After looking sharp in wins over Wisconsin and Colgate to start the season, the sixth-ranked Boston College men’s hockey team went on what will probably be their toughest road trip of the year when they clashed with the top-ranked Denver Pioneers.
The two-game series got off to a poor start on Friday night when the Eagles were completely stifled offensively in a 3-0 defeat. Efforts for revenge fell flat the following evening, but on the bright side BC did look much more lively and sound offensively in the 6-4 loss.
The first game of the series featured a pair of freshman goaltenders, as Spencer Knight protected BC’s side of the ice and Mangus Chrona donned the pads for Denver.
Both newcomers had impressive nights in goal, but Chrona got the last laugh by turning away all 23 shots he faced. Although Denver put three goals past the Eagles, Knight certainly deserved little blame, as he stopped all but one of the 28 shots that came his way.
Knight was sensational in the early stages of the game, surviving a barrage of shots on goal from Denver in the first period before registering an absurd 14 saves in the second frame. Knight and the Eagles would not escape entirely unscathed, however, as Denver cleaned up a rebound on an early second-period power play to make it 1-0.
Meanwhile, BC’s offense came agonizingly close to scoring on several different occasions. David Cotton rattled the left post with a slapshot near the end of the first period, and Alex Newhook did the same to the right post early in the second.
Denver’s power play goal that came shortly after put a cruel dent in BC’s offensive momentum, but what really killed the Eagles in this one was their lack of discipline. BC amassed 23 minutes of penalty time, 17 of which came from Cotton and Luke McInnis in the second period alone, compared to merely six for Denver.
BC’s offense kicked back into gear in the final period with some fantastic chances early on. Graham McPhee got loose in front of goal, but his attempt to wrap the puck around Chrona with a backhanded shot was denied by an outstretched pad. Then, almost halfway through the period, Zack Walker put Mike Merulla through for a one-on-one chance, but he fired a shot straight into Chrona.
Still down 1-0 and with time running out, the Eagles entered desperation mode and pulled Knight with a little over a minute to play. The last-ditch effort backfired immediately, though, as Denver scored two easy open net goals to close off BC for a 3-0 victory.
The Eagles managed to reverse their woes in front of net on Saturday night right away, when freshman Alex Newhook followed up a Marshall Warren effort to score his first collegiate goal seven minutes in. The Pioneers struck back with two quick goals on Knight, who could not replicate his heroics from the prior evening. Aapeli Räsänen managed to knot up the score at two goals apiece before the end of the first, firing home a rebound on a powerplay.
The long-awaited offensive outburst was quickly extinguished in the second period. Denver completely tore apart BC’s defense in the first five minutes with three goals. Now down 5-2, the Eagles struggled to regain their composure over the remainder of the period and came up empty-handed on a 5-on-3 powerplay before intermission.
Coach Jerry York woke up his talented BC attack going into the final period, and a comeback was quickly on, as Mike Hardman cleaned up the scraps of a bruising solo run by Jack McBain to score his first career goal.
With only five minutes to play, Drew Helleson brought the Eagles within one on a knuckling long-range strike, but a power play chance to complete the comeback fell short just a minute later. Denver then capitalized on its own man advantage, delivering a dagger to end the series with a 6-4 win.
Boston College’s out-of-conference woes continued in the two losses at Denver, but Eagles fans should not be too discouraged by their team’s performance. Despite what the score reads, BC played the top team in the country tight all weekend, and both games remained competitive until the final whistle.
The Eagles struggled once again with penalties and power plays, but there is more than enough hockey left to be played for York to correct these issues. BC showed it can hang with the nation’s elite even on the road, a promising sign for the rest of the season. For now, the Eagles will be focused on next Friday night, when they open up Hockey East play at home against Providence.
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