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Eagles Daily notebook: A look at the historic hockey recruiting class

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Boston College hockey looks to get back on track this year with the best recruiting class in college hockey coming to Chestnut Hill.

There are the obvious six draft picks incoming, three of which shared a line on the 18U U.S. National team together and all went in the first round — Will Smith (F), Gabe Perreault (F), and Ryan Leonard (F), as well as their teammates in third-round pick Drew Fortescue (D) and fourth-rounder Aram Minnetian (D). The non-NTDP team draft pick was goalie Jacob Fowler, another third-round pick.

Smith, the No. 4 pick in the draft is the program’s highest-ever selection, surpassing Cutter Gauthier last year at No. 5. The six picks is additionally the program’s highest tally since 1989.

So, who are these names — and who are some of the faces in the rest of the recruiting class that may not get as much attention?

INCOMING FRESHMEN

2005 F, Gabe Perreault: Picked 23rd overall in the draft by the Rangers, Leonard set the single-season NTDP point record with 132 points this past season, including 53 goals. The Canadian native played for the Chicago Mission in his youth days though headed to the National Team in 2021.

*Note that every name that was on the NTDP spent two seasons with the team — their junior and senior year of high school.*

2005 F, Will Smith: As mentioned, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft to the Sharks, Smith put up 127 points at center for the NTDP team, which is second all-time right behind Leonard’s new record. The Lexington, MA native played at the BC Jr. Eagles growing up while also attending St. Sebastian’s for the first two years of high school.

2005 F, Ryan Leonard: Playing alongside the two names above with the NTDP, Perrault added 51 goals, identical to Smith, going eighth overall to Washington. His first two years of high school were at Pope Francis Prep while playing for the Springfield Rifles before heading to the NTDP.

2005 F, Will Vote: The Arlington, MA native, while not on the Leonard-Smith-Perreault line, did spend his past two years with the trio on the NTDP. The 5-foot-7 winger played alongside Smith for the Jr. Eagles in his youth days while going to Dexter Southfield for the first two years of high school and tallied 16 goals/45 points for the NTDP this past season.

2005 D, Aram Minnetian: Minnetian was a fourth-rounder in this year’s draft after authoring 31 points for the NTDP this season. The New Jersey native attended Bergen High beforehand while also playing for the Mid Fairfield Jr. Rangers.

2005 D, Drew Fortescue: Another former Mid Fairfield product, the New York Native went to Don Bosco Prep for his freshman and sophomore years while authoring 26 points for the National Team this season.

2004 G, Jan Korec: One of the more interesting recruits for the Eagles, the 18-year-old Korec hails from Slovakia and was on this year’s Slovak U20 World Juniors team. He spent some time in Norway before coming over to the US to attend the Northwood School in Lake Placid for his sophomore and junior year of high school, though spent this past year in the USHL playing for the Des Moines Buccaneers, making 24 appearances and

2004 G, Jacob Fowler: The Eagles get Fowler as an 18-year-old goaltender fresh off of a strong USHL season, where he played 40 games for the Youngstown Phantoms and posted a GAA of 2.28 as well as a 1.31 GAA in nine playoff games. Beforehand, the Florida native went to boarding school at South Kent in Connecticut.

2003 D, Nolan Joyce: Connor Joyce’s brother, the defenseman was another Jr. Eagles product and St Sebastian’s alum who spent this past season with the Chicago Steel in the USHL. The 19-year-old Dedham native put up 10 points for Chicago this past season.

2003 F, Timmy Delay: The 20-year-old winger out of Hingham played for the Jr. Eagles growing up and also attended St. Sebastian’s for four years. Playing for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL in 21-22 and tallying just six points in 48 games, Delay went to the BCHL this past season after just two games for Sioux Falls in the USHL — he authored seven goals/24 points in 42 appearances. He’ll be out for a decent portion of the season however with an injury.

