2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: Boston College Eagles

Last season: 24-8-2 (17–6–1, first in Hockey East)

Head coach: Jerry York (27th season)

Preseason poll projected finish: First

Departures: D Ben Finkelstein, D Connor Moore, F David Cotton, F Julius Mattila, F Aapeli Räsänen, F Graham McPhee, F Ron Greco, D Luke McInnis, D Jesper Mattila, F Zach Walker, F Mike Merrulla, G Ryan Edquist

Additions: D Stephen Davis, D Tim Lovell, D Eamon Powell, D Jack Agnew, F Nikita Nesterenko, F Gentry Shamburger, F Trevor Kuntar, F Danny Weight, F Harrison Roy, F Colby Ambrosio, G Henry Wilder

By Mike Puzzanghera

Jerry York’s Eagles really flipped things around after a string of disappointing seasons.

Last year, they were one of the top teams in the country. BC ended last year ranked fourth nationally, easily winning the Hockey East regular season title.

This year, they received eight of 11 first place votes in the Hockey East preseason poll. Spencer Knight is one of the best goaltenders in the country — the Panthers prospect was a Richter Award finalist and finished with a .931 save percentage as a freshman. And wasn’t even the Eagles’ only first-year star last year. 

Alex Newhook led the team with 19 goals and 23 assists and was named NCAA Rookie of the Year. A first-round pick of the Avalanche, Newhook led all freshmen in goals and was third in the country in plus/minus (+28).

Matt Boldy finished the year strong, ending with nine goals and 17 assists. Nineteen of his 26 points came in 24 games of Hockey East play.

BC seemed poised to make a deep run in the Hockey East and NCAA Tournaments. After a run of underwhelming seasons, the loss of a realistic shot at a national title couldn’t have been easy to swallow. Luckily for the Eagles, a good chunk of that core returns this year, making them a clear top-five team in the country.

They lose a few excellent players — David Cotton and Julius Mattila are tough for any team to replace, and Ben Finkelstein was a solid defenseman throughout his time in Hockey East. Aapeli Räsänen chose to forego his senior season, opting to go pro in his home country of Finland, which hurts the forward group even more. But they do bring in three draftees from their freshman class. Trevor Kuntar went 89th to the Bruins, and Eamon Powell and Colby Ambrosio both went in the fourth round, at 116 and 118 respectively.

Kuntar, a six-foot left-shot forward, logged 28 goals and 23 points for Youngstown in the USHL last year. He changed his commitment from Harvard after their hockey season was cancelled due to COVID-19, giving the Eagles a huge boost to their recruiting class and to their top lines. Ambrosio is a bit small — 5’9”, 165 lbs — but he managed 26 goals and 24 assists for Tri-City in the USHL.

Powell has valuable Team USA U-18 experience, making him a huge get for the Eagles’ blue line. They’ll look to him to help fill the hole Finkelstein leaves on defense and to bolster the corps playing in front of Knight.

Bottom Line: The Eagles have one of the top goaltenders in the country, young prolific scorers who are still developing, and another solid recruiting class. Newhook is a legitimate star and gives the Eagles a great top-line scoring threat. They’re the clear preseason favorite to win Hockey East, and they look ready to make a fierce run at a national title.

Men’s Hockey Suffers Worst Loss in 27 Years

By Christian Skroce

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It was one of the worst performances in recent memory.

After a hard-fought Thursday game between the Northeastern Huskies and the Boston College Eagles ended in a 3–2 BC victory, tonight’s matchup saw the Eagles demolish the Huskies 10–1, the worst margin of loss for Northeastern since a nine-goal loss to Maine . . . on December 5, 1992.

Northeastern grabbed some early momentum, beginning the contest with two early power plays. But despite some nice movement and a few chances, the momentum faded and the Huskies had nothing to show for the man advantages.

Grant McPhee got the scoring going for Boston College after finishing off a centering feed from teammate Marc McLaughlin. When Husky goalie Craig Pantano lost his stick behind the net, his defense momentarily fell asleep, leaving McPhee wide open in front of the net.

BC had a clear strategy to begin the game, as almost every offensive possession started with a centering feed from behind the Northeastern net. Despite the offensive onslaught, the Huskies found themselves down by only one heading into the first break.

And then BC decided to stop messing around.

Northeastern’s defensive luck ran out quickly in the second frame, as BC doubled their lead just one minute into the period off a breakaway goal by Alex Newhook. The NU defense seemingly lost the freshman first-round pick, who found himself one-on-one with Pantano off of a great pass from teammate David Cotton.

The defensive lapses continued for Northeastern as Marc McLaughlin made the score 3–0 after a poor clearance by Pantano, who found himself on the bench after letting in a fourth goal, this one from long range by Logan Hutsko.

But freshman goaltender Connor Murphy fared no better than Pantano. The Eagles didn’t let up in the second period, as their first-round forward Matt Boldy got on the scoresheet with a power play goal that looked eerily similar to Hutsko’s.

The Huskies could do nothing to stop the bleeding, as forwards Mike Hardman and Marc McLaughlin scored a goal each to give the Eagles six goals in the period and a 7–0 lead.

Northeastern finally got something going at the end of the period, as forward Matt Thomson finished off a fantastic breakaway effort to score his first career goal and foil BC’s shutout bid. The goal was a small consolation prize in the end, though.

