Boston University dominated men's hockey, 3-1, Monday night in the first round of the 65th annual Beanpot Tournament, sending the Eags to next Monday’s consolation game against Northeastern.
Coming into the tournament, BC (18-10-2) had been undefeated against BU in the Beanpot for a decade, going 6-0 while facing Comm. Ave. rivals in the tournament. That all came to a painful end with the Terriers’ rout of the Eagles just weeks after an equally agonizing Battle of Comm. Ave. series, where BU held BC to a single goal between both games to sweep the series by a composite score of 5-1.
What went wrong at TD Garden Monday night? At what point did BC lay down and submit to the Terriers?
Why can’t BC beat BU this season?
The game started off sluggish for the Eagles as they struggled to find their groove in front of over 15,000 fans from both ends of the B line. BU’s Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson scored the game’s first goal four minutes into the first period, setting the tone early for the Terriers. Although the Eagles managed to stave off the rest of BU’s attempts in the first, BC failed to tally a single shot in the period until there were two minutes remaining, heading into the locker room with just two shots after 20 minutes of play.
BU took advantage of one of BC’s six total penalties to extend its lead to 2-0 early in the second. Soon after, however, BC reclaimed the momentum of the game with a shot by Austin Cangelosi off a flawless assist from fellow senior Matty Gaudreau to make it a one-goal game at 2-1.
The second period rode the wave of energy Cangelosi created for the Eagles as the team compensated for its shooting deficit in the first, eventually coming even with their opponents. But the shot attempts meant nothing without an accompanying score change that never came. Although the middle of the game let fans get a glimpse of the smooth, unified BC team that we all know and love (and have come to miss in matchups against BU), the players failed to capitalize on their opportunities and light the lamp.
“We’ve got to find a way to score goals against BU,” said head coach Jerry York. “I know they’ve got a good goaltender. We’ve got to be able to create more offense.” While BU goalie Jake Oettinger is certainly one of the team’s strongest contributors, he’s not perfect—he’s been scored on just as much as BC’s freshman standout goaltender Joe Woll. The Eagles can’t afford to get discouraged in the face of a good goalie; when you’re in a conference as good as the Hockey East, good goaltenders are pretty much the norm. It’s naive to blame the loss Monday night on a good BU defense. What really caused it was a lackluster BC attack that was nowhere near its full potential.
The rivals entered the third period with hope for a tight race for the championship game, but a mid-period short-handed goal by BU’s Clayton Keller through Woll’s pads put a full stop to the Eagles’ momentum. Chants of “Why so quiet?” coming from the Boston University student section rang too true, as maroon-and-gold clad fans lost their spirit and even began filing out of the venue. The Terriers’ final two-goal lead subdued both BC’s players on the ice and presence in the stands, essentially punching their ticket to the championship game against Harvard next Monday with nine minutes still remaining to play.
The 3-1 score held until the final buzzer as the Terriers limited BC to a measly five shots on the period and benefitted from four BC penalties (two from Matty Gaudreau alone) in the final 20. The late spike in penalties—especially for frivolous and unprofessional infringements like holding the stick and tripping—indicates a heightened sense of urgency for the Eagles—which can be good, if it results in goals scored rather than the minutes in the penalty box that the maroon and gold filled.
So, what now? How does the beleaguered Boston College team bounce back from yet another beating at the hands of their most bitter enemies? As the Eagles prepare to face Merrimack at home on Friday and fight for third place against Northeastern in the Beanpot consolation game next Monday, they have a few things to work on if they want to get back on the winners’ wagon.
First and foremost, the Eagles need to work on putting the puck in the net. It’s painfully simple—you can’t win without scoring goals. Jerry York is starting to get frustrated with his team’s trend of posting high shot counts but low scores—and with good reason. In general, BC plays a good game with respectable puck movement and its lines usually do the job right up until the moment the puck should be sliding past the goaltender. If York’s team can work on the crucial skill of finishing a drive, it will become a lot easier for the Eagles to come out on top.
The power play continues to haunt the Eagles. For most teams, a power play is a gift that exponentially increases the chance of scoring a goal, but for the Eagles, it just looks like two minutes of slightly more frantic play that usually goes by with nothing to show for it at the end. The team needs a game plan for power play that they can actually execute in less than two minutes, one that puts them at a reasonable pace and gives them good looks to the goal. But again, it means nothing if they can’t find the net.
The Eagles are still ranked 7th in the nation, but the first round of the Beanpot proved they can’t afford to rest on their laurels. There’s still a lot of work to be done if their sights are set on post-season success, and there isn’t much time to lose.