2003 G, Alex Musielak: The 20-year-old netminder spent this past season between the CCHL (Kemptville 73’s) and the USHL (Utica Jr. Comets), posting roughly 3.6 GAA between the two. Beforehand, he went to the Nichols School, a prep school in Buffalo, NY. With three freshman goaltenders coming in and no other tender on the roster, it’ll be an interesting battle for playing time between the three.

INCOMING TRANSFERS

2000 F, Jack Malone: Malone, a California native, comes to BC as a graduate transfer from Cornell. He played three seasons at Cornell, including a season in which he went back to the USHL after his freshman year. He had a solid career at Cornell, where last season he posted eight goals/17 points in 34 games.

1999 D, Jacob Bengtsson: Bengtsson comes to BC after three seasons at Lake Superior State. The 6-foot-3 Swedish defenseman put up just seven points his freshman year but totaled 50 points across his past two seasons. The 24-year-old came to the USHL in 2018 and has been in the United States ever since.

1998 F, Jamie Armstrong: The 25-year-old graduate transfer spent four years at BU, as the winger grabbed 26 points in 94 games while scoring five goals and eight assists in 29 appearances this past season. He didn’t play all that much through the years at BU, though he brings an older presence to what will be a very young BC team.

Additional hockey notes

~ BC Hockey Blog reported earlier in the month that Matt Argentina will be heading back to the USHL to play for the Chicago Steele this season after pointing out that he wasn’t on the initial roster release. It’s the same route the transfer Malone took after his freshman year — though whether those who take the route go to a different school varies. The center in Argentina notched just four goals/10 points across the past two seasons for BC (53 games).

~ Some more scoop that BC Hockey Blog recently picked up is that potential No. 1 pick in 2025, 2006 forward James Hagens, visited BC on August 18th.

Steele to miss time due to a “personal health issue”

Boston College football saw some disappointing news Tuesday, with AJ Black reporting that starting middle linebacker Bryce Steele will be away from the team as the byproduct of a “personal health issue.” Black also noted that he could not deliver specifics, rather noting that more details should be out in the future.

The junior in Steele played in 12 games last season, a notable piece to the defense grabbing 51 tackles (24 solo) last season along with 5.5 tackles for loss.

Ashton-Langford inks deal overseas

Former Eagle Makai Ashton-Langford has inked a deal with KK Vrijednosnice Osijek in Croatia, BC announced Tuesday.

Ashton-Langford came to the Eagles in 2019 as a redshirt after two years at Providence College and played three years for BC alongside his brother DeMarr Langford Jr. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard put together a solid career with the Eagles, averaging 12+ points in each of the past two seasons while averaging 30+ minutes per game.

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Lay of the Land: Where Does BC Stand After Their Championship Loss?

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Photo by CBS News

ST. PAUL MN. – Following their loss to Denver University in the NCAA championship game, the Eagles faced an emotional send-off to their best season in over a decade. During an action-packed week of hockey, festivities, and awards in the state of hockey, the Eagles experienced a week that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. However, after the inevitable end of hockey season, teams have to say goodbye to their league-bound stars with decisions having to be made, and players needing to depart. Looking ahead to next season, BC’s roster will look different, but will not lose any degree of star power.

Recapping the Final

In a game that featured two teams playing for the first time since October, both the Eagles and Pioneers’ looked different than how they started the season. Since dropping an early one to the Pioneers in the fall, the Eagles have seen their roster develop rapidly, with Denver keeping up in their own regard. Going into action on the day of the final, both teams featured two of the best offenses in the country, with two elite goaltenders. Based on the matchup, the result of the game was a toss-up from the start.

However, though the Eagles had one of the best rush offenses in the country, the Pioneers succeded in stifling BC as soon as they started the breakout. Despite the Eagles trying to play fast and get in behind the Pioneers’ defensemen, Denver stayed above the puck and clogged up the neutral zone, forcing BC to dump the puck.

