Notebook: Turnovers, Poor Special Teams Cost Eagles Series Opener

Boston College men's hockey

Already down two goals less than eight minutes into the first period of Friday’s game at Kelley Rink, Boston University men’s hockey forward Brady Tkachuk lurked near the blue line. Distracted by the commotion on the other side of the ice, Boston College defender Michael Kim lost track of Tkachuk. Pressured near the boards, Terrier Shane Bowers flung a pass to the freshman, who was now five feet in front of Kim. Tkachuck received the feed in between the circles, pushed the puck left, then right, but instead of elevating a shot, aimed straight for BC goaltender Joseph Woll. The sophomore netminder didn’t budge, trapping the puck with ease.

After the game, Tkachuck explained that he was trying to pull off a high-glove move that he had been practicing all week. But when the moment came to lift the puck off the ice, he panicked. Luckily for the St. Louis, Mo. native, he got a chance to redeem himself.

Following two quick Terrier goals that evened the score, the Eagles drove the puck into the BU zone on the power play. But before they could even get anything going, Casey Fitzgerald’s pass whizzed by Christopher Brown. Just trying to clear the puck out of Terrier territory, Hank Crone wristed it toward the left side of the ice. Instead of hitting the boards, the puck bounced off of Kim’s skate and landed in the middle of the rink for none other than Tkachuck. With only Woll to beat, the freshman sprinted down the ice and went top shelf, scoring a shorthanded goal and giving BU its first lead of the game.

Boston College men's hockey

Jerry York labeled the scoring play as the turning point of the game. The long-time BC head coach was spot on. From that point forward, the Terriers outscored the Eagles, 4-2, en route to a 7-4 victory.

Three Up

1) Fast Start

During the No. 15 Eagles’ (8-6-2, 8-2-0, Hockey East) eight-game unbeaten streak, they averaged 3.4 goals per game—about twice as many as they posted in their first seven games of the season. On Friday night, BC came out firing again, recording five of the first seven shots, and, more importantly, the game’s first two goals. It only took the Eagles a minute and a half to get on the board. Debatably even more impressive, York’s team followed up the game-opening goal with another scoring play just 44 seconds later. Thanks to Aapeli Räsänen and Ron Greco, BC already had its crosstown rival on the ropes.

“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,” BU (7-8-1, 5-4-1) head coach David Quinn told reporters. “We practiced D-zone in the first three months, but it certainly didn’t look like it in the first three minutes.”

To put the Eagles’ scoring spree in perspective, prior to November, BC had only logged two or more goals in a game twice. But against the Terriers, it accomplished that feat in exactly two minutes and 16 seconds.

2) Faceoffs

After taking a 5-2 shot lead early in the first period, BU rallied to record 10 of the game’s next 11 and soon controlled pretty much every statistical category there is. Well, except for one—faceoffs. When all was said and done, the Eagles had won 35 of the game’s 56 bouts. Brown and Julius Mattila led the charge with 13 and 12 decisions, respectively. But BC wasn’t just dominating the battle in the circles, it was turning draws into goals.

Räsänen won the second faceoff of the night, batting the puck into the far corner of the rink. Fellow freshman Logan Hutsko corralled the puck and sent it back out to Christopher Grando, who then located Räsänen in front of the net. On his second go around, the Fin flicked a shot past BU goalie Jake Oettinger.

Boston College men's hockey

Another faceoff victory, this time at the hands of Julius Mattila, produced the Eagles’ fourth and final goal toward the end of the second period. One man up, Räsänen passed the puck to Connor Moore at the point. Instead of taking a shot of his own, the sophomore defenseman made the extra pass, connecting with Mattila atop the right circle. Without hesitation, Mattila one-timed a slapshot past Oettinger to cap off the near-perfect possession.

Boston College men's hockey

3) Ron Greco

Although Ron Greco wasn’t the star of the night, he was the Eagles’ most valuable offensive player. Unlike many of his teammates, the sophomore had no trouble tracking down loose pucks. And once he did, there was a good chance they were heading for the back of the cage. Greco scored a career-high two goals on Friday night—both of which came off rebounds.

Seconds after Räsänen struck first blood, Greco scooped up Kevin Lohan’s slapshot that ricocheted off of Oettinger’s leg pad, and lit the lamp. Later in the game, the sophomore hovered near the right post and waited, as both Moore and Luke McInnis came up empty. As the saying goes, third time’s the charm. Greco retrieved McInnis’s missed shot and went near post for the equalizer, tying the game at three goals apiece.

Boston College men's hockey

Three Down

1) Joseph Woll

Entering the season, Woll was supposed to make up for a relatively weak Eagles offense. But week-by-week, it has almost looked as if the sophomore has regressed in year two. And on Friday night, he reached a new low. Playing easily his worst game of the season, Woll gave up six goals to the Terriers in just 22 shots. Eventually, he reverted back to his normal self in the third period, making six saves and shutting out BU, but the damage had already been done.

To be fair, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect did face a lot of open looks, especially on 3-on-2s and 2-on-1s. But that being said, he was still slow to react to several BU shot attempts, especially those that went high.

Woll’s unusually lagging reflexes were exposed multiple times throughout the night. A bit more than five minutes into the second period, BU’s Chad Krys launched a sliding slapshot. Immediately, Woll closed his legs together as if the puck was heading directly for his feet. Only when the puck hit the twine did Woll raise his glove in a delayed fashion.  

Boston College men's hockey

Time will tell if the sophomore gets the nod on Saturday in the second game of the home-and-home series.

2) Turnovers

If BC didn’t turn the puck over as much as it did, Woll might not have given up six goals. From start to finish, the Eagles’ passing was erratic. An inaccurate exchange led to Tkachuk’s game-changing, breakaway goal. Then, with less than a minute to go in the game, BC, despite having a 6-on-4 advantage, turned the puck over again. Räsänen’s pass sailed past Grando, and, within seconds, Bowers was guiding the puck down the right side of the ice with no one in net. Adding insult to injury, the freshman laid it in the cage, scoring the Terriers’ seventh goal of the night—the most BU has recorded against BC in 21 years.

York made it clear that he wasn’t pleased with his team’s lack of execution and assortment of mental errors.

“From my perspective, we made some really poor decisions on clears,” he said. “And we turned pucks over too much…We weren’t real sharp. Part of it’s that BU’s got a good club, but part of it’s that we just didn’t execute like I’ve seen us do and what we should have tonight.”

3) Special Teams

Per usual, BC’s power play was nothing to write home about. The Eagles were 1-of-5 on the advantage, and appeared to quite passive when moving the puck around the perimeter of BU’s zone. Turnovers didn’t help either. Just when it looked like BC was finally going to actually attack Oettinger, a pass would slip out of the reach of an Eagle, and the line would have to start over from square one again. And sometimes all it took was one missed shot for the Terriers to clear the puck out of their own territory.

Boston College men's hockey

On the other hand, BC’s struggles on the penalty kill were highly uncharacteristic. The Eagles currently rank 25th in the nation on the kill, extinguishing about 82 percent of all power plays. But on Friday, BC allowed two power-play goals—both of which came in second period. Couple that with the one shorthanded goal that the Eagles conceded at the end of the first period, and York was stuck with a disastrous special teams performance.

Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor

About Andy Backstrom 175 Articles
Andy is the assistant sports editor for The Heights. He is from the suburbs of Philly, but has been an Arizona Cardinals enthusiast since the first grade. Every so often, he'll replay Super Bowl XLIII on Madden to exact revenge on his father's beloved Steelers. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyHeights.