No. 18 Huskies Fall to No. 2 Eagles in Regular Season Capper

By Khalin Kapoor

CHESTNUT HILL, MA — In the final game of a 2020–21 season that presented its fair share of challenges, the No. 18 Northeastern Huskies (9–8–3) fell to the No 2. Boston College Eagles (16–4–1) by a score of 4–2.

After a rare loss the week before, BC clinched the top spot in Hockey East. The Huskies ended the regular season on a low note, but likely will finish in sixth place and earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

This game started at full tilt and didn’t slow down until the final horn. The first period was fast and physical, with both teams creating scoring opportunities, working well in their offensive zone, creating rushes, and making life difficult for the opposing goalie. BC forward Trevor Kuntar opened the scoring seven minutes in with a strike past Husky netminder Connor Murphy after some wicked stickhandling off an odd-man rush.

It was the only goal in the period despite 31 total shots, of which Northeastern had 17. Star BC netminder Spencer Knight put on a clinic in the first and turned them all away. It was clear that the Huskies modified their game plan for BC, as their first-period shot count was higher than the total number of shots from two of their past four games.

“We wanted to get a lot of shots,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said post-game. “We want to get some traffic in front of them and . . . spend more time in the offensive zone down below the dots.”

Both teams kept up the intensity in the second period. BC showed off their incredible penalty kill throughout the period, killing off three Northeastern power plays and scoring a short-handed goal courtesy of Matt Boldy.

The Huskies turned the puck over in their defensive zone often. Connor Murphy bailed out his defense with some amazing saves, including an incredible effort to stop a wraparound chance later in the second.

Down 2–0, Northeastern responded better than they had all season. Freshman Dylan Jackson put the Huskies on the board, showing off some impressive hand-eye coordination batting the puck out of the air and into the net. The goal proved that Spencer Knight wasn’t infallible.

“[It was huge] to get one in on Knight,” Madigan remarked. “There was some good momentum into the first two periods of playing on the offense zone.”

With just under five minutes remaining in the second, Northeastern captain Zach Solow received the puck from Aidan McDonough and rifled it five-hole past Knight. The fire was clear in Solow after the goal as he let out a celebratory yell while being mobbed by his teammates.

Northeastern had a number of missed scoring chances after tying the game, but nonetheless entered the third with momentum on their side.

“Yeah, I know, for two periods, I thought we played well,” Madigan said.

But BC showed everyone they were going to own the period less than two minutes in when winger Casey Carreau put the puck in off the rebound.

A one-goal deficit didn’t seem insurmountable at the time, but as the period went on it was painfully obvious that Northeastern just couldn’t keep up.

“You don’t wanna be playing from behind [against] this team,” Madigan remarked. “They’re quick on transition, and they’re very offensively gifted, and they’ve got the goaltender factor. They were really good.”

BC controlled the entire third, outshooting NU 22–7 and keeping the puck away from Northeastern attackers. Even when Northeastern managed a rush, BC quickly cleared the puck and set up their own rush. It was like watching a completely different game.

Matt Boldy increased BC’s lead with about seven minutes left in regulation, rocketing the puck past Murphy with a back-foot one-timer from the slot. His second goal of the game secured the Eagles’ victory.

“We showed good effort in the third period, but they were too much for us,” Madigan said ruefully. “We just couldn’t match that intensity in the third period.”

The game ended with little excitement. Northeastern pulled Murphy for an extra attacker but couldn’t muster any offensive pressure. Northeastern matched BC for 40 strong minutes, but the last 20 showed why BC is among the top teams in the nation and that Northeastern has some serious work to do heading into the playoffs.

“And in the [third] period, you know, they came at it, and we just didn’t match the same intensity,” Madigan said.

#1 Eagles Make Their Nest in Matthews

Story by Rae Deer and Milton Posner

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — It was hard to know whether Tuesday night’s Northeastern–Boston College men’s hockey matchup was an attempt to recreate the Beanpot — which begins in the first week of February in non-pandemic years — or merely a resumption of the schedule Northeastern would have played had a positive COVID test not robbed them of two weeks’ worth of games.

