Last year’s exhibition meeting between Boston College men’s ice hockey and the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds of the Canadian AUS ended in an 8-1 rout in favor of the Eagles, a strong start for BC in what became a surprisingly underwhelming season. The 2018-19 campaign was filled with highs and lows for the Eagles as they showed signs of promise, beating strong Hockey East opponents such as Providence in the regular season and playoffs, and later eliminating eventual national runner-up Massachusetts from the Hockey East Tournament—yet they lost some out-of-character games and finished with a losing record, missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.
On Saturday, the Varsity Reds visited the Heights once again for a preseason exhibition, after finishing last season season with a 25-5 record. The contest was certainly much closer this time around, but BC walked away with a 4-2 win.
Eagles coach Jerry York used the exhibition as an opportunity to dress five forward lines and four defensive pairings, and many returning and rookie players saw ice time in what was a solid showing for the Eagles. Notable among the rookies was freshman goaltender Spencer Knight, who was the 13th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and the first American goalie to be selected in the top 20 since 2010. Knight had 20 saves on 21 shots in two periods played.
The first period displayed a great deal of back-and-forth action, with both teams having decent chances. The Eagles took two penalties in the first half of the period and killed them both off, but an interference call on Michael Karow gave the Varsity Reds another power-play opportunity that Kris Bennett took advantage of, skillfully putting the puck between his legs and just over the shoulder of Knight. Shortly after, though, BC captain David Cotton, who led the Hockey East in scoring last season, tapped in a Connor Moore rebound from a Logan Hutsko shot to even the score.
But the Eagles weren’t ready for intermission yet, as sophomore Jack McBain took a pass in the slot from senior Luke McInnis and buried the puck with less than a minute to play in the period, putting BC up, 2-1, going into the first break.
The Eagles were the first to score in the second period, as freshman Matt Boldy—the 12th overall pick in the NHL Draft—scored on a one-timer from fellow freshman Alex Newhook—the 16th overall pick—to extend BC’s lead. Both teams had many scoring chances in the next few minutes, as the Eagles gave the Varsity Reds another power play, hit the post while short-handed, and eventually killed the penalty. BC freshman Mike Hardman gave the Eagles an even larger lead with six minutes left in the second, sniping a shot past the New Brunswick goalie after junior Aapeli Räsänen won the face off directly.
York brought in freshman goaltender Jack Moffatt for the third period, but he didn’t see many shots before the Varsity Reds went on the power play again. Moffatt made some impressive stops, but New Brunswick eventually cut BC’s lead as Oliver LeBlanc blasted a shot in from the point.
The rest of the game was more back-and-forth action, and New Brunswick attempted to close its deficit by pulling goaltender Rylan Parenteau (17 saves) with just under two minutes left. They almost succeeded, putting several shots on Moffatt, but he remained solid, and sophomore Patrick Giles beat out an icing infraction near the end to let the clock run out.
The Varsity Reds actually outshot the Eagles on the game, 27-19, but solid goaltending from Knight and Moffatt, as well as quality offense, ensured a decisive exhibition win to start the season.
BC enters the 2019-20 season at No. 7 in the national preseason rankings, also being dubbed the favorite to finish first in Hockey East in the coaches preseason poll. These projections, combined with the returning talent and highly touted set of rookies that joined the team this year, certainly set the bar high for BC. It is worth noting, though, that the Eagles were also the favorites to win the Hockey East in last season’s preseason coaches poll, yet they ended the season with an underwhelming seventh place finish.
Jerry York and the Eagles begin the pursuit of an NCAA Tournament berth at home next Friday against Wisconsin—a tough, familiar, non-conference foe. Time will tell if BC can maximize its potential, but based on Saturday’s showing against New Brunswick, Eagles fans have a lot of reasons to be excited.
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor