Friday night's game at UNH was all too reminiscent of last season for the Boston College men's hockey team. They came out firing, building a 4-1 lead over the first two periods on the back of four power play goals.
But in the third period, they sat back – and UNH jumped at their opportunity to get back into the game. The Wildcats poured home three goals in the final frame, including one with the goalie pulled in the last minute, to tie the game and force overtime. Thanks only to John Muse's fantastic performance in the extra session, BC preserved a tie – but they threw away what would have been a very valuable win on the road.
The Eagles' response the next night, however, was very much unlike what we saw in 2008-2009. BC faced off against cross-town rival Northeastern, who came in off of a big 1-0 win over BU on Friday night. BC blew the Huskies out of the building, responding to NU's early goal with five unanswered.
BC outshot Northeastern 34-17, and knocked home two power play goals, while going a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill. Five different goal scorers lit the lamp for BC, including Philip Samuelsson, who netted his first career goal, and Brian Gibbons, who also had two assists and was named Hockey East player of the week.
"In retrospect, we took three out of four points from two playoff teams," said Jerry York.
"I thought [Muse] came on real big in overtime for us [against UNH]," said York. "Momentum just swung. Away from home, when they start rallying – you've gotta be able to withstand that, and we almost did. A minute left in the game, we just didn't clean up that rebound and UNH put it in."
The way the team responded the next night gave York confidence.
"The temperature was good in the locker room. We came out ready to play," he said. "It reminded us that you have to play well for all 60 minutes."
"And overall, we've done a pretty good job holding leads and winning tight games this year, we won a tight game at Notre Dame and another against Merrimack. We're definitely coming along as a unit."
The power play's successes were a big part of BC's weekend, and York said that that continues to be a point of emphasis in practice.
"Getting shots from the point has helped, but you've also got to make some good plays to set that up," York said. "We've worked on the power play and we're on a good streak, but we've got to keep it going."
Another large part of BC's game this year has been the team's speed. The Eagles appear to have one of the fastest teams in Hockey East, and they were able to overwhelm Northeastern with line after line of quick, skilled players.
"We're definitely adjusting our game to match our speed, which is one of our strengths this year," York said. "We're trying to go more north-south with the puck, and utilize our speed. We're a much quicker team this year, and we want to push the pace."
Chris Kreider was held out of Friday night's game after concussion symptoms suffered after a hit two weeks ago at Merrimack, but he was able to return to action on Saturday night.
"Kreider felt good," York said. "He was hit really hard against Merrimack, but he passed all of his tests. We could have played him on Friday, but early in the season, we're ultraconservative."
John Muse played back-to-back games for the first time this year, and York said he's responded well.
"He was solid," he said. "I thought he was better for us the second night than the first night, which was a good sign for us. His flexibility continues to improve, and his motion is better."
"Having said that, we're going to continue to utilize our depth in goal this year, and look at options beyond just having [Muse] play in every game," York said, but would not say whether or not Muse would play in both games this weekend.
BC opened their regular season with a 4-1 loss at Vermont. They'll get their chance to avenge that defeat this weekend as the Catamounts come to Conte Forum for a two game set, playing at 7 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday.
"It's our objective to get just a little bit better every day this week, as we gear up for Vermont, a team that beat us pretty good in the opener."
Compared to that first week, York said that his team is "a little more in sync both on offense and on defense."
"We're not where we want to be yet, but we're a lot closer to our objective, which is to be a really cohesive unit. Our work habits have been good, our attitude has been good. Things are looking pretty good if we continue to improve as we have."
Vermont (3-3-1, 2-2-1 Hockey East) is coming off a strong weekend, tying league-leading UMass Lowell on Friday, 3-3, before blanking Providence 3-0 on Sunday. But that win was Vermont's first since beating BC on October 18. Vermont lost to Merrimack and Maine in between victories.
Women's Team Improving
On Friday afternoon, the BC women's hockey team built a 3-game Hockey East winning streak with a 3-0 win over Vermont at Conte Forum, featuring sophomore goalie Kiera Kingston's first career shutout victory.
But the excitement was short-lived, as the Catamounts bounced back with a big 5-1 win over BC on Saturday.
Senior Allie Thunstrom continues to impress for BC – she scored a goal and added two assists in the win, factoring in on every BC goal.
The Eagles' 3-3-4 record, including a 3-2 mark in Hockey East play, puts them in fourth place in the conference.
This weekend, BC travels to UConn on Saturday before hosting the same Huskies on Sunday at Conte Forum.