There was a patient silence in the air inside Kelley Rink on Thursday night—the kind that accompanies all game situations where the crowd cannot decide whether to get up and leave or wait for their home team to show them something, anything.
Soon enough, a shot on goal ricocheted and landed right into the waiting stick of St. Cloud State forward Sam Hentges. The freshman then let the puck rip, and it just barely found the back of the cage after bouncing off the pads of Boston College men’s hockey goalkeeper Joseph Woll. With the score now at 4-0, fans began to depart and, before they could even make it out of their seats, Hentges’ classmate, Nolan Walker, came tearing down the middle of the ice and whipped a shot past Woll.
In a matter of seconds the lopsided affair turned into blowout. Any remaining fans left in order to avoid watching what would end up being a 7-0 St. Cloud State shutout.
Much of the first period was close, and both teams launched similar shots on net, but it was ultimately the No. 2 Huskies (4-0) who actually lit the lamp. The goal disparity was mostly due to St. Cloud State netminder David Hrenak’s outstanding performance.
“Without a doubt in my mind, Hrenak was the difference maker in that game,” Huskies head coach Brett Larson told reporters. “If not for him, that is a 4-4 draw.”
Looking at the shots on goal and the subsequent scoreline, it is easy to see where Larson is coming from. With each team recording 27 shots on net, it was St. Cloud State that found its way past the duo of Woll and Ryan Edquist seven times, while the Eagles (0-4) failed to sneak a shot through the impenetrable wall that was Hrenak.
Hentges finished with a hat trick, in large part thanks to a pair of extremely similar scoring plays. One of his scores were mentioned prior, but his first actual goal came about 14 minutes into the opening period. Hentges took a snapshot from the corner—one that happened to bounce right off the waiting goalkeeper’s knee pad and backwards into the goal.
On the opposing end, BC struggled to capitalize on a number of chances. One such play occurred when defenseman Casey Fitzgerald came flying down the middle of the ice after receiving a perfectly-placed pass from J.D. Dudek. But the senior’s shot was deflected by Hrenak, who used his pads to send the puck flying over the cage. Whether it be a near missed puck on a pass, or a shot on goal that went too high or wide, the Eagles managed to botch seemingly every scoring opportunity—a series of mishaps that, in head coach Jerry York’s eyes, directly affected his defense.
“I do believe our defensive struggles start with our offense,” he said. “We need to manage the puck better offensively and then our defense will follow.”
As the game wore on, it was clear that St. Cloud’s dominance was also attributed to its scrappy play style. It seemed like Eagles were being slammed into the glass left and right, while the intimidating Huskies remained standing. The physicality led to a handful of altercations. For instance, in he first period, David Cotton got right in the face of opposing St. Cloud forward Nick Poehling. Even Freshman Oliver Wahlstrom got in on the action with a scuffle that broke out around the St. Cloud goal. Wahlstrom grabbed senior forward Jacob Benson around the neck and started pulling off his helmet. The fight would be broken up and, at the end of the day, was all for naught.
BC, the USCHO preseason No. 12 team in the country, is winless through four games. With 2-3 Merrimack on tap, the Eagles will have a good chance to enter the win column next weekend. But York—who has seen it all in his 46-year head coaching career—isn’t making any assumptions.
“Every game is the same,” he said. “Every game has the same potential to be a loss.”
Perhaps that’s the kind of the wake-up call that the Eagles needed.
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor