New Lines Can't Take Down Eichel, Terriers

The Battle of Comm. Ave. The Green Line Rivalry. The Jack Eichel – Noah Hanifin Sweepstakes.

It doesn’t matter what you call last night’s 5-3 victory for Boston University (5-1-0) over Boston College (4-4-0), as long as you understand the uniqueness of college hockey’s answer to college football’s Alabama vs. LSU.

Under the spotlight of being nationally televised, Coach York and the Eagles were looking to stay above .500 while Coach Quinn and the Terriers were looking to keep the momentum of a 4-1-0 start to the season.

The tension was palpable in Conte on a night where a record-setting student attendance and a plethora of NHL scouts had packed the building to its capacity.

All eyes were on BU freshman Jack Eichel, a consensus top three pick in this year’s upcoming NHL draft. BC’s Noah Hanifin, however, has been equally impressive in his freshman season. It’s safe to say that Eichel (1 goal, +3 rating) got the best of Hanifin (-4 rating) in their first meeting of what should be a series of many battles between the two for years to come.

The game was tied at zero after one period. Aside from a few minor skirmishes (surely they were only discussing their favorite sandwiches from Eagles’ Deli), the two teams were not able to seize any sort of momentum.

BC’s powerplay looked particularly ineffective – still – and the defense looked a bit shaky. Without Steve Santini, the defensive corps of the Eagles has taken a hefty step back. Mike Matheson and Noah Hanifin found themselves playing a lot of hard minutes with a third pairing of Travis Jeke and Teddy Doherty.

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Photo by Kristen Morse/ Gavel Media.

The scoreboard did not stay vacant for long, though. Chris Calnan lit the lamp for the Eagles two minutes into the second period, before Evan Rodrigues answered for BU at 12:17. The game was stuck in another perpetual tie until Ryan Fitzgerald unleashed a wicked wrister that beat Terrier goalie Matt O’Connor to give BC a 2-1 lead on the penalty kill heading into the third frame.

The final period was disastrous. BU was able to score three unanswered goals. Thatcher Demko, for all his greatness, seems to have a nagging penchant for making hugely spectacular saves but then letting in goals softer than what Charmin Ultra claims to offer.

Both Quinn and York were well aware of the puck luck, or lack thereof, that affected the outcome of the game.

“None of the goals were pretty,” Quinn admitted. “But that’s how they’re going to be scored in this series (with BC). I’ve got an awful lot of respect for their program. We got rewarded for our hard work. Both teams are very talented.”

Coach York expressed a similar sentiment in his press conference.

“I thought it was an excellent college hockey game. Both goaltenders made some outstanding saves,” York opined. “The winning goal... hits off Thatcher’s stick and Matheson’s skate. Just didn’t have any puck luck tonight.”

The biggest headline not concerning the Eichel-Hanifin experience was the shaking up of BC’s forward lines. The two more surprising lineup developments were the breaking up of the sophomore duo – Ryan Fitzgerald and Austin Cangelosi – and the promotion of Brendan Silk.

Fitzgerald and Cangelosi have skated together since the beginning of their freshman year, but Coach York decided to split the two up. Fitzgerald centered the first line, flanked by Zach Sanford and Alex Tuch.

“I thought the shorty gave us great momentum,” York said about Ryan’s shorthanded goal in the second period. “Fitzgerald has really impressed me with the way he’s improved.”

With two goals on the night, Fitzgerald seems to be settling comfortably into the number one center role. He plays sound defense, wins his fair share of faceoffs, and has an absolute rocket of a shot. While he still has plenty of room to grow, he has the potential to become a 30-goal scorer for BC.

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Photo by Kristen Morse/ Gavel Media.

Cangelosi, meanwhile, took the faceoffs on a line featuring Quinn Smith and Brendan Silk. Silk, 6’3”, not known for his offensive  production, appears to have been put on the line with Smith, 5’8”, and Cangelosi, 5’7”, to establish a physical presence on an otherwise diminutive line.

The new lines couldn’t cut it for York and the Eagles, as they look forward to their Tuesday night game against Harvard.

“It’s almost a pro-schedule we have, with traveling to Denver and Connecticut and then playing here at home tonight and then Tuesday against Harvard,” York noted in regard to what’s been a grueling schedule so far. “But it’s okay. We like to play hockey.”

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