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A Comm. Ave Classic; No. 2 Ranked Eagles Set to Take on No. 1 Ranked Terriers in a Heavyweight Tilt

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For the first time in their more than century-long rivalry, both the Boston University Terriers and Boston College Eagles will head into a two-game set as the top two teams in the nation. Despite each team showcasing plenty of talent year in and year out, there never seemed to be a time when each roster was stacked with this much skill at the same time. Following the culmination of the World Junior Championship in Sweden where ten players from both BC and BU took part in the tournament for their respective countries, the hype around these athletes could not be more real. This weekend, these same ten players will take part in two of the most anticipated college hockey games in history. Here are some faces to keep an eye on:

Cutter Gauthier (F), Boston College

Following an intense couple of weeks where Gauthier found himself on seemingly every headline in the hockey world due to his role in the USA’s gold medal win and his trade to the Anaheim Ducks, Gauthier has been lights out for the Eagles. Since the winter break, Gauthier has collected six points including a recent hat trick away at Merrimack last weekend. Also, with Gauthier’s 200 ft game being at the forefront of his improvement this season, look for Gauthier to match up against BU’s top line for plenty of minutes this weekend.

Lane Hutson (D), Boston University

In his first season where Hutson collected over 40 points for a Terriers team that won a Hockey East title and went all the way to the Frozen Four in Tampa, FL. in 2023, few would expect Hutson to outdo his freshman-year self. But, with four assists in a recent game against Vermont, Hutson has a staggering 28 points in only 19 games played during his sophomore campaign. After the WJC, Hutson has proven himself as a skater who does anything his team asks both offensively and defensively. Look for Hutson to log big-time minutes in both games this weekend.

Gabe Perreault (F), Boston College

During his draft year, Gabe Perreault set the single-season point record for the USNTDP u-18 team, however, Perreault was criticized for his incomplete skating stride and was passed as a lottery pick in the 2023 NHL Draft last summer. But this year, Perreault finds himself on top of the scoring leaderboard once again as he leads the Hockey East with 34 in 21 games played. As the left-winger of one of the most potent lines in all of college hockey, Perreault acts as the go-to set-up man for his linemates Will Smith, and Ryan Leonard, creating a triple treat anytime they set foot on the ice.

Macklin Celebrini (F), Boston University

Before this season, the status of Macklin Celebrini as a collegiate hockey player was unclear as he had to enroll at Boston University as a 17-year-old, making him the youngest player in the country. But, with a nearly flawless 200 ft game, Celebrini draws comparisons to a young Jonathan Toews by many analysts making him the current favorite to be picked first at this year’s NHL Draft in Las Vegas. Following a draft minus one campaign for the Chicago Steel where he outscored the likes of Adam Fantili at a similar age, Celebrini led Canada in points for most of the WJC and is BU’s current point leader. Look for Celebrini to make a difference in all facets of the game this weekend.

Jacob Fowler (G), Boston College

Coming into the 2023-24 campaign, there were lingering questions surrounding the goaltending position, as BC entered the year with three freshman goalies on their roster. But those doubts have since dissipated as Jacob Fowler has been nothing short of phenomenal for the Eagles so far this season, establishing himself as BC’s number-one choice in between the pipes in every game. Following statement victories such as holding defending champion Quinnipiac to one goal in the season opener, and winning a seven-round shootout against Czechia overseas at the WJC, Fowler has backstopped the Eagles in every victory they’ve had this season.

Tom Willander (D), Boston University

During his draft year, Willander found himself in all sorts of situations by playing on three different teams during last year’s campaign. As a result, his success with each of these groups speaks volumes to his versatility as a player. In Sweden, Willander was often asked to move pucks and get involved in the transition game, but by playing alongside Lane Hutson as BU’s number-one defensive pair, Willander has found his groove as a dynamic play-killer which might be his most effective role. As a freshman skater, Willander is at the forefront of one of the most effective bluelines in the country and is improving with each play he makes.

The Eagles will take on the Terriers for the first of their two-game set this Friday at 7 p.m. at Kelley Rink airing live on NESN.

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Hockey

Boston College 6, UMass Amherst 4; Eagles Top Minutemen with Ryan Leonard Hat-trick

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CHESTNUT HILL Mass. – Less than two days after his two-goal performance away at Amherst in front of his hometown crowd. Freshman forward Ryan Leonard one-upped himself Sunday afternoon with a terrific three-goal performance. With this turn of events, Leonard passed the 20-goal mark on the season, adding to his team-high plus-25 status. As an Amherst native, it is safe to say that Leonard left his mark on the Minutemen regardless of who was cheering for him.

As BC (23-5-1) pushed past Amherst (16-9-3) in Sunday afternoon’s action, they extended their win streak to four games and seven against the Minutemen.

Unlike Friday’s action, the Eagles came out firing following first puck drop. After a few seconds of puck cycling freshman Gabe Perreault centered a brilliant feed for classmate Ryan Leonard who fired the opening goal past UMass goalie Michael Hrabal’s far side.

Then, following the majority of the period where BC had most of the possession time and SOGs, the Eagles struck on the man advantage. Senior defenseman Eamon Powell send a pass down low for freshman forward Will Smith to sling a cross-crease pass to classmate Gabe Perreault who chipped in BC’s second goal top-shelf.

Despite a smooth transition in and out of the first intermission, BC failed to beat Hrabal for much of the second frame, and at 8:28 of the period, Amherst’s Kenny Connors slipped one past BC goalie Jacob Fowler’s five-hole for their first of the game.

Minutes later, Aydar Suniev of the Minutemen scored two goals in succession pushing Amherst ahead of BC 3-2.

