From the opening puck drop, Boston College men’s hockey displayed the inconsistencies and lack of cohesion that has plagued the team throughout the opening of this season, ending Friday’s game in a 2-2 tie against the University of New Hampshire Wildcats.
The Eagles coupled fleeting glimpses of brilliance with long periods in which they exhibited a frustrating lack of rhythm. On offense, BC’s puck movement was erratic, with the team’s forwards struggling to string together multiple passes. In an effort to compensate for a lack of traditional offensive production, the Eagles opted for an aggressive forecheck, seeking to create turnovers and generate extra offensive possessions.
The strategy initially provided a spark, especially in the first period, when Zach Sanford opened the scoring with a goal at the 6:54 mark. Forcing a turnover when UNH tried to bring the puck out of their own zone, the Eagles quickly cycled the puck to Mike Matheson at the point. The captain rifled a shot that rebounded, allowing Sanford to slam it home moments later for his second goal of the season.
The tactic often backfired, however, with defensemen lingering in the offensive zone and attempting to force turnovers instead of setting up the defense in front of Thatcher Demko. UNH had numerous opportunities to get out on the break, bringing the puck into the Eagles’ zone without being contested. With around 11 minutes to go in the second, UNH’s Tyler Kelleher split the Eagle defenders and beat Demko at the far post to tie the score at one apiece.
As a result of the Eagles’ forechecking and inability to control the puck on offense for prolonged periods of time, Demko faced a flurry of shots in the second period. Although he made some quality stops, he also had trouble covering the puck, allowing too many rebounds to carom through the crease. He eventually paid the price with three minutes to go in the second. On a UNH break, Demko failed to snag a shot from the stick of Matt Willows. The ensuing rebound hit the skate of Adam Gilmour and bounced into the goal, giving UNH a 2-1 lead.
For the majority of the third period, the two teams each missed several opportunities. With Demko and the defense walling off the net, the Eagles hung within striking distance, waiting for an offensive spark. At long last, that came in the form of leading scorer Ryan Fitzgerald with five minutes to go in regulation. Leading a break off of a Wildcat turnover, Fitzgerald skated down the wing, stopped on a dime, and threaded a beautiful pass to a wide open Austin Cangelosi down the middle of the ice, who drilled the puck into the top corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
With the score tied at two, the mundane and slow pace of the game changed instantaneously. The two teams escalated their play, skating with speed and purpose and creating more quality scoring chances.
The Eagles’ best opportunity to take a lead came with about two minutes left, when Gilmour fed Alex Tuch in front of the net. The talented freshman failed to convert the chance, not putting enough on the shot to get it pass UNH’s goaltender. About 30 seconds later, UNH nearly stole the game, bouncing a shot off the crossbar after BC defenseman Scott Savage lost the puck in his skates.
The extra five minutes of overtime played out much like the end of regulation for the Eagles: fast but ultimately fruitless. Despite stringing together some better puck movement early in OT, the team failed to net a winner.
Late in the extra session, UNH kept the puck in the Eagles’ end, forcing Demko to maintain constant vigilance. Backed by physical defense from Matheson and timely face-off wins in their own zone, the Eagles beat back the UNH attacks, securing the draw.
Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff