The freshman with the biggest impact on the Boston College hockey team this season has been defenseman Michael Matheson.
Matheson scored the Eagles’ third goal in a 4-1 victory over Harvard in the first round of the Beanpot tournament last Monday at TD Garden.
Although there is still much to learn, the 18-year-old native of Pointe-Claire, Quebec, continues to make strides.
“He was pretty special from the start and he’s been getting better,’’ said Patrick Wey, the lone senior defenseman since Patch Alber left the lineup with a knee injury. “He’s starting to make smarter decisions with the puck. He’s got the ability to make some incredible plays that people like me couldn’t even dream of doing on the ice. His maturity during the season has come through. I think the mental maturity more than the physical maturity, but he seems like he’s been ready for the college game [physically] since Day 1.’’
BC captain Pat Mullane said part of the development process is making errors and learning from them, but that Matheson has significant skills.
“He’s one of the best skaters I’ve ever seen and he’s so talented,’’ said Mullane. “Every day he’s getting better. He understands his decision-making with the puck is mediocre at times, but he’s working on that. As he continues to get more ice time, [he will improve]. Obviously, the coaches have a ton of confidence in him.
“College is a whole different game than any [level] he has played before and you can see as he progresses, his confidence and decision-making is getting so much better. He is 10 times [ahead] of where he was at the beginning of the season and hopefully he’ll be 10 times better when the end of the season rolls around.’'
The teams’ preparation was a bit thrown off because of the weekend storm. They each had a Hockey East contest postponed Friday night (BC against UMass-Lowell, Northeastern at UMass), giving them a week between games.
“Actually I heard about it from my mom before I even heard about it from the coaches,’’ said Wey.
Senior right wing Steven Whitney said it makes them that much eager for the championship game.
“We were a little bummed out we couldn’t play, but we’re happy we get to play on Monday,’’ he said.
Although Northeastern hasn’t won a Beanpot title since 1988, the Huskies have been in the finals three times in the last five years. The Feb. 11 date has been fortuitous for the team. In seven games on that date, the Huskies have a 5-2 record, including titles in 1980 and ’85, and a 2-0 mark against BC, including the 5-4 win in overtime in the ’80 championship . . . If NU knocks off BC Monday night, it will be the first time the team has beaten BU and BC twice in the same season since 1989-90. NU beat BC in the Eagles’ opening game to end their 19-game winning streak. The Huskies beat the Terriers Jan. 18 and last Monday . . . NU and BC have combined to score at least nine goals in all three championship meetings. It was nine in 1980 (NU 5, BC 4 in OT), 10 in 1983 (BC 8, NU 2), and 13 in 2011 (BC 7, NU 6 in OT) . . . Despite the 25-year drought, it isn’t the longest the Huskies have gone without a title. Starting in 1952, the team went 28 years before winning it for the first time in 1980, the longest winless span of any team in the history of the event.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.