This Week in Hockey East: Boston College off to roaring start in ‘not a typical college year’

Boston College leading scorer Matt Boldy is pumped after scoring a goal last weekend against Providence (photo: Boston College Athletics).

No one should be terribly surprised Boston College is off to the start it is.

A 9-0 win over a decent Providence squad, without Alex Newhook, though, tends to stand out.

For the first time in 18 years, the Eagles are 4-0 to start a season. It’s a weird time to be celebrating anything, especially as more college hockey games have been moved around the schedule than played.

The vibes surrounding everything in sports is strange, but there’s not much the Eagles as a team can do about it, so they’ve gone out there and performed as well as anyone could hope.

“This is not a typical college year,” said Eagles coach Jerry York on a conference call with the media on Tuesday. “There’s not the things you’d normally do. Most of (the players) don’t go in class or sit in classes, social life, they just have to give up all that to play, and even that doesn’t guarantee you escape COVID.”

The Eagles have gotten off without a hitch more than most programs, and Boston College is one of a few schools in the country that has competed in most of its regularly scheduled sports since the ACC didn’t shut down field hockey and soccer.

So as an institution, they’re pretty used to protocols and the like, perhaps moreso than some of the other universities just beginning their sports seasons now.

It’s scary to imagine it won’t be until January we see a full Eagles squad, and they’ve already lit the lamp in the fashion they have. Newhook, who is with Canada’s World Juniors team, was starting to shine a year ago with 30 points in 19 games after he was snubbed from Canada’s roster this time last year.

With a Tim Taylor Award behind him, it looks like Newhook can be a dominant force again this year, post-World Juniors.

This weekend, the Eagles have UConn, and they’ll be shorthanded even more so as goalie Spencer Knight heads to Team USA World Junior camp. It sounds like freshman Henry Wilder will get a look on Friday.

“He’s gonna step up,” said York. “He’s anxious but we’re all excited about him getting in the net. I think he’ll play really well.”

Sophomore goalie Jack Moffatt — with 10 minutes of NCAA experience — will also be available.

Forward Matt Boldy — the Eagles’ early leading scorer — and defenseman Drew Helleson will also be off at camp, but that presence in net is going to be the most noticeable. Along with the 9-0 shellacking of the Friars, Knight had back-to-back shutouts with a 3-0 win the night prior.

Even without Knight, the Eagles depth is on another level compared to the rest of the conference. UConn has already had to face a tough early season schedule first against UMass and now BC, and the Eagles have shown they can score, if they’re getting a shutout performance or not.

Either way, this weekend should be a good indicator of how deep the Eagles are.

“It’s a small sample size,” said York. “… It’s a great group of guys but who knows who stays healthy, how this works. Right now they’re progressing well.”

New Hampshire begins anew

Like many other programs across the country, it’s been a long time coming for the Wildcats. UNH will finally take the ice — after a two-week delay — against Maine this weekend.

UNH coach Mike Souza said the team had a couple of positive cases before the scheduled series with Boston College in late November that forced the program to shut down, but since then, things have been going well.

“My biggest responsibility was continually just checking in, because we had guys in different scenarios,” Souza said to the media via conference call on Tuesday. “There were some guys that were positive, other guys who were quarantined, other guys who’ve had it before. We kind of ran the gamut here, so my biggest responsibility was just making sure that the guys were in a good place mentally, or in as good a place as possible.”

Maine was in a similar spot, having paused before their season, making this series an opener for both squads.

It’s been nine months since both teams have taken to the ice, so perhaps some rust can be expected. For the Wildcats, the added travel element will make it different, as teams are expected to travel on the day-of road games now.

“I like the fact that we’re going to play earlier in the day,” Souza said. “There’s no sense in waiting around. We’ve been waiting around long enough so let’s get up there and play.”

UNH will stay overnight in Orono before heading back to Durham for the second half of the weekend series.

Merrimack making moves

With their split against UMass last weekend, Merrimack saw some inspired performances from freshman Alex Jefferies and sophomore Zach Vinnell, both earning weekly awards from Hockey East.

Jefferies scored his first career goal in his first time on the ice for the Warriors, ending the weekend with three points and picking up the Rookie of the Week award.

Vinnell added two assists to take home the conference’s Defenseman of the Week award.

BU on pause

Boston University was supposed to open against UConn last weekend but COVID protocols within the program have them on pause, now until January.

They were going to face UMass this weekend.

The recent outbreak also affects the players who were slated to leave the program for World Juniors, with Robert Mastrosimone, Alex Vlasic and Drew Commesso all being replaced.