Notebook: Inability to Box Out, Light the Lamp Relegates BC to Consolation Game

bc men's hockey

Boston College men’s hockey entered the first round of the Beanpot Tournament on Monday evening with a 4-1-1 record when recording 35-plus shots this season. In order to keep pace with Northeastern—the seventh-best offense in the country—head coach Jerry York knew his team had to get its fair share of looks on goal.

The quantity was there, the quality was not. BC racked up 37 shots, five more than the Huskies, but never found of the back of the net. Meanwhile, Northeastern tacked on a goal every period, slowly but surely distancing itself from the Eagles and eventually booking its first trip to the Beanpot Championship in three years. BC’s 3-0 loss marks both its first blanking of the year and shutout defeat in the annual tournament since 1988—the last time the Huskies hoisted the Beanpot trophy.

Three Up

1) Joseph Woll

No. 11 Northeastern (16-7-5, 11-5-3 Hockey East) goaltender Cayden Primeau stole the show. The freshman logged 37 saves and rarely found himself out of position in between the pipes, taking away from Eagles netminder Joseph Woll’s performance on the other end of the ice. Even though the sophomore stopped five less shots than Primeau and allowed three goals, he is the sole reason why No. 18 BC (13-12-3, 13-6-0) wasn’t embarrassed at TD Garden. Time and time again, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect bailed out the Eagles, particularly when its defense failed to get back on a breakaway or let a Northeastern wing slip through the circles. All three goals that Woll conceded were arguably not his fault. The first ricocheted off Casey Fitzgerald’s stick and squeezed through the gap between his glove arm and torso, and the next two can be attributed to the BC’s inability to box out in their own zone, freeing up space for Northeastern to rebound and cash in on second-chance scoring opportunities.

2) Faceoffs

Following the game, York talked about how he always aims to win the faceoff battle by six or more bouts—he more than met his mark on Monday. The Eagles won nine more decisions than Northeastern, one of the reasons why they controlled the puck in Huskies territory for so long. Julius Mattila led the charge, claiming 17 of his 25 faceoffs. To put that in perspective, no other player won 15, let alone 10 bouts. That said, the lopsided numbers are to nobody’s surprise. The Huskies are the epitome of average when it comes to the faceoff department, having practically totaled just as many wins as losses in the circles this season. Not to mention that, at the end of the day, the Eagles’ faceoff victories proved to be nothing more than an eye-popping stat, as plenty of them went to waste thanks to a host of BC turnovers.

3) First Line

The Eagles were awarded their first power play in the opening minutes of the second frame when Zach Solow was called for hooking. Immediately, BC’s first line—David Cotton, Julius Mattila, and Logan Hutsko—went to work. Near the Huskies’ right circle, Hutsko slid the puck to Cotton, who then sent a no-look, backhanded pass Casey Fitzgerald’s way. Dancing around the top of the left circle, the defenseman whipped a shot on net, but the puck swerved wide of the cage. The forwards were quiet for the next period or so of play, but over the course of the final 20 minutes, they emptied the tank. BC’s best scoring chance came a bit more than seven minutes into the frame, when Julius Mattila connected with Cotton deep inside Northeastern’s zone. Without hesitation, he dished a pass to Hutsko, who was posted up along the far post. The freshman’s shot was stuffed by Primeau, but he corralled the rebound, skated around the cage and located a wide-open Cotton. The Park, Texas, native rifled the puck toward the net, but it bounced off the crossbar—a fitting outcome for an Eagles team that couldn’t buy a goal all night.

Three Down

1) Defensive Breakdowns

A couple weeks ago, BC’s defense, in its first game back after losing Kevin Lohan for the season, looked like one of the best units in Hockey East. The Eagles only gave up one goal and shut down an up-and-coming Massachusetts offense, holding the Minutemen to just 21 shots. Since then, BC has stumbled, allowing 3.25 goals per game in its next four contests, including Monday evening’s date with Northeastern. Following the loss to the Huskies, York diagnosed what went wrong defensively.

“We just didn’t box out,” he said. “Joe makes the save and we don’t box out in front—that’s something we’ve gotta address.”

Northeastern’s final two goals came off rebounds, in which both Nolan Stevens and Adam Gaudette were left wide open, just outside the crease. As soon as Woll made the initial saves, both Huskies slipped past their respective defenders and waited for the putback opportunity. These defensive breakdowns were hardly isolated—Woll just covered most of them up.  

2) Turnovers

From start to finish, the Eagles struggled with pass accuracy, often losing the puck near center ice. No stretch was worse than the back half of the second period—BC’s forwards committed an array of turnovers, ruining a handful of offensive possessions. It all started on the Eagles’ second power play. Back against the wall, J.D. Dudek flung the puck toward the middle of the rink. The aimless clearance attempt backfired: Matt Filipe batted it down and quickly set up another dangerous Huskies’ shot. Soon after, Michael Karow put too much sauce on a pass for Christopher Brown near the boards, essentially handing Northeastern the puck with a lot of open ice ahead of it. Then, with under 30 seconds to go in the frame, Gaudette picked Hutsko’s pocket inside the Boston Bruins’ logo, all but extinguishing any last-ditch Eagles effort to get on the board before intermission. Fortunately for BC, none of its turnovers directly led to a Huskies scoring play. That said, they surely played a role in the Eagles’ empty-handed defeat.

3) Special Teams

After one period of play, BC was on pace to finish the game with six penalties, matching last year’s total in the Eagles’ first-round loss to Boston University. Luckily for York, his guys buckled down in the remaining two frames, only taking two more trips to the box—one of which was in garbage time. Still, the first couple proved costly, especially Dudek’s tripping call, 11 and a half minutes in. Northeastern’s Biagio Lerario sped past the BC center, creating a 1-on-1 with Woll. Desperately trying to prevent a potential goal, Dudek tripped up Lerario, sending the Huskies’ forward flying into Woll. Dudek’s tactic worked for all of a minute and 27 seconds. That’s when Jeremy Davies lofted a touch pass to Dylan Sikura, who then looped around to the left side of the offensive zone and ripped a wrister past Woll to jumpstart Northeastern’s offense. BC killed the Huskies’ remaining three power plays, but its worst blunders came when it was on the one-man advantage. Despite recording nine shots on four special teams opportunities, the Eagles failed to light the lamp—just the latest hiccup for their 40th-ranked power-play offense.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Senior Staff

About Andy Backstrom 298 Articles
Andy is the sports editor of 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.