After falling to a Colorado College squad looking to find its first win on Friday night, the Boston College Eagles bounced back to earn a decisive victory over the nationally ranked University of Denver on Saturday to take one of two in the weekend homestand.
The Eagles headed into their contest with the Colorado College Tigers ranked 10th in the nation on Friday, October 22. BC looked to take down a relatively young CC team who came into the weekend with just three losses and two ties, hoping to regain momentum after an upset loss to Bentley University the week before.
Nevertheless, the game started out rocky for the Eagles. Just five minutes into the first period, graduate student Sam Stenschein incurred a major and a misconduct penalty for head-contact, landing him 15 whole minutes in the penalty box. Three minutes later a scrum in front of the net led to a minor penalty for CC’s Connor Mayer for goalkeeper interference, but not without freshmen Aidan Hreschuk also incurring another major and and a misconduct for cross-checking and giving BC another man in the box.
With 9:34 left in the first—Mayer out of the box for CC and junior forward Liam Izyk out in place of Sternschein—the Tigers grabbed the first goal of the night on the five-on-four power play, with Jordan Biro hammering home a loose puck from the slot. The Eagles tried to answer with a number of odd-man rushes and strong zone entry, but CC’s lock-down man-on-man defense and physical play kept the Eagles wide and unable to convert.
At 4:21 in the second period, senior Jack McBain cost the Eagles another two minutes in the box after cross-checking a Tiger in front of the CC net. Thankfully, grad student goalie Eric Dop was able to stave off an onslaught of shots from the blue line, getting lucky with two consecutive pucks finding the crossbar before Dop could cover the puck and stop the Eagles’ scramble.
On the other end of the ice, the Eagles were relentless with their own shooting, but too many blocked shots from the blue line eventually resulted in a breakaway goal for CC’s Logan Will at 9:13. The Eagles were quick to answer, with sophomore Nikita Nesterenko burying a McBain rebound just over a minute later. BC proceeded to up the offensive pressure, but continued to get out-muscled by the Tigers who showed considerable poise in their defensive end. Despite that, Nesterenko earned his second of the night and tied the game when he flipped a loose puck up and over the shoulder of CC’s goaltender Dominic Basse at 16:14.
The Eagles continued to work, and it paid off just 10 seconds into the third period when sophomore Colby Ambrosio stole the puck off a CC defender’s stick in the neutral zone and went far side just over the left pad of Basse. The Tigers’ Tyler Coffey responded with a laser of a shot to beat Dop high to tie the game for a second time.
Despite a number of quality attempts to regain the lead, BC wouldn’t score again for the duration of the game, with Basse making some impressive saves from between the pipes for the Tigers. The Tigers would make a handful of attempts of their own, including a Matthew Gleason breakaway, which junior Marshall Warren would stop by tying up Gleason and bringing him down to result in a CC penalty shot. Gleason would go wide and deke to the backhand to put the puck past an aggressive Dop, giving the Tigers the lead. BC kept up the offensive efforts, and it was all CC could do to ice the puck and keep the Eagles wide of the net.
The Eagles pulled Dop to gain the sixth man at 18:21 and seemed to be in good form with the man advantage, maintaining control and finding opportunities for cross-ice passes again and again. BC couldn’t convert, however, and a cleared puck from CC’s Jackson Jutting found its way into the empty BC net for one last goal. The final score would be 5-3 in favor of the Tigers, despite the Eagles’ relentless offensive efforts, outshooting their opponents 43-20.
The outcome would be much different for the Eagles the following night, as they took on No. 8 Denver, also coming off of a loss to Providence College the night before. Both teams were in good form as they demonstrated what two top-10 teams should look like.
BC’s fast paced and creative offense couldn’t seem to maneuver its way around DU’s physical defense. On the other end of the ice, the Eagles managed the Pioneers well, keeping them at the perimeter while Dop turned away any efforts that did make their way through to the net. A pair of penalties was called early in the first period; one for Eagles senior Patrick Giles for hooking at just 1:53 as he battled for a loose puck in the defensive end zone corner, the other for Denver’s Bobby Brink who incurred a minor for boarding at 5:49. Neither team could capitalize on the power play, though, and the first period ended in a 0-0 stalemate.
BC broke the gridlock just four minutes into the second, when Ambrosio and senior captain Marc McLaughlin worked the puck up to junior defenseman Drew Helleson, who flung a saucer pass into net-front traffic that glanced off of and over the shoulder of Denver goaltender Matt Davis.
Denver remained steadfast, though, in shutting down the Eagles’ goal-scoring attempts, but tireless offensive effort from BC paid off as Marc McLaughlin poked the puck off of a Denver defenseman and carried the puck the length of the ice with Ambrosio and fellow sophomore Trevor Kuntar close behind him. The three forwards out-worked all five Denver skaters to generate three consecutive shots before a pass from Ambrosio found Kuntar in the slot for the one-time slap shot at 16:43. The period would end with a 2-0 BC lead.
Denver would come out of the gates looking to close the gap in the third. The Pioneers’ Ryan Barrow would half the gap at just 1:49 in when a shot from the slot deflected off of traffic and fluttered over the shoulder of a screened Dop, the Eagles’ skaters scrambling back into defensive position to try and turn away the odd-man rush.
The two would continue to go back and forth for another 12 minutes, neither able to catch the other off guard. That is until the Pioneers, transitioning up ice, fumbled the puck at their own blue line. The puck found Helleson with an open shooting lane to the DU net where McBain was waiting to knock the puck out of the air and slam it past a discombobulated Davis, who was still looking in front of himself for the puck.
With the final minutes of the game waning, Denver pulled Davis for the man advantage. This ultimately backfired, with Marshall Warren putting the icing on the cake, quite literally, as he banked the puck off the glass while trying to clear it out of BC’s defensive end, somehow finding the empty net on the other side of the ice.
Not to be outdone by his teammates, Nikita Nesterenko would finally get his third of the weekend, having a go with Davis back in net. Nesterenko’s shot would glance nearly straight up in the air off of the Pioneer net minder’s shoulder, and catch a lucky bounce that would trickle across the goal line for BC’s fifth and final goal of the game.
The game would end 5-1 in favor of BC for a well-deserved win, bringing them back to .500 on the season in six games. The Eagles take on Merrimack in a two-game series this weekend, away at North Andover on Friday at 7 p.m. and home in Conte Forum Saturday at 4 p.m.
Be sure to follow @BCGavelSports for all the latest updates on Boston College Athletics.