The Pioneers’ defense was phenomenal throughout the game, but Denver’s goaltending was the story of the game. Despite BC’s Jacob Fowler having a solid game in his own right allowing only two goals against, Denver’s Matt Davis played the game of his life at the best possible time. Stopping every one of the 35 shots the Eagles threw at him, Davis refused to budge, making the save of the season, and robbing BC’s Ryan Leonard on the doorstep with a desperation save.

Though the Eagles’ defense did not allow many high-danger chances throughout the game, the Pioneers found the holes when they needed two, ripping two perfect shots top-shelf past Fowler.

Following their 2-0 loss to the Pioneers, the Eagles need to face some tough decisions when it comes to the contract signing period and look ahead to the transfer portal.

Notable Departures

-Cutter Gauthier

After the culmination of the Frozen Four, NHL teams look toward their blue-chip prospects for help to push for the Stanley Cup. In the case of the Anaheim Ducks, they held the rights to former BC forward Cutter Gauthier and chose to sign him on an entry-level contract starting next year. However, Gauthier was able to play in Anaheim’s last regular season game against the Vegas Golden Knights where he recorded his first point.

-Jack Malone

Even though he only spent one season with the Eagles, Jack Malone will leave a tremendous void in BC’s roster after the best season of his college career. Playing most of the year on the third-line center ice role, Malone’s penalty-killing and two-way game were invaluable in getting BC out of jams such as against UConn in the Hockey East quarterfinals. Malone was also able to deliver the goal of a lifetime against Quinnipiac in the NCAA regional finals where he sent BC to their first Frozen Four since 2016.

-Jacob Bengtsson

As another one of BC’s portal pickups in the 2023 offseason, Bengtsson brought a tremendous amount of stability and leadership to this year’s roster. As a defenseman who played more of a stay-at-home role throughout the season, Bengtsson still had the skating and vision to join the rush when he needed to without leaving his teammates stranded on the back end. By just recently signing an AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies, Bengtsson will start his professional hockey career next fall.

-Colby Ambrosio

After spending a full four seasons of college hockey with the Boston College Eagles dating back to the COVID season in 2021, Ambrosio has decided to take his remaining year of NCAA eligibility into the transfer portal. This season, Ambrosio sacrificed personal success for team success in forfeiting his spot in the top six to younger and more skilled teammates to match up against other teams’ best lines. Ambrosio was someone who gave it their all every shift he had and it is no secret that his teammates and fans will miss the energy he brought to the ice.

-Charlie Leddy

Given the talented recruiting class coming in and the return of BC captain Eamon Powell for a fifth season, Leddy decided to take his talents into the transfer portal looking ahead to the 2024-25 season. Even though Leddy never scored a lot of points for BC from the back end, his absence will be felt on the penalty-killing and shot-blocking fronts. As a fourth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2022, Leddy will need to prove himself as a top-six defenseman on another team to pursue a professional contract due to his offensive game not being there quite yet.

-Jamie Armstrong

In finishing his five-year career with the BC Eagles after shifting to the other side of Comm. Ave after a four-year career with the BU Terriers, Armstrong left his mark on the Eagles roster. Though he missed the first third of the season with an injury, Armstrong took on the role of a gritty third-line winger with honor. Perhaps Armstrong’s best role throughout the season was that of a penalty-killing specialist. As someone whose stick seemed to always be in the right place, Armstrong will undoubtedly secure a minor-league contract in the 2024 offseason.

Notable Arrivals

-James Hagens (USNTDP)

Despite the numerous amount of first-round draft picks recruited by BC in the previous couple of years, the most talented of BC’s recruits for next season is someone who is not even 18 years old. As a 2025 draft-eligible forward, Hagens excels in all facets of the game from skating to penalty killing to elite offense. As someone who looks to fill in for Cutter Gauthier on one of the top two center ice positions, the Eagles will look toward Hagens as a top point producer immediately starting next fall.

