After holding Connecticut scoreless in a thorough four-goal win on Thursday, Boston College men’s hockey returned to Kelley Rink to finish the job Friday night. It proved to be a more difficult task than the day prior, though, as the Huskies jumped out to an early lead. Yet the Eagles rattled off three-straight goals—all from different players—to enter the holiday break on a two-game winning streak, beating UConn, 3-2.
The Huskies (5-11-1, 2-9-1 Hockey East) entered the day trying to avoid their seventh-consecutive loss and started the first period with an aggressive forechecking strategy. The inspired effort was successful in maintaining possession of the puck, fraying the Eagles’ (6-6-2, 6-1-2) offense and holding them scoreless until the final seconds of the period.
BC found itself without quality scoring opportunities for the majority of the opening 10 minutes of play and eventually coughed up a goal despite playing with the one-man advantage. UConn’s Karl El-Mir surged up the ice after the Eagles turned the puck over while attempting to cycle. The forward finished off a short-handed opportunity as his shot bounced off the skate of Luke McInnis, sending the puck to the back of the net. It hoisted the Huskies to an early 1-0 lead, ending Joseph Woll’s two-game shutout streak.
In response, the Eagles killed a penalty on Julius Mattila with ease, fueling the rest of the period. Aapeli Räsänen began to set the tone for the BC defense. Outskating UConn’s Wyatt Newpower to force a turnover at the wall, Räsänen broke up the play while eating time at the backboard. The Eagles began disrupting the Huskies’ passing lanes while creating their own shots, and the game shifted to a battle between the BC offense and UConn goalie Tomas Vomacka.
After forcing a turnover, Eagles forward Logan Hutsko navigated through traffic to connect with Mattila, whose shot went just wide. Christopher Grando then found himself in open space and unleashed a hard and high shot that Vomacka lifted his blocker to deny. It seemed as if the Eagles were going to enter the first intermission scoreless when, on cue, a hooking penalty on UConn’s Max Kalter awarded the Eagles their second power play. David Cotton camped in front of the goal in the final seconds of the period, receiving a pass from Mattila with the defense still rotating. Cotton snuck a shot through the traffic to light the lamp, tying the score at one goal apiece.
The Eagles came out aggressive in the second period, and it was clear they had the momentum. Just under a minute and a half into the frame, Jack McBain took the puck into the UConn zone along the right wing and buried a wrist shot inside the left post. Having doubled the score, the Eagles appeared to gain offensive momentum, peppering the goal to no avail. Vomacka gloved a wrister by Hutsko following a clean breakaway, and a sprawling save of Cotton’s short-handed shot in the final minutes of the frame defined the period. Despite a strong offensive showing for the Eagles, Vomacka single-handedly kept it a one-goal game.
With an immediate tripping call on Ryan Wheeler, the Eagles began the third period on the power play. The Huskies responded with intense defensive pressure, killing the penalty to keep the score stagnant. BC found a way to navigate the duress soon affter the power play, however, as Oliver Wahlstrom netted a shot, despite attempting it from an awkward angle. The freshman forward scored what would become a crucial insurance goal in an improbable manner, finding the back of the net from a nearly impossible location.
The Huskies started to stage a comeback, with Eagles defenseman Michael Karow tripping Ruslan Iskhakov and putting UConn back on the power play with seven minutes to go. It proved costly, as UConn’s Max Kalter got his stick on Wyatt Newpower’s shot from the point and deflected it into the cage to halve the Eagles’ lead.
BC responded with building energy, and the Huskies found no success when the game returned to even strength. The Eagles battled to secure the win while UConn pressed for an equalizer, and Cotton was whistled for tripping, putting the Huskies back on the advantage. The Eagles killed the penalty with relative ease, though, allowing their defensive energy to carry into the final minutes of the game. In one of the most crucial plays of the night, Michael Kim dove to the ice to block a Husky centering pass near the crease. A clean block by Räsänen sealed the game, as he killed the clock in the corner to round out a scrappy win for the Eagles.
“We played a completely different team today than we did last night,” head coach Jerry York said following the game. “[UConn] came out much more engaged, physical, and aggressive. We really had to earn this one when we stepped out there tonight.”
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor