For the first time since Feb. 29, 2020, the Boston University men’s hockey team will lace up their skates to take on the crosstown rival Boston College Eagles Friday in front of a packed Agganis Arena crowd at home. The last time the two teams met, the Terriers took down the then-No. 1 Eagles 3-1 at Walter Brown Arena in front of a fanless crowd, after falling in overtime the night before.
The Green Line Rivalry dates back over 100 years to the teams’ first meeting in February 1918, when the Eagles beat the brand-new Division I hockey team down the road at Boston Arena. Since then, the Battle of Comm. Ave. has seen 284 puck drops and plenty of tournament play.
As both teams celebrate their respective 100th seasons, this home matchup is one to set the tone heading into the mid-year break. The programs are nearly identical, with 100 years of conference play, five national championships and three Hobey Baker Award winners each.
The only areas in which BU has an edge are in NCAA tournament appearances with BU cracking into the bracket 37 times to BC’s 36, and NHLers, with BU having 89 former players turn professional to BC’s 82.
Despite the similarities, the rivalry is undoubtedly one of the highlights of any Terrier’s BU hockey career, whether it be a regular-season game, a Beanpot game or an NCAA national championship game.
“You have a big responsibility to represent yourself, your university, the people who came before you,” former Terrier captain Matt Gilroy said in an Oct. 4 interview with The Daily Free Press. “When you get to skate every Friday or Saturday night at Agganis, and then you get to play in Beanpots and national championships, it’s just so special.”
When BU and BC last met on Feb. 6, the Eagles had sat at the top of the USCHO D1 Men’s Poll for four weeks with the Terriers inching closer to the top in the 15th slot. In a year that was anything but normal, the Eagles relied on star goaltender Spencer Knight in their net, along with then-sophomore forward sensations Matt Boldy, Mike Hardman and Alex Newhook. After falling to St. Cloud State University in the second round of the Northeast Regional last March, all of the aforementioned stars turned in their Eagle jerseys for professional ones, heading to the Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche, respectively.
Without Knight in net, the Eagles have turned to graduate student Eric Dop to take over the crease. Originally from Lewis Center, Ohio, the transfer student has a 6-4-2 record so far, with a 2.56 goals against average and a .90 save percentage, just slightly worse than Knight’s 2.17 GAA and .932 SV%. Leading the Eagle’s offense right now is senior forward Jack McBain with 19 points on nine goals and 10 assists in 14 games. The assistant captain scored a hat trick on Nov. 18.
Despite impressive numbers from graduate student forward Brandon Kruse, senior defenseman Jack St. Ivany and captain and senior forward Marc McLaughlin — each with 13 points — the Eagles have struggled compared to last season. In their first 14 games last year, BC went 11-2-1 versus their current overall record of 7-5-2, in a struggling Hockey East league.
Things aren’t necessarily brighter on the other side of Comm. Ave., however, as the Terriers had their worst start to a season this year since 2000-01. Despite going four straight weeks without a regulation win, BU seems to have turned its game around, most recently sweeping the University of New Hampshire Wildcats with 3-1 and 2-1 wins this weekend, thanks to goals from veteran players.
“We’ve had better systems today than we’ve had in the past,” captain and senior forward Logan Cockerill said after scoring in the Friday night victory on Dec. 3. “I just think us realizing as a group what winning hockey looks like and how we can start to implement it consistently, that’s gonna be big for us.”
Protecting the BU crease is sophomore starter Drew Commesso. After giving up six goals to the Cornell Big Red two weeks ago, Commesso came into the UNH series poised, making 55 saves and only allowing two goals all weekend. Despite having better stats last season, Commesso’s 2.82 GAA and .90 SV% is still something the Terriers can always rely on.
“I thought he [Commesso] stood tall when he needed to,” head coach Albie O’Connell said after a Dec. 3 game. “He closed the door in the third and made a couple of key saves, and managed the game.”
The Terriers continue to lean on their junior class for the majority of their offensive production. Wilmer Skoog and Domenick Fensore lead the way with 13 points each, thanks to six goals and seven assists from the forward and two goals and 11 assists from the defenseman. Also worth noting is defenseman Case McCarthy, who is having his best season to date. McCarthy was recently named Hockey East Defenseman of the Month for November and has 11 points to show for it.
Heading into a rivalry weekend, the Terriers will aim to play the way they did in the UNH series.
“That was a taste of winning hockey, even though it wasn’t a 6-1 game,” Cockerill said. “It’s winning hockey.”
BU and BC will drop the puck at Agganis Arena on Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m.