-Teddy Stiga (USNTDP)

As someone who was not as highly touted when he committed to BC, Teddy Stiga has made tremendous strides this season, having improved all facets of his game. Playing on Hagens’ left wing for the majority of this season, Stiga compliments Hagens’ game as another quick, two-way player who can really shoot the puck. As a 2024 draft-eligible skater, Stiga will most likely be picked by an NHL team in the first three rounds this summer.

-Will Skahan (USNTDP)

Committed to the University of Wisconsin as late as this November, Will Skahan flipped his commitment, joining BC along with two of his teammates from this season. Skahan is a big, lengthy stay-at-home defenseman who will undoubtedly fill in for Jacob Bengtsson as a mainstay on the Eagles’ blue line. Though Skahan’s defense and puck-moving are ready for the NCAA, his offensive game is something he will continue to develop at BC. Will Skahan is projected to be picked in the top two rounds at this year’s NHL draft.

-Jake Sondreal (Dubuque Fighting Saints)

After playing the first of his two NCAA-eligible seasons with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL, Sondreal waited a little bit before committing to BC during the spring of 2023. Sondreal posted numbers good enough to land on the top ten list of scorers for this USHL season, but will probably take on a different role here at BC. Similar to Colby Ambrosio this season, the top two lines will be filled with more elite playmakers next season, so Sondreal will need to find his place on the third line to be effective for the Eagles.

-Brady Berard (Providence College)

After two seasons at Providence College, Brady Berard’s start to his college career did not start as well as he’d hoped. However, next season Berard will be given a fresh start at BC after missing half of last season’s game in Rhode Island. Berard is a guy who will slide into BC’s bottom six, demonstrating his best skills down low in the D-zone and on the backcheck.

-Michael Hagens (Chicago Steel)

Commiting at the same time as his brother James, Michael Hagens will arrive at BC next year with an extra year of experience at the USHL level under his belt. Though BC’s back end is already quite established, Hagens can act as a two-way facilitator, and support BC’s forwards with solid puck moving.

Remaining Question marks: What About the USA Line?

After the most productive season by a single college hockey line in recent memory, question marks inevitably manifest surrounding the future of these athletes with NHL teams being ready and waiting. As it stands, the current status of the former freshman line of BC skaters known as the “USA Line” is uncertain. Though all we can do is speculate on what will happen, here is what we know about their status as college athletes thus far:

-Gabe Perreault (NHL Rights: New York Rangers)

Even after missing a large portion of games with an upper-body injury this season, Gabe Perreault still collected a whopping 60 points on the season. However, after no effort from the New York Rangers to sign Perreault in time for the 2024 NHL playoffs, the implication is that Perreault will stay with BC next season, and continue to develop his 200-ft game and physical presence on the ice.

-Will Smith (NHL Rights: San Jose Sharks)

After scoring north of 70 points in a season joining the likes of Jack Eichel and Adam Fantili to do so in one season of college hockey, theoretically, Smith would join his predecessors and sign an NHL contract in the offseason. However, as a San Jose Sharks draft pick, the Sharks are currently the worst team in the NHL and have the best odds for the #1 draft selection for this year’s draft. With the Sharks inevitably continuing their rebuild into next season, it will give Smith a chance a second chance to develop his backchecking at the NCAA level next season.

-Ryan Leonard (NHL Rights: Washington Capitals)

Though Ryan Leonard turned down a chance to join the Capitals during this year’s NHL playoffs, Leonard could still choose to sign with Washington in the offseason. Though it’s unlikely, Leonard could change his mind just like Logan Cooley did last season when he signed with the team formerly known as the Arizona Coyotes.

Despite having clues about what BC’s roster will look like during the 2024-25 season, we really don’t know enough to make any cemented claims. The status on the USA line will trickle well into the summer, and the happenings of the NCAA transfer portal can change a team’s outlook in an instant. Though BC couldn’t accomplish their ultimate goal this year, they have re-cemented themselves as a force in college hockey and will continue to develop loads of NHL talent in the coming years.