Either way, the Huskies hung tough with the newly minted top team in the nation for about half the game, but ultimately fell, 6–2. The fifth-place Huskies dropped to 6–4–2, while the second-place Eagles rose to 10–2–1.

Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan remarked on Monday that he wasn’t sure how much energy and stamina his team would have. After all, COVID testing protocol meant that players were rejoining the team one by one, with some only being cleared on Sunday. Nonetheless, the Huskies began the game with plenty of energy and aggression, with Zach Solow in particular proving impactful on breakouts. This energy gave them a chance when BC’s Patrick Giles went to the box for boarding, and Riley Hughes tipped in a Dylan Jackson rocket from the point.

“I thought at times we had good energy,” Madigan said. “I thought our guys who logged a lot of minutes  — like [Jordan] Harris and Solow — had good legs.”

But the 20 days between games did leave the Huskies’ conditioning short of ideal. Madigan confirmed that goaltender Connor Murphy and forward Grant Jozefek exited the game due to cramps and dehydration. Both are likely to play on Friday. In addition, defenseman Jayden Struble exited with a lower-body injury; his status for Friday is uncertain.

For the first 10 minutes, Northeastern’s energy made up for some discombobulated breakouts, which the Eagles’ size, strength, and speed made exceedingly tricky. But after an entry from the blue line ricocheted off Murphy’s pad, Nikita Nesterenko buried the rebound to even the score.

Less than a minute later, the Eagles caught the Huskies in the middle of a line change. A quick-hit stretch pass from Eamon Powell to Giles was all it took to post another tally.

Going into the second, the Huskies seemed to have solved the breakout issue. They skated with vigor, aggression, and precision, and were finally working in sync. The offense generated chances and put pressure on the Eagles’ blue line. These chances paid off when Mike Kesselring glided unimpeded to Spencer Knight’s doorstep to tie the game at two.

Kesselring, who was bumped off the first line earlier in the season for performance reasons, had notched his first goal of the year and justified Madigan restoring him to the top line. However, BC captain Marc McLaughlin could not let the score go unanswered, scoring his team-leading eighth goal of the year a mere 40 seconds later. 

“We worked hard to get it to 2–2 there in the second and then we gave a goal right back at them, we gave it to them within 40 seconds.” Madigan stated. “For me, that was a turning point and then they got the next goal.”

Marshall Warren’s goal seemed to be the point of no return, as the Husky offense seemed to lose its spark. For the rest of the period, even when Northeastern went on the man advantage, their best outcomes were a flurry of strikes in Knight’s general direction, only a few of which necessitated a save. BC, meanwhile, seemed entirely in control, as only a spectacular Murphy save prevented Matt Boldy from slotting home a breakaway.

The period also marked an escalation of the tensions that had pervaded the game until that point.

“It was a good, physical game,” BC head coach Jerry York remarked. “The refs reffed the type of game that both clubs like. There were no ticky-tack penalties.”

However, the small displays of aggression came to a head with the first of a few scuffles throughout the night. Knight made a save off of a Julian Kislin wrister, then Jozefek and BC’s Jack McBain kicked off with some pushing and shoving in front of the goal. It only amplified when Nesterenko inserted himself into the mix to defend his linemate, resulting in roughing penalties for the trio.

The aggression and skirmishes continued in the third, particularly when a frustrated Solow was whistled for an obvious hooking. Tempers were still running high as the teams departed the ice post-game, with Eagles players waving a still-barking Solow off the ice.

The third period featured two more BC goals, most notably the first collegiate goal for senior defender Michael Karow, who was playing his 120th BC game. The jubilant leaping and piling-on of his linemates, as well as the eruption from the bench, said everything.

Both goals were ceded by Curtis Frye, who took over for Murphy a few minutes into the third. It was Frye’s second appearance in three-and-a-half years with the Huskies; in both, he was inserted in the third period to halt a BC team that had Northeastern on the ropes. With the Huskies struggling to match BC’s aggression, passing precision, shot volume, and overall cohesion, the 6–2 lead was too much to overcome.

The Huskies next play Friday at 6 PM against Connecticut. WRBB will call that game, with coverage beginning a few minutes before puck drop.

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.

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.