New Lines Sparking Boston College Offense
Photo courtesy BCEagles.com
It was only the first day of November, quite early in the college hockey season, but Boston College was already in search of answers. The Eagles sat in the Whittemore Center visitors’ locker room losers of four straight. They’d been shutout in two of those four games and, at that point, hadn’t scored a goal in nearly 100 minutes of hockey.
That night, BC was blanked by New Hampshire. It was a winnable game, a perfect opportunity to right the ship after three losses, but no one could get a shot by Mike Robinson.
A trip down to Providence the next night made for a quick turnaround and little time for adjustments.
The offensive woes that plagued the Eagles last season (2.31 goals per game) were supposed to be fixed. The much-talked-about first line produced last season, but they were the only three who registered over 20 points. BC was effectively a one-line team.
This season, with the entire first line back and the additions of Alex Newhook and Matt Boldy, BC was projected to have one of the top offenses, and top teams, in the nation. The season-opener against Wisconsin set the tone for a successful offensive season, but the numbers slowly trailed off from there. The five goal outburst soon gave way to a 2.33 goals per game average through the first six games, up to and including the loss to UNH.
That all leads back to the line-tinkering that took place prior to the trip to then-No. 7 Providence on November 2nd. With Logan Hutsko still out, Aapeli Rasanen slotted in on the top line, and David Cotton and Julius Mattila enjoyed their best games since opening night; both scored a goal assisted by Rasanen.
There was one other adjustment which went unnoticed against the Friars but paid big dividends the following weekend against UConn. For the first time all season, Newhook and Boldy were separated, with Newhook slotting down to the third line center position. The speedy forward scored the first goal in the Providence game, but it was a power play goal, and he was on ice with the second line.
Hutsko returned against UConn, allowing BC to experiment with the lines even more. He was plugged back into the first line right wing slot. Boldy and Newhook stayed as the second and third line centers, respectively. And Rasanen, dropped to the third line, bumping Marc McLaughlin to the fourth line. Here are the line the Eagles rolled out against UConn:
Two games and 11 goals later, it's clear that these should be the Eagles lines for the foreseeable future. Splitting Boldy and Newhook has given BC three offensively-driven lines to roll out on a given night. At the beginning of the season, when the pucks weren’t bouncing the right way for McPhee, Boldy and Newhook, the top line was really the only offensive option. Now, any line can have an off night and be picked dup by the other.
McBain, a third round pick of the Minnesota Wild, hasn’t lived up to his offensive potential through his year-plus at BC, but putting him with a playmaker like Boldy, a fellow Wild draft selection, has opened up more lanes to the net for McBain and resulted in a three-point weekend against the Huskies.
The new-look third line had arguably the best weekend of any line in the nation when they played UConn. Newhook, back at his natural center position, almost registered a hat trick in the first half of the home-and-home. He was credited with three goals in the first 30 minutes of the game (one was later given to Connor Moore, as the puck deflected off a UConn defender and not Newhook).
In the Saturday game, the line combined for eight points, including four of the five goals. For the second year in a row, Rasanen had a hat trick on the road against UConn.
Lastly, there’s the fourth line, which, while it had a scoreless weekend, showed a physical game which is bound to wear on opponents.
McLaughlin is more talented than a fourth line center, but his play-style is tailor-made for a fourth liner. He fights for any loose puck and isn’t afraid to use his body. Greco plays a bit out of control, but his physicality is always welcome on a team’s fourth line. And Walker could cede time to Patrick Giles, another big-bodied forward, once Giles recovers from a hand injury.
BC plays Vermont this weekend, which will serve as another opportunity for these new lines to develop chemistry ahead of a tough stretch of four out-of-conference games that conclude the fall semester.