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Boston College 4, Michigan 0; Eagles Are One Game Away From the National Championship

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Photo by Boston College Athletics

ST. PAUL MN. – When BC arrived in Minnesota for the Frozen Four, freshman forward Will Smith had 69 points on the season entering the weekend. Already having shattered the BC freshman point record weeks ago, Smith needed just one point to hit 70, tying the likes of Kyle Connor, and Jack Eichel during their freshman college campaigns. In front of a packed house in the state of hockey, Smith did just that. With his two goals Thursday night, Will Smith can be the highest-scoring freshman in the 21st century in BC’s next contest.

With their 4-0 win over the Wolverines (23-15-3) on Thursday, the Eagles (34-5-1) advance to the NCAA title game for the first time since 2012. A win would bring them their sixth title, tying them with Wisconsin for the third most all-time.

The game itself was broken open early by the Eagles. As they have all season, the USA line got BC going before Michigan was able to collect their bearings. After freshman forward Gabe Perreault launched a breakout pass to classmate Ryan Leonard streaking down the right wing, he sent a perfect saucer pass to Will Smith who hammered home the goal. That assist gave Leonard his 60th point of the season.

Following that early sequence, the Wolverines began skating with more pace. However, BC’s freshman goaltender and young blue-line were able to sniff out the majority of the Wolverine’s rush opportunities. Not only were BC’s defenders able to limit cross-crease opportunities throughout the contest, but they were able to thwart most of Michigan’s slot chances going into the first intermission.

Following a slate of continuous action in the second period, Will Smith struck again. At 12:25, Smith came from behind the Michigan cage and sent a puck toward the net. Deflecting off a Wolverine player and in, Smith’s goal doubled BC’s advantage and re-seized the momentum.

Less than a minute later, Cutter Gauthier buried his 38th goal of the season on a breakaway rush opportunity, tying the BC single-season goal-scoring record. After the game, Gauthier credited his defenders for stepping up against Michigan rush plays and creating counter-attacks for him and his teammates up ice.

“Just watching them all game long. You have the utmost confidence when three studs are coming down on them,” Gauthier said, “it was super fun to watch how great they were tonight.”

After the Gauthier goal, the teams skated in and out of the second intermission, and despite, a high-flying third period for Michigan, the theme continued for the Wolverines. They were pushed to the outside for most of the period, and the shots they took had little traffic in front making Jacob Fowler’s life easy.

On one play, freshman defenseman Aram Minnetian used his skating and agility to kill a 2-on-1 chance for the Wolverines and send a perfect breakout pass to his forwards up-ice.

The lone goal of the final period came at 5:03 when Gabe Perreault sprinted down the left wing and put a perfect wraparound chance past Michigan’s Jake Barczewski for his 60th point of the season. On the unassisted goal by Perreault, the BC fans in the Xcel Energy Center could feel that the game was wrapped up.

The Eagles would continue to shut the door down the stretch, giving Jacob Fowler the shutout, the first for a BC goaltender in the Frozen Four.

The future of this historic Eagles team is uncertain with plenty of faces bound for the NHL, but one thing is certain: BC will play for their sixth banner, a record among Boston schools, against Denver University at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday in St. Paul MN. airing live on ESPN2.

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Focusing on the Frozen Four: 2024 NCAA Semi-finalists Have Won a Combined Twenty-nine Titles

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Photo by Boston College Athletics

When the Boston College Eagles punched its ticket to the national semi-final with a close win over defending champion Quinnipiac University, it meant that the 2024 Frozen Four tournament would feature four of the most historic college programs in the country. Accumulating almost 30 combined titles throughout their history, it is no secret that these teams will ice the best talent in the country in a trio of games where memories will last a lifetime. Below is a preview of the Hobey Baker Award Ceremony scheduled for the weekend as well as what we can expect from the four teams hitting the ice on Thursday.

The Hobey Baker Award

What can we expect from this weekend’s action? Well during the off week, the finalists for the Hobey Baker Award were announced, and two of them are from Boston schools who will be playing in each of Thursday’s games.

