Boston College men’s hockey has experienced a disappointing year thus far. About two weeks ago, it appeared that the Eagles had potentially righted the ship by defeating Harvard, snapping its losing streaks in both the Beanpot and in non-conference play. Unfortunately for BC, it hasn’t been able to build off that success. The Eagles have now lost their last four games, the most recent being a 4-2 defeat to No. 3 Massachusetts on Saturday.
While BC (10-16-3, 9-7-3 Hockey East) has been playing better hockey as of late, it has not shown in its record as the team only boasts 10 wins on the year. Playing against the Minutemen (23-6-0, 15-4-0), the Eagles played quite well in the first period, but fell behind in the second, much like the first game in the weekend series. Here are some takeaways from Saturday night’s contest:
1) Hot Start
The Eagles kicked off the scoring with a conversion by junior Graham McPhee. Despite being outshot, 7-5, in the opening period, BC held the Minutemen scoreless and looked to be in a strong position to hold its lead and stymy UMass’s attack. Part of the reason the Eagles jumped out in front resulted from the fact that the Minutemen didn’t capitalize on several prime opportunities in front of the net and even saw one of their power plays killed by BC. Nevertheless, it was a great start for the Eagles, one that paralleled the first period from Friday’s game, in which BC went into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.
2) Second-Period Struggles
It was improbable that the Eagles could shut down UMass’s potent offensive attack the entire night, but BC all but collapsed in the second period. It all started with a penalty on Jack McBain with 16 seconds left in the first frame. With that infraction, the Minutemen started the second stanza with a one-man advantage. On the power play, UMass quickly found the back of the net via a John Leonard goal. The Eagles’ woes only continued with Oliver Wahlstrom being called for a penalty, and UMass applied more pressure. Olivier Chau put the Minutemen up by one, and another goal by Jacob Pritchard further extended the UMass lead. Graham McPhee did tally his second goal to cut into the deficit, but by this point, the damage was done.
3) Graham McPhee
McPhee entered this contest with only one goal on the season, but by the end of the game, he tripled that mark by scoring two. His play kept the Eagles in the game, as he scored the first goal of the night, and his second made it a one-score game after BC looked to be out of it following three unanswered goals by UMass. McPhee had struggled earlier in the season, and head coach Jerry York even benched the junior for a game. But as of late, he has been playing much better, and that was on full display Saturday night, as the upperclassman was one of the bright spots for BC in an otherwise tough loss.
4) Capitalizing on the Power Play
This game featured a number of power plays for each team, but UMass did a much better job of scoring on these opportunities, which ultimately propelled it to victory. The Minutemen came in with 30.1 percent conversion rate on the one-man advantage, a mark that tops the Hockey East. Against the Eagles, UMass struck on 50 percent of its power plays, both of which came within the span of around one minute. On the other hand, BC struggled to make the most of its special teams chances, only scoring on just one of its five power plays. A prime opportunity to tie the game was wasted in third period when two UMass penalties overlapped, giving BC a 5-on-3 for around 20 seconds. But, the Eagles lost a face off and were unable to score.
5) Freshmen Mistakes
While the freshmen shined for the Eagles during the team’s win in the first round of the Beanpot, they could not replicate that performance in the championship, and they continued to struggle against UMass. This time, it was their mistakes that killed the team. McBain committed two penalties in the early going, the latter of which led to the Minutemen’s first goal. Wahlstrom was called for boarding soon after that goal, and UMass once again took advantage. This isn’t to say that other Eagles did not register penalties—they did—but these mistakes were particularly costly as it put BC in a hole that it could not climb out of.
One area of weakness for the Eagles has been getting enough shots on goal. On the season, opponents have outshot BC by an average of 30 to 29.1. This issue has become even more pronounced against the Hockey East titans, and the game against the Minutemen was no exception. UMass outshot the Eagles, 31-25. BC especially struggled to get shots on goal when it wasn’t on the power play. For most of the game, the Minutemen held the puck and applied consistent pressure on Joseph Woll, whereas the Eagles were unable to generate the same pressure on UMass goaltender Matt Murray.
BC has struggled to seal the deal on a number of occasions, whether it was Friday night’s collapse against the Minutemen or failing to close the gap against Northeastern. BC was once again unable to finish against the Minutemen on Saturday. Despite nearly falling out of the contest, the Eagles made it a one-goal game and were knocking on the door for the rest of the way. But BC never broke through, and the UMass defense held firm in the third period. Woll took a seat, so BC could play a 6-on-5, but this did not yield the much-needed score, and it instead resulted in an empty-netter for UMass.
Saturday night’s game was defined by the sheer physicality displayed by both teams. The Eagles were especially feisty on the ice after their heartbreaking loss to the Minutemen the previous night. By the end of the contest, both teams combined for 13 penalties. While the referees were fairly lenient in the first frame, they called more and more infractions as the contest wore on. The second period alone saw both teams combine for eight penalties. UMass and BC players were consistently laying massive hits on each other and getting into scrums after the whistle.
Featured Image by Kayla Brandt / For The Heights