What’s better to have through the first two months of the college hockey season: results or potential?
Members of the media have struggled with that question early in the 2017-18 season when it comes to Boston University. With 12 draftees, the Terriers possess the most players in Hockey East bound for the NHL, second in the country only to Minnesota. That total includes three first-rounders: freshman Shane Bowers and sophomores Dante Fabbro and goaltender Jake Oettinger. But through those first two months, BU has a losing record, and has fallen all the way from No. 2 in the nation to unranked.
On Friday, in the 275th matchup with archrival Boston College—the 100th year these two squads have met—the Terriers showed why they have the potential. Despite falling down 2-0 after just two minutes, BU marched all the way back en route to a 7-4 victory over the Eagles. And head coach Jerry York was none too pleased with his team’s effort.
“From my perspective, we made some really poor decisions on clears and on our power play, we turned pucks over too much,” York said.
No. 15 BC (8-6-2, 8-2-0 Hockey East) started off the game like it had entered the month: red hot. The Eagles went undefeated in November, launching to the top of the Hockey East standings. And against the Terriers (7-8-1, 5-4-1), they started the same way. Just 90 seconds into the game, freshman Aapeli Räsänen got in front of BU’s Logan Cockerill. The Terrier left wing had a lazy backcheck that allowed Räsänen to find space in front of Oettinger. Cockerill couldn’t poke the puck away from Räsänen when he received a pass from Christopher Grando from the boards—the Fin pushed it home to give BC the game’s first goal.
A mere 40 seconds later, the Eagles struck back. Kevin Lohan, a grad transfer from Michigan, blasted a shot from the blue line that Oettinger kicked away with his left pad. But the goaltender left a rebound that was too juicy, right onto the stick of Ron Greco. The sophomore slotted it past an open net for the 2-0 lead. BU head coach David Quinn had no answers for his team’s sloppy start.
“It’s 2-0 before people could put cream in their coffee and get seated, but it looked like it was going to be a tough night,” Quinn said. “We practiced D zone in the first three months, but it certainly didn’t look like it in the first three minutes.”
Whatever Quinn said to his team worked, because the Terriers dominated the remainder of the frame. Halfway through the first, Brandon Hickey rocketed a shot from the blue line that Bowers screened in front of goaltender Joseph Woll. Just a minute later, Cockerill got his revenge. Bowers sent a crossing pass in front of the net that Cockerill tipped past Woll. The refs confirmed the equalizer upon further review. The snowballing continued toward the end of the frame, thanks to turnovers. A Kasper Kotkansalo hit from behind gave the Eagles a power play, but Brady Tkachuk broke free from Michael Kim. His shorthanded goal went top shelf over Woll, and gave BU a 3-2 lead.
“The shorthanded goal was really a turning point, I thought—2-2 and then to give them a shorty to make it 3-2,” York said.
The intermission appeared well-timed for the Eagles, and they took advantage. Greco ate up the third rebound in a row off Oettinger with a push past his stickside. The goal marked the first time the sophomore from Philadelphia scored twice in a game.
Five minutes through the second, Woll and the Eagles fell apart. Jacob Tortora took an unnecessary tripping penalty. A scrum in front of Woll freed Chad Krys at the blue line. The Chicago Blackhawks product got a clear look at the twine to put BU up 4-3. Two minutes later, Tkachuk broke away for a clear chance on Woll. Luke McInnis held him in the process, causing the ref’s right hand to go up. But the son of the legendary American hockey player Keith Tkachuk had just enough in him to push the puck off Woll’s legs. Hickey trailed in the process and found a way to push it home.
On the ensuing BU power play, Patrick Harper made the Eagles pay with a crisp pass to Bobo Carpenter, who scored to make it 6-3. A back-and-forth battle quickly turned into a blowout. Julius Mattila attempted to reclaim the momentum with a goal off a Brian Diffley penalty blasted from the blue line, but it was too little too late. Despite the six goals allowed by Woll, tying a career-high set earlier this year against Denver, York had no intentions of altering his gameplan.
“I just thought we had a chance to get back in it, down 6-4,” York said. “I didn’t want to make a change at that time.”
In the third period, the Terriers went into lockdown defensive mode. Up against a swarming backline attack with which the Terriers have thrived under Quinn, BC kept turning the puck over, and couldn’t find a consistent rhythm to mount a comeback.
“As the third period went on, we got smarter,” Quinn said. “You play different when you’re up by two, you’re not as aggressive, it’s human nature.”
The hot streak is over, but the Eagles will get another chance at the Terriers on Saturday at Agganis Arena. In their second try, BC, a team that lacks high-level firepower and was not expected to do much entering the year, will have to answer the same question BU has had to all year: Do the results from the first three months match the potential? With the game the Eagles had on Friday, that’s not likely. And York sees the same.
“Certainly not a great game from our perspective,” York said. “We got really excited [after the 2-0 start], but kind of lost that poise.” “We’re not surprised by [BU’s talent], but we’re going to have to handle it better.”
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor