a rebound and almost notched the game-winner. But the apparent score was called back upon review, due to goaltender interference.
For the first period and a half, the Eagles controlled the faceoff department, winning 22-of-30 bouts. But it only took one Northeastern victory inside the circle to change the game.
Nolan Stevens beat Austin Cangelosi to the puck and shoveled it toward BC ice. Seconds later, Filipe swooped by with two teammates on his side. Power play or not, Northeastern is as good as anyone when it has numbers. Filipe lifted the puck past Woll, tying the game at one for the the first of his two goals.
From that point forward, BC only maintained a slight faceoff advantage. Consequently, the Eagles forfeited several possessions, and in turn, puck control and scoring chances.
2) Drawn-Out Possessions
At times, BC’s offense was too methodical. Instead of bombarding Ruck with shots, players were settling for tic-tac-toe passes. It almost was if no one wanted to take responsibility for a missed shot, perhaps a reason why there was such a discrepancy between the two sides in first period shots. Many of these drawn-out possessions ended in either blocked shots or turnovers.
Eventually, the Eagles started to show a bit more confidence on the offensive end. Results followed. BC’s equalizing third-period goal came off of a rebound. White snuck one by Ruck on a second-chance effort. And if Cotton’s second goal wasn’t overturned, that too would have come off of a missed shot.
If BC could take back those wasted possessions, this game could have been completely different.
3) Inability to Hold Back the Big Three
Northeastern could easily finish the season with three 50-point scorers: Aston-Reese, Gaudette, and Dylan Sikura. To put this in perspective, at the moment, the Eagles don’t even have one 30-point scorer. Aston-Reese leads the country in goal-scoring, and Gaudette is the nation’s most prolific power-play scorer.
According to head coach Jim Madigan, any one of them can take over the game at anytime.
“This year, we’ve had three guys who have been consistent all the way through offensively, and it’s been [Aston]-Reese, Sikura, and Gaudette,” Madigan said. “All of them at a different time have taken their turns leading us and being the go-to guy.”
On Monday, it was Sikura’s turn.
With less than a minute to go, Aston-Reese found Sikura right in front of the net for the game-winning goal. While BC kept these three out of the box score for most of the game, it hardly limited their offense.
Aston-Reese, Gaudette, and Sikura accounted for half of the Huskies’ shots. It was only a matter of time when one of them found the back of the net.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor