CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Four weeks and a day after getting blown out at home 7-2 by UMass-Lowell, Boston College handed fifth-ranked Boston University its first loss in eight games this season, getting the better of the Terriers across the board in a 3-1 victory in front of 7,884 fans at Kelley Rink tonight.
Sophomore Ben Eaves factored in all three goals for Boston College (6-4-1, 3-2-0 Hockey East), scoring two and assisting on a third by A.J. Walker. Eaves is now averaging an even two points per game this season, putting him among the NCAA Division I leaders.
“A month can do a lot,” said Eaves regarding his team’s early-season reversal of fortunes. “We have a young team, and we’re learning.
“We knew we were going to get better, and we like to think we’re the hardest-working team in the country,” Eaves added. “That mentality and getting a little more game experience is making the difference.”
So does goaltending. The Eagles also received a strong performance from their big Finnish freshman Matti Kaltiainen, who stopped 23 of 24 shots between the pipes.
Terrier netminder Sean Fields kept his team in the game — perhaps longer than they deserved to be — making 23 saves, including three or four gems. That provided little consolation for Terrier Coach Jack Parker.
“I’ll tell you what I just told my team,” Parker said. “We got beat in every phase of the game. If you talk about power plays or penalty kills, if you talk about forechecking or defensive-zone coverage, if you talk about faceoffs, if you talk about backchecks and playing through people and hitting people, they outdid us.
“They played real well, and we didn’t,” Parker added. “Except for our goaltender.”
Eagle coach Jerry York saw his opponent’s performance a little more charitably.
“I thought it was a well-played game of college hockey,” York said. “There were a lot of good plays on both sides; [both teams] were dangerous when they had the puck. I thought Matti was exceptionally sharp.”
“I thought his play against Providence warranted some more action,” York added. “It’s good to see. That’s back-to-back very strong goaltending games for Matti.”
Though new to U.S. college hockey, Kaltiainen is finding the style to his liking.
“It’s different because here is smaller ice, the game is a little faster, physical,” Kaltiainen said. “I like the smaller ice.”
BU (6-1-1, 3-1-1 Hockey East) had its chances early on. At 2:40 of the first period, Justin Maiser intercepted a Joe Schuman pass and crossed nicely to fellow frosh David Klema, but Kaltiainen was equal to his first test of the night.
The Eagles gradually turned the tables. A Terrier penalty led to numerous scoring chances, culminating in the first power-play goal that BU had surrendered in four games.
On the fateful power play, the Eagles continually beat the Terriers to rebounds, plainly outskating their foes. BC finally capitalized with a pinpoint slapshot from the top of the left-wing faceoff circle. The shot grazed the far post on its way in to the net.
Tony Voce and Dave Spina received assists on the goal, meaning that freshman and sophomores figured in all three goals — as well as seven out of nine Eagle points for the night. The two youngest classes have accounted for over three-fourths of the team’s scoring this season.
Fields warded off several other good Eagle chances for the duration of the period, as BU failed to regain momentum until a late-period penalty gave the Terriers a few good shots.
The Commonwealth Avenue counterparts struggled to generate offense for the first half of period two with rare exceptions. Fields had a few shaky moments — most notably when Ty Hennes’ rebound attempt trickled through his pads and crawled through the crease — but the Terriers survived them.
BU had great quality chances in rapid succession on a midpoint power play. The Terriers enjoyed a brief flurry of shots, only to have Kaltiainen and a defenseman block them all.
At 11:10, BC countered with an excellent power play. Just as it expired, a Brett Peterson shot found senior captain Jeff Giuliano on the far side of the crease. Fields started to go down but stopped on his knees, showing poise in waiting on the shot.
Shortly after Kaltianen robbed David Klema for the second time of the night, Fields countered with a flashy glove save on a point-blank shot by Walker late in the period. Dave Spiva had a baseball-style swing at the floating rebound of an Eaves shot, but he whacked it wide.
Fifty-six seconds into the final frame, the Eagles picked up a critical power-play goal. Giuliano took a shot from high in the slot, but Fields came out to the top of the crease for the save. However, a fat rebound caromed to his right, and Eaves fired the rebound into the partly vacated net as BC enjoyed a two-goal margin.
However, the outlook temporarily brightened for the Terriers. They struck back just 48 seconds later on a goal that was almost an instant replay. Kaltiainen left a chunky rebound of his own, and the puck similarly bounced out to his right. Jack Baker was the beneficiary, eyeing the net before firing a wrister in high, stick side.
At 7:07, the Eagles got their two-goal cushion back when A.J. Walker seemed to magically break in alone on the BU net, stickhandling swiftly before beating Fields with a low backhander.
“It was kind of a pick play,” Eaves explained. “He broke off to the net, and the two guys got caught on me. I kind of chipped it over one of their sticks, and A.J. snuck in there.”
Although the Terriers had rallied in their last two road games, there would be no late-game heroics tonight. There were some good back-and-forth exchanges, but a charging penalty to Baker effectively sealed BU’s fate with 3:08 remaining.
“We’ve been on a pretty good roll, playing pretty well,” Parker said. “We didn’t come to play tonight for some reason. We got beat to the puck all night long.”
Terrier forward Kenny Magowan injured his tailbone when he was checked into the boards in the third. The sophomore likely will miss BU’s game at Harvard on Tuesday; he may miss next weekend’s series with Cornell as well.
BC has just one game-a non-conference match-up hosting Harvard on Friday night-next weekend.