However, BC answered right back as sophomore defenseman Lukas Gustafsson fired a shot through traffic only to deflect off graduate forward Jamie Armstrong’s stick and past Hrabal for his second of the year.

Still, UMass refused to go away following the second intermission, as Dans Locmelis fired the leading goal past Jacob Fowler making the score 4-3 Amherst.

But, as he’s done multiple times this season, BC’s Ryan Leonard stepped up in the big moments, starting with burying a short-side snipe past Hrabal off the post and in off a Will Smith feed.

Less than a minute later, Leonard received a pass from classmate Will Smith in the low slot who drove hard to the net mouth firing home his hat-trick goal far side past Hrabal, sending the Forum crowd into a frenzy.

After a late empty-net tally from sophomore forward Cutter Gauthier, the Eagles capped off a memorable weekend sweep against UMass Amherst their third in three seasons.

The Eagles are set to continue action versus the Vermont Catamounts 7 p.m. at Kelley Rink this Friday night.

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Hockey

Boston College 5, UMass Amherst 1; No. 1 Eagles Mash No. 11 Minutemen in Leonard’s Return Home

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AMHERST Mass. – For freshman forward Ryan Leonard, the expectation was that he would follow in his brother John’s footsteps and stay close to home to attend local university UMass Amherst. However, after spending two years out of state at the USNTDP in Plymouth, MI. Leonard continued to shine on the big stage, especially in big international competition matchups. “I wanted to play in the Beanpot” Leonard told the Daily Hampshire Gazette in one interview. At this point, it’s clear that BC allows Leonard to play his best in the biggest moments, and on Friday he proved why he wanted to forge his own path.

In front of a packed house at the Mullins Center Friday night, the Eagles (22-5-1) stifled the Minutemen (16-8-3) in the first half of a home-and-home series.

Out of the gates, the Eagles struggled to get things going, Amherst rung the post two times in succession as BC scrambled for lose pucks. However, at 14:58 of the first, sophomore Andre Gasseau dropped a pass to classmate Cutter Gauthier who buried the chance off an Amherst defender for the opening goal.

As the teams skated into the first intermission, Amherst still held most of the chances following the first period.

In the second frame, UMass answered back as forward Lucas Mercuri buried a rebound down low, knotting the score at one apiece.

Nevertheless, Cutter Gauthier answered back slinging a wrister from the right point that caromed past Amherst goaltender Michael Hrabal for Gauthier’s 25th goal of the season.

After a series of penalty kills for either side, the Eagles found themselves on the man advantage when Amherst’s Kenny Connors headed to the box for roughing. On that powerplay, freshman Ryan Leonard demonstrated his lethal shot, firing a snapper past Hrabal doubling BC’s lead.

Minutes later, the USA line would link up once more as freshman Will Smith dished an entry feed to streaking classmate Gabe Perreault who squared one for Leonard, ripping home his second of the game and the fourth for BC.

Down the stretch, freshman goalie Jacob Fowler shut down the Minutemen making several key saves en route to a solid 25-save performance.

The Eagles will be back in action at Kelley Rink for a 1 p.m. start against UMass Amherst on Sunday.

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Hockey

Boston College 5, Harvard 0; No. 1 Eagles Crush Crimson in Beanpot Revenge Game

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BOSTON, Mass. – Following his draft year when he scored 132 points, it should not be a surprise that freshman Gabe Perreault is leading the Eagles in points. But he’s not just scoring at a steady pace, he’s leading the entire nation in points and speeding by former Eagle greats in the process. With Perreault’s rebound goal and assist in Monday’s game versus Harvard, he tied BC great Chris Kreider’s total from 2012 at 45 points scored in only 27 games. Needless to say, Perreault is going to shatter some records during his career as an Eagle.

With Monday’s win over Harvard (4-15-4), the Eagles (21-5-1) emerged victorious in back-to-back games, maintaining necessary space in the pair-wise rankings.

In a fairly uneventful first frame, other than a notable dive block from junior defenseman Aidan Hreschuk, the teams headed into the dressing rooms knotted at zero.

Midway through the second period, freshman Ryan Leonard fired a shot at Harvard goaltender Derek Mullahy who bobbled the chance leaving the puck sitting on the goal line only for Gabe Perreault to slam home the opening tally.

At the 19-minute mark of the second period, the Eagles broke the game wide open. It started when sophomores Cutter Gauthier and Oskar Jellvik linked up for a gorgeous give-and-go play in the slot leaving Jellvik open to hammer a one-timer into the empty cage for BC’s second of the game.

Seconds later, the USA pressed the Crimson deep into their own zone. On that same play, Gabe Perreault dug a puck out the corner, centering a feed for classmate Ryan Leonard who buried his 16th of the season.

As the teams skated in and out of the second intermission, the Crimson failed to gain control of the puck for longer than a couple of seconds in the third frame.

At 7:34 of the third period, senior defenseman Eamon Powell sped past the Harvard back line and fired a puck far side past Harvard goalie Aku Koskenvuo, who replaced Mullahy in goal for the Crimson.

To build on the theme of incredible goals scored throughout the game, freshman Ryan Leonard lifted a brilliant alley-oop-like pass for a streaking Will Smith who headed in on a breakaway. With one swift head fake, Smith forced Harvard’s goalie out of position tucking a backhander home for BC’s fifth of the game.

Harvard failed to score during Monday’s action giving a shutout to BC goaltender Jan Korec in his first collegiate start, tallying 19 saves on the night.

The Eagles will resume Hockey East action this weekend facing the UMass Minutemen in Amherst Friday at 7 p.m. on the Mullins Center ice.

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