BOSTON -- The story of Boston University's early success has been offense, and one Jack Eichel who has been garnering some well-deserved attention ahead of the 2015 NHL Draft.
Against the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team for which he played last season, the North Chelmsford, Mass. native freshman scored two goals and an assist to help the Terriers in a 6-4 exhibition victory on Saturday night at Agganis Arena.
"It's pretty hard," Eichel said of playing against some of his former teammates. "It was a tough game, but it was a lot of fun. ... It was good for our team to play against them, with all the skill they have."
BU has scored 26 goals over its first three games of the season, including an 8-1 win last Friday at UMass in its first Hockey East league contest. Although only one of them has counted, it's a telling sign for what lies ahead.
"Obviously, it's nice to win," BU head coach David Quinn said. "Sometimes, people perceive these games to be exhibition games or games that don't matter, but it certainly mattered to us."
The Terriers opened the scoring at the 14:51 mark of the first period with their newly formed top line coming through again with a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing sequence.
Eichel, who scored twice and picked up two more assists in the opener at UMass, led the way by feeding junior Ahti Oksanen into the offensive zone. Oksanen did the same by finding a wide open junior Danny O'Regan for a tip-in goal right on top of the crease.
BU's lead didn't last long as Boston College commit Jeremy Bracco knocked his eighth goal of the season through traffic off a pass from Auston Matthews. Fellow future Eagle and North Reading, Mass. native Casey Fitzgerald started the play at the blue line, feeding the puck forward for the secondary assist on the power-play strike at 17:14.
Three goals in less than five minutes, including a pair from Eichel, lifted the Terriers to a commanding 4-1 lead to open the second period.
BU senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann made an excellent defensive play leading to the go-ahead goal as he stripped the puck and fed classmate Evan Rodrigues for the goal just 34 seconds into the stanza.
From there, Eichel stole the show.
At 3:41, O'Regan found him between the circles where attempted a pass back. The puck made its way just inside the near post after pinballing off a defender's stick. His tally at 4:43 showed some of the "world class" skill described by his coach, racing down the right wing and beating future Wisconsin goaltender Luke Opilka on a beautiful snipe.
"It's a really unselfish line," the Needham, Mass. native O'Regan said of playing with Eichel and Oksanen. "Right off the bat, it kind of worked out because we seemed to find each other. We're in the right spots at the right time."
Matthews, one of just two uncommitted players in the Under-18 lineup, scored two consecutive goals to bring the visitors within 4-3 to close the second frame.
He scored on a power play at 6:21 before a batting a loose puck through traffic, also off assists from Tkachuk and Bracco, at 12:31.
The Terriers played an excellent period, extending their lead for victory while holding Team USA to just 11 total shot attempts. Freshman goaltender Connor LaCouvee made 20 saves on the night, just five of which came in the final frame.
BU padded its lead at 11:21 of the third as O'Regan fed a diagonal pass low to Oksanen who easily beat Opilka trying to recover across the crease to his glove side.
Team USA again came within one goal at 16:16 as Notre Dame commit Christian Fischer broke ahead of the defense for a breakaway, but BU freshman J.J. Piccinich iced the game with an empty-netter with 52 seconds remaining.
It certainly didn't come easy for BU as it came out sloppy before grabbing a lead just past the midway point of the first. Quinn recognized the high level of his team's opponent, which featured eight Hockey East commits in the lineup.
"I don't know if we're going to see a more skilled team than that one," Quinn said. "They're loaded up front, they have a good D corps, they're well-coached. I'm happy we came out with a 6-4 win."
BU welcomes Michigan State and No. 10 Michigan to Agganis for a pair of games next weekend, while the Under-18 Team continues its NCAA exhibition schedule at No. 15 Cornell and Oswego State