No. 4 Boston College secured the 2019-20 Hockey East regular season title in fitting fashion on Saturday night with a 4-1 win over arch-rival Boston University at Agganis Arena.
The Eagles (23-8-1, 16-6 Hockey East) have now won seven games in a row. After the Terriers (12-12-8, 9-8-5 Hockey East) entered the night on a two-game skid, BU head coach Albie O’Connell felt his team ran into the wrong team at the wrong time.
“They’re obviously the team everyone’s chasing in our league,” O’Connell said, “and they’ve got it rolling pretty good right now.”
Regardless of how impressive the Eagles have been this season, the second-year head coach said the rivalry loss hurts as much as ever.
“No one wants to lose to a rival team,” O’Connell said, “and in the way that we did with that big a crowd, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
The 5,772 fans in attendance saw BC get on the board seven minutes into the game as freshman forward Alex Newhook deposited his 10th goal in as many games on a cross-ice feed from freshman forward Matt Boldy.
BU led in shots on goal 21-14 through 40 minutes, but BC senior defenseman Connor Moore had the lone goal of the middle frame, lining in a seeing-eye slapshot from the point.
BC senior forward David Cotton made it 3-0 less than five minutes into the third period on a pinpoint shot after a slick move and pass by junior forward Logan Hutsko.
The Terriers got one back on the power play four minutes later when senior forward Patrick Curry tipped in a blast by junior defenseman David Farrance. The primary assist was Farrance’s 40th point of the season, making him the first BU defenseman in 22 years to reach that mark.
Curry now leads BU with 18 goals on the season, having scored in all three editions of the Battle of Commonwealth Ave. this season. Riding a five-game point streak, the captain believes the biggest games bring out the best in him.
“It’s the point where every next goal is pretty big, so I kind of thrive in those situations,” Curry said.
Curry’s goal was BU’s only tally of the night, but he felt that if the Terriers had broken through earlier, they could have found more success late in the game.
“[Freshman goaltender Spencer] Knight was great. Obviously, you’re going to expect that from a goalie like him,” Curry said. “I feel like maybe if we could’ve beat him earlier, it could have been a different scenario.”
Knight finished with 30 saves, while BU graduate goaltender Sam Tucker made 25. BC’s fourth goal came with Tucker pulled and just under eight seconds to play as senior forward Graham McPhee tossed in an empty-netter to seal BC’s 16th conference win of the season.
BC head coach Jerry York acknowledged that there are bigger trophies his team will chase in the postseason, but finishing the regular season atop Hockey East is an achievement worth celebrating.
“I feel very proud of the club,” York said. “It’s a major accomplishment for us.”
BU’s position is still far from confirmed as the Terriers are currently in sixth, but can finish anywhere between second and ninth to make the playoff game, which would be outside the playoff picture.
With so much left to be decided this late in the season, O’Connell said it’s important to focus on the next game and find new ways to improve.
“We’re in the playoffs now, really,” O’Connell said. “We can’t sit here and sulk about [losing], we gotta get better next weekend.”
BU will end the regular season with a series against Northeastern University (17-12-3, 10-11-1 Hockey East) next weekend.
Puck drop for the series opener is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Matthews Arena Friday night.