Jack Eichel Tracker: Peaks & Valleys

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: Peaks & Valleys

Since the last update, the Terriers have been very busy with five games over the past two weeks. They faced Harvard, Colgate, Dartmouth, and Merrimack twice. The Terriers entered this stretch as the #1 ranked team in the nation, both a tremendous accomplishment and a challenge for the young team.

In their matchup on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the Terriers suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to the Harvard Crimson. For Eichel, it was the first game of his BU career (league game or exhibition) that he did not record a point. He had 3 shots, was a +1, and his line combined for 12 shots on goal. The Terriers controlled the pace of play, outshooting the Crimson 42-24.

Seemingly revitalized by a Thanksgiving dinner, the Terriers turned in a much better performance on Saturday night against #9 Colgate. The teams traded the first four goals, back-and-forth, leading to a 2-2 game early in the third period. Eichel potted the second goal on the night for the Terriers, his 8th of the season. He gathered the puck at his own blueline and went barreling through the neutral zone toward the Colgate net. After a slight toe drag to deftly change the angle of the shot, Eichel ripped one past Colgate goalie Charlie Finn from the top of the right circle.

Eichel also picked up a secondary assist on an insurance goal. He passed the puck to Matt Grzelcyk, whose shot from the point created a rebound that Danny O’Regan buried to put the Terriers up 4-2. The final score was a 5-2 BU victory over the #9 team in the country.

In a rare Sunday matinee, the Terriers faced the Dartmouth Big Green. Dartmouth is a middle-of-the-road ECAC team that should not have posed a significant challenge to the Terriers. However, they proved to be much more than the Terriers could handle as they fell by a score of 2-0. It was the second time Eichel had been held pointless, and the second time he finished a game as a minus player all season.

In the post-game, coach David Quinn offered some blunt comments on the disappointing loss:

You look at that second period, and that’s really the first time all year anything like that has happened to us all year where we get completely manhandled and dominated like that.

We’re the youngest team in college hockey. We just played five games in 10 nights. And we looked like a team that played five games in 10 nights.

After a 1-1-1 record the week before, BU dropped to #2/3 in the two polls. This past weekend, the Terriers had a home-and-home with the #18 Merrimack Warriors. The two games ended up being polar opposites of each other in terms of the style of play.

The first game was played in Lawler Arena at Merrimack, which features a smaller ice surface than BU’s home rink, Agganis Arena. The smaller rink resulted in a tight checking game in which neither team was able to generate any sustained offensive pressure. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, with the teams combining for just 49 shots on goal in 65 minutes of hockey. Matt Lane scored the only goal for BU, and Eichel did not figure into the scoring.

In the friendly confines of Agganis Arena, the game took on a much different style. Offensive chances were frequent and dangerous, as the teams combined for 54 shots through 40 minutes of hockey, a far cry from the night before. Eichel was a driving force behind the BU offense all night long.

On BU’s first goal, Eichel received a pass in the neutral zone, and entered the Merrimack zone on an odd-man rush with Danny O’Regan. Eichel drew the defenders toward him, and deftly threaded the puck through to O’Regan. He made no mistake with a forehand-backhand move to beat Merrimack’s Collin Delia to put BU up 1-0.

In the first shift of the second, Eichel threaded a cross-ice pass to John MacLeod at the point in the Merrimack zone. MacLeod took a quick shot that was deflected by O’Regan for his second goal, and Eichel’s second assist of the night.

Two minutes later, O’Regan led a BU transition attack into the Merrimack zone. He passed it to Eichel on the right dot, who dished it to a wide open Brandon Hickey, who was trailing on the play. With the defense focused on Eichel, Hickey had a prime chance in the slot and put another past Delia to put BU up 3-0.

In the final minutes of the second, standing at the point, John MacLeod wrapped the puck around the boards behind the Merrimack net. Eichel gathered it behind the cage, and skating towards the corner, dished a beautiful no-look backhand pass to the slot to an uncovered O’Regan. O’Regan deposited it in the net for a hat trick, and Eichel’s fourth assist. The Terriers would go on to win by a score of 4-2, peppering the Merrimack net with 46 shots.

Despite going pointless in three of the last five games, Eichel finds himself alone at the top of the scoring charts in the NCAA. His 25 points in 15 games give him an overall points lead of 3, and PPG lead of .17. Eichel was named the Hockey East Player of the Month for November for his efforts.

An interesting trend has developed with Eichel in games in which he has struggled. In the three games he has been held pointless, he has taken 12 minutes worth of penalties. In the twelve games where he has a point, he has taken four minutes in penalties.

Up Next on the Jack Eichel Tracker: The Terriers have one remaining regular season game before the Christmas break, a tilt against RPI next Saturday. After that game, Eichel will join the US World Junior Championships team for a pre-tournament camp and tuneup game against none other than his Boston University Terriers. Eichel will suit up for the US in the game.

Part I: A Dazzling Debut (5 Assists vs. St. Thomas)

Part II: Matching McDavid (2 Goals, 2 Assists vs. UMass Amherst)

Part III: Torching His Former Team (2 Goals, 1 Assist vs. USNTDP)

Part IV: Going Streaking (2 Goals, 3 Assists vs. Michigan State, Michigan, and Providence [2 games])

Part V: Head to Head with Hanifin (1 Goal, 3 Assists vs. BC & UConn)

Part VI: Manhandling Maine (2 Goals, 4 Assists vs. UConn & Maine [2 games])