|Photo from the Boston Globe|
In their first Hockey East semifinals appearance since 2013, the Boston College Eagles fell a bit short against the red-hot Northeastern Huskies by a score of 5-4. BC will now gear up for the NCAAs next weekend where they will be a #2 seed, most likely in Albany, New York against either Harvard, Notre Dame, or Minnesota Duluth. There are other scenarios where they could play a team like Yale but that is less likely, from what I can tell.
Before I dive into my recap, I just want to state how impressed I was with Northeastern. Jim Madigan had his guys ready to run through a wall and despite the rough start, they kept fighting and eventually seized control of a game that should have been more lopsided than the final score. Not many clubs can turn it around like the Huskies have over the past two months and I truly think they'll be in the hunt for a Frozen Four bid. They flat out dominated BC for the majority of that game and if it weren't for Thatcher Demko, it would have been a three or four goal difference. Good luck to the Huskies tonight and beyond.
As for BC, there is no way to sugarcoat what went down on Friday night- it was a lackluster performance. Let's think about something for a minute here. When was the last time they played a full, 60 minute hockey game? The Beanpot final was probably their best game of the season but since then, they have not had a complete performance outside of maybe the second game @ Vermont. It seems that after every game, we can pick out four or five players that looked heads and shoulders better than everybody else. Miles Wood was by far BC's best player, Alex Tuch looked like he was giving everything he had in the tank, Ryan Fitzgerald made a few plays, but other than those three, no one jumped out.
The biggest issue for BC was their defensive zone play. They turned pucks over, forgot to cover guys, let a defenseman walk right in on the power play, and got beaten on simple one on one's far too many times. BC got off to a good start when Wood fired one home just fifteen seconds into the contest but shortly thereafter, one of BC's defensemen got toasted at the defensive blue line which led to a highlight reel goal from Zach Aston-Reese. I don't think BC had given up any goals thanks to a flat out one on one move all year up to that point but give Aston-Reese a lot of credit, he is a terrific player who made a couple big time plays. In a game filled with errors, BC's most glaring mistake came with just under five seconds to go in the opening stanza. They like putting the Sanford line out there late in periods, which is a good move because those guys are supposed to be BC's big guns but for whatever reason, two players on that line looked lost. Sanford got the puck behind the BC net with four seconds to go but instead of keeping it to himself (there was no NU player on him), he decided to flip a backhander up the boards which immediately led to a bang bang goal for the Huskies. Not only did Sanford turn the puck over, he forgot to pick up his guy in front of the net because the two defensemen were near the puck carrier with their backs turned to the far side of the ice. The result? A back-breaking goal with .09 seconds left in the period. Killer.
It is easy to say offense is not a problem after scoring four goals but that is not the case with this squad. Northeastern is not the greatest defensive team in the world and they held BC to 11 shots through two periods. I doubt BC has had that low of a total all season, I mean, they looked anemic for the entire first half of the game. Even when they used last change to their advantage, matching White's line with NU's fourth line at times, Northeastern got the better chances. Last weekend, I blamed BC's lack of productivity on Vermont's stellar neutral zone defense. This time, I am not sure what to say. You can't win big games with just a handful of guys playing at a high level, whether it's on offense or defense. They never used their size and skill to their advantage by cycling the puck, instead, they tried these crazy passes at the offensive blue line that either led to turnovers or offsides 9 times out of 10. Northeastern scored a couple goals thanks to their aggressive forecheck that forced BC turnovers while the Eagles, for the third straight game, let the opponent break the puck out with ease. Once the Huskies hit center ice, BC gave them the entire blue line, which allowed them to create great looks. I have absolutely no idea what they were doing on the fourth NU goal, also a power play tally. Defenseman Eric Williams was able to walk right in and rip a bomb past Demko without an Eagle in sight. The puck was in the far corner and once it got back to the NU point, BC's forward on the opposite side of the ice came over the cover that point but the guy that was already over there did not rotate back to the right point which led to an easy pass and eventually, a second straight power play goal for the Huskies.
Give BC kudos for battling back in the third. Despite every Eagle fan claiming this was the worst game they've played in a long time, the maroon and gold hung in there and gave it everything they had. However, another brutal turnover in the defensive zone led to the game winning goal and sent BC back to Chestnut Hill with its third loss in five games. Colin White has been the go to player for this team throughout the season and everyone makes mistakes, but that was not a smart play. Tuch made it a one goal contest with ten to go but a couple boneheaded penalties in the final three minutes ended any chance of a comeback. Once again, they made a few plays that you simply cannot make if you want to win hockey games at this point in the season.
In 2008, 2010, 2011 (outside CC), and 2012, BC teams did not make the mistakes this team has made over the past month. You can't win a National Title when you're taking this many penalties, turning the puck over at this rate, and breaking down like BC is in their own end. Goaltending can only take you so far when your defensemen struggle to keep pace with opposing forwards. I am not sure if BC had one blue liner who played "well" last night.
They have a lot of work to do this week. Coach York is the greatest there has ever been and I am confident he can right the ship in time for the big dance but there are a lot of holes at the moment. On paper, this as talented a team as BC has had but for one reason or another, they haven't been able to gel as a group and their play has taken a nose dive because of it. Don't let the final score fool you, that was an absolute beat down on so many levels and the fact that BC hung around was a miracle in and of itself.
A one and done in the NCAAs would be a huge disappointment given the talent and expectations everybody in the program had for this team entering the season. If last night was any indication, they aren't going anywhere unless they find a way to get back to the basics of playing hockey.
Why BC lost-
1. Just got outplayed in every facet of the game. Not much more to it. The staff will get it figured out for next weekend but right now, things are shaky. I am not going to single out individual players but if you watched the game, you'd know who looked ready and who did not.
I can't think of anything. Brutal all around game. Wood was great, Demko made some fantastic saves but not much else to be pleased with.
Notes- This is the first senior class in the Coach York era without a Hockey East tournament championship.