Boston College poured more salt in the Huskies’ wounds in the third period, as Boldy, defensemen Ben Finkelstein, and forward Aapeli Räsänen each added a goal in the final frame to put BC into double digits. Northeastern could only watch with dropped jaws as the final seconds ticked down and BC celebrated their best performance of the season.

The Huskies showed a total lack of composure, with nearly every player failing to make a positive impact. While Northeastern’s defensive miscues did them no favors, Boston College’s dominant performance began on their own defensive end, as the Eagles barely allowed Northeastern forwards to get anywhere near goalie Spencer Knight. The physical BC defensemen were in full force, and the Huskies had minimal offensive zone presence.

“I don’t know what to say. They were the better team tonight,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “They sensed blood in the water and those kids on BC are sharks. They just kept coming as soon as they saw us struggling. I could talk a lot about a lot of things, but bottom line is they beat us up.”

When asked about where Northeastern goes from here, Madigan took a more positive tone, noting, “Well, we’re gonna reset. We’re gonna reset and get back to work tomorrow in preparation for the rest of the way.”

The absolute drubbing by Boston College gives the Eagles a weekend sweep and puts Northeastern in a precarious position. With several Hockey East games still to be played this weekend, the Huskies find themselves in seventh place after Providence’s helpful loss to Merrimack.

Northeastern will end their season with two crucial series against Vermont and Boston University. While most of the Hockey East seeds remain up in the air, the weekend performance certainly does not help the Huskies’ outlook. Northeastern probably needs to win all four remaining games to have a chance at a home first-round playoff series. Anything less than eight points during their final two weekends will likely see Northeastern traveling for the first round, while completely missing the tournament remains a possibility.

Hockey East Preview: Boston College Eagles

Last Season: 14–22–3 (10–11–3 in HE, seventh place); lost in HE finals

Head Coach: Jerry Yorke (26th season)

Coaches’ Poll Projected Finish: First

Losses

  • G Joseph Woll
  • D Michael Kim
  • F Christopher Brown
  • F JD Dudek
  • F Oliver Wahlstrom

Additions

  • G Spencer Knight
  • F Matt Boldy
  • F Alex Newhook
  • F Mike Hardman
  • D Mitch Andres
  • D Marshall Warren
  • D Drew Helleson

By Christian Skroce

The last few years of college hockey have not been kind to Jerry Yorke’s Eagles, and 2018–19 was yet another disappointing year. While the team ended its historic non-conference losing streak, Boston College’s woes continued into their conference schedule as the team finished seventh in Hockey East, its worst regular season finish since 2008. The team also failed to win the Beanpot, losing to Northeastern in the final.

Despite the poor regular season, the Eagles picked up the pace in the Hockey East Tournament by eliminating Providence and UMass Amherst before ultimately falling to Northeastern in the title game. Once again, Jerry Yorke and BC failed to come away with any hardware. In fact, even with the waves of talent coming through the Conte Forum over the past decade, Boston College has failed to win the Hockey East Tournament or a national championship since 2012.

After an encouraging Hockey East Tournament run, BC came to terms with several offseason losses. Two senior captains — Michael Kim and Christopher Brown — graduated, while the team’s other captain, forward Casey Fitzgerald, signed an entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres. The offense took yet another hit when freshman forward Oliver Wahlstrom — the 11th pick in the 2018 NHL Draft — ended his college career and signed with the New York Islanders. The final loss came on the back end, as junior goalkeeper Joseph Woll decided to forgo his senior season and sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The talented goalie was a mainstay for the Eagles these last few years, posting an impressive 45–8 record with a 2.51 goals against average.

Despite the lackluster recent results and losses for BC, hope has arrived this season. The Eagles’ incoming freshmen class should terrify every team in the country. Three commits were chosen in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft, a feat practically unheard of in college hockey.

Headlining the monumental freshmen class is forward Matthew Boldy, the 12th pick. Boldy is an intelligent playmaker whose stick skills will immediately bolster BC’s already impressive attack. Taken just four picks after Boldy was fellow freshman Alex Newhook, who averaged a remarkable 1.9 points per game in the BCHL last season. The two first-round picks will join upperclassmen David Cotton on the front lines; Cotton is a talented skater returning for his senior year after a fantastic 23-goal junior campaign.

Spencer Knight, the 13th pick and BC’s replacement for goalie Joseph Woll, is the first goalie taken in the first round since Jack Campbell in 2010. At 6’3” and 198 pounds, Knight fills the entire goal and — as his 2.36 GAA in 33 games for the US Under 18 team proves — is one of the best goalie prospects in years. While the transition into Hockey East can be difficult for young goalies, hockey fans should remember that former Northeastern goalie Cayden Primeau made it look easy for two years. Knight might be even better.

Bottom Line: This BC team won’t be short of talent, especially in their offensive unit. The combination of young superstars Boldy and Newhook and the veteran talent of Cotton and Logan Hutsko should prove deadly. Senior defenseman Ben Finkelstein and junior Michael Karrow lead a solid Eagles defense backed by Spencer Knight between the pipes. This team is young, but its star potential should scare every team in the country. With a difficult out-of-conference slate, the young Eagles will be battle-tested and well-prepared for a deep Hockey East Tournament run and a return to the NCAA Tournament.