Part I: A Dazzling Debut (5 Assists vs. St. Thomas)
Part II: Matching McDavid (2 Goals, 2 Assists vs. UMass Amherst)
Part V: Head to Head with Hanifin (1 Goal, 3 Assists vs. BC & UConn)
In an ongoing series of articles, the Jack Eichel Tracker will monitor Eichel’s performance and development in his freshman season at Boston University. As a BU student, I will have the unique opportunity to watch him in person frequently throughout the year. Posts will be done weekly or bi-weekly, depending upon BU’s schedule.
Jack Eichel Tracker: “He’s So Good”
Fresh off his first taste of the Battle of Commonwealth Avenue, Jack Eichel and the Terriers had three Hockey East games to play in the next two weekends. It included two games against the University of Maine Black Bears, and one against the pesky UConn Huskies that played the Terriers to a tie earlier in the season.
In the first game, the Terriers headed to Maine to play in Alfond Arena, where the Black Bears were honoring their 1999 National Championship winning team. The hostile crowed rattled the Terriers early, as Maine jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 1:13 into the game. In the second period, the Terriers tied it up thanks to a power play goal by Ahti Oksanen on a one timer from the dot with Eichel playing decoy in front of the net.
With less than a minute left in the 2nd, BU found themselves shorthanded due to a holding call on forward Nick Roberto. On the penalty kill, Eichel was able to collect the puck in his defensive zone. Instead of dumping it, he surveyed the ice and saw daylight. Using his powerful stride, he was able to motor through the neutral zone untouched, blowing past two Maine defenders in the process. He went in on a 2-on-3 with Dan O’Regan crashing the net. With all three Maine defenders shading towards him, he deftly slid the puck through to O’Regan on the backdoor for the easy goal. His speed in the video below is truly remarkable.
That would end up being the game winner as the Terriers went on to win by a score of 3-1, with none other than Eichel adding an empty net goal to seal it.
Despite their win, the Terriers remained #3 in the polls, receiving the second most first place votes, and finishing just 3 voting points behind #2 North Dakota.
This past weekend, the Terriers were slated to face the same Maine Black Bears on Friday, and the UConn Huskies on Saturday. The game started much the same as the weekend before, with Maine jumping out to the lead. The Terriers entered the 3rd period down 2-0, despite putting 24 shots on Maine goalie Sean Romeo.
With just under five minutes left in the third, Eichel went in on a two-on-one with Oksanen on Romeo. Both the defenseman and backchecking forward went after Eichel, leaving Oksanen wide open. With two defenders draped on him, Eichel slid the puck through their skates to Oksanen, whose one timer beat Romeo to bring BU within one. Matt Lane was able to tie the game for the Terriers a few minutes later to take the game to overtime, tied 2-2.
In overtime, the Terriers were given a gift when Maine’s Connor Leen received a 5 minute major for a hit from behind. The Terriers would spend the rest of the overtime on the power play, and just needed to score one. After two minutes with no results, Brandon Fortunato collected the puck behind the BU net to regroup. Eichel swooped down and took the puck, picking up speed. Going coast-to-coast, he sped through the neutral zone, deked one Maine defender, and ripped a wrist shot from the top of the circle that beat Romeo on the glove side to give the Terriers the 3-2 overtime win.
The Terriers win was not the only important result from Friday night. #1 Michigan Tech fell to Minnesota State, and #2 North Dakota lost to St. Cloud State. With the only two teams ahead of them in the rankings taking the loss, the Terriers could smell blood in the water. If they beat UConn, they would almost assuredly claim the #1 spot in the polls the following week.
Knowing what was at stake, the Terriers did not come out of the gate slowly as they had the past two games. The Terriers were able to jump out to a 1-0 lead in the first on a power play goal. Jack Eichel fired a shot from the right circle, and UConn goalie Rob Nichols was unable to corral the rebound. Ahti Oksanen collected the rebound and slammed it home for the goal. The play was something the Terriers had been working on, Oksanen noted:
“That’s what we’ve been practicing on the power play,” Oksanen said. “Eichel takes the shot and I just tired to be at the corner trying to get the rebound and it just happened to bounce to me and it was just an easy empty-net goal.”
The Terriers added two more goals to give themselves a 3-0 lead in the beginning of the third. The Huskies did not go down without a fight, scoring two goals in a span of 57 seconds in the third period to make it a one goal game. However, the Terriers managed to clamp down and prevent UConn from scoring again.
Eichel helped to add an insurance marker with less than three minutes left in the game. After some hard work from Oksanen in the corner, Eichel received the puck and was able to maneuver himself around the UConn defense to get in one-on-one against Nichols in tight. Nichols made the first save, but O’Regan was able to cash in on the rebound to give BU some breathing room. An empty net goal gave the Terriers the 5-2 win.
With two points in each of the past three games, Eichel is tied for the NCAA lead in points with 19. He leads the league in points-per-game at 1.90, with second place checking in at 1.62. With their two wins this weekend, the Terriers will likely take over the #1 spot in the country when the polls are released on Monday.
Up Next on the Jack Eichel Tracker: The Terriers will continue to stay busy with three games in the next seven days. They will face Harvard on Tuesday, #6 Colgate on Saturday, and Dartmouth on Sunday.
Bill Schoeninger is a Philadelphia Flyers writer and current Boston University student studying business. Coming to THW from Hometown Hockey, Bill follows and writes about the Flyers, Boston University Terriers, and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @BSchoeninger17