The first finalist for the historic trophy is sophomore forward Jackson Blake of North Dakota. As a nifty playmaker who can play the wing or center-ice position, Blake is a guy who loves to get to the front of the net. The way he weaves through traffic in tight situations is second to none and is certainly a lock for immediate impact with the Carolina Hurricanes where he will play next season.

Freshman forward Macklin Celebrini is the first of the Hockey East’s two finalists for Hobey. As the youngest player in college hockey throughout this season, Celebrini has turned heads regardless of in-game outcomes. At only 17 years of age, Celebrini has amassed the second-leading PPG rate in the country, while boasting a complete game in all three zones. By playing this season in his draft year, Celebrini has cemented himself as the unanimously predicted #1 choice at this year’s NHL Draft.

Sophomore forward Cutter Gauthier represents BC as the league leader in goals scored. Born just outside of Phoenix, Gauthier wields an NHL-ready shot reminiscent of mutual hometown hero Auston Matthews, who is on his own record-breaking goal-scoring pace. By improving his 200-foot game, his play-making ability, and his resume in international competition, Gauthier joins the Hobey Finalists as the first Eagle since Johnny Gaudreau in 2014.

The Hobey Baker Ceremony will take place on Friday at the RiverCentre Convention Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, or live on NHL Network.

Team Preview: University of Michigan

Entering this year’s NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines came in as a lower seed, and only average in the pair-wise rankings. However, with the help of 2022 first-round draft picks Rutger McGroarty, Seamus Casey, and Frank Nazar III, the Wolverines are hot at a dangerous time. Also, with the help of former Eagle Marshall Warren on the blue line, the Wolverines have a veteran presence on the back end and in goal with Canisius transfer Jake Barczewski. Michigan has reached the Frozen Four in each of the last three seasons, and will certainly pose a challenge to BC in the late game.

Team Preview: Boston University

BC’s cross-town rival has been ready and waiting for a fight all season long. Joining BC in the Frozen Four for the first time in over 30 years, BU will inevitably pose a challenge to whatever team they face. Led by their starting junior goalie Mathieu Caron who had exceeded expectations in net, BU boasts the deepest blue line in all of college hockey. With sophomore defenseman Lane Hutson showing shades of a young Adam Fox, and graduate defenseman Cade Webber leading the nation in blocked shots, the Terriers’ defense has proved they can cause problems against the best teams in the country all season.

Team Preview: University of Denver

At the start of the season, Denver consistently iced the number one offense week in and week out. After getting the better of the Eagles in a 4-3 victory back in October, the Pioneers have taken a step out of the limelight following an injury to their top scorer, junior forward Massimo Rizzo. However, younger skaters have stepped up for the Pioneers. Freshman defenseman Zeev Buium posted the most points from a first-year blueliner throughout the season and has been an integral part of Denver’s high-flying offense all year. Under 2024 WJC gold medal-winning head coach David Carle, Denver’s mix of youth and experience will cause fits to whatever team they face.

Team Preview: Boston College

After graduate forward Jack Malone’s iconic game-winning goal over Quinnipiac that sent BC to the Frozen Four, new faces on BC’s roster took over the front page for one of the first times all season. Led by sensational freshman and sophomore forwards for most of the year, Eagle netminder Jacob Fowler emphasized post-game that “their talent speaks for itself.” But new players are proving themselves at the right times during post-season play where the Eagles have had to win hockey games in different ways. In addition to Malone’s brilliance in recent moments, BC has gotten momentum from freshman defenseman Aram Minnetian who has found the net twice in the playoffs, and senior forward Colby Ambrosio in the form of a relentless motor in all three zones. If the Eagles want to win either game in St. Paul this weekend, their bottom six must continue to step up.

Nevertheless, BC will play in their first Frozen Four matchup since 2016 at 8:30 p.m. ET against the Michigan Wolverines, in St. Paul MN. airing live on ESPN2.

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