Eagles and Terriers Living Together?
BU's Eichel and BC's Tuch are linemates and roommates for the U.S. Under-20 team, but will be on opposite ends in Hockey East
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. Jack Eichel and Alex Tuch will both take their talents to Commonwealth Ave. in Boston in just about a month, but it will be at opposite ends of the city’s iconic street.
Eichel will begin his career at Boston University and Tuch will be up the street at Boston College. But for now, Eichel and Tuch are in more familiar territory: they’re linemates on the U.S. Under-20 team, as it participates in the National Junior Evaluation Camp this week in Lake Placid. On Wednesday, Team USA beat Sweden, 7-1, at the USA Rink inside the Olympic Center.
They’re not just linemates, Eichel and Tuch are roommates this week. On the U.S. Under-18 team last season, Eichel and Tuch were also together, along with incoming BC winger Sonny Milano, who had an assist on Wednesday playing on a line with Chase De Leo.
Tuch tallied three goals in the blowout win and Eichel, who is projected to be one of the top draft picks in the 2015 NHL Draft, assisted on two of them, along with adding a helper on Michael Downing’s first-period goal.
Tuch (Minnesota) and Milano (Columbus) are already first-round NHL draft picks, selected in the 2014 NHL Draft this past June.
Eichel is a bit of a lone wolf at this camp; a BU kid surrounded by BC maroon and gold. Along with Milano and Tuch, BC goaltender Thatcher Demko was the starting goalie on Wednesday, defenseman Steve Santini was on the blue line and defensemen Ian McCoshen and Scott Savage were at the camp earlier this week.
There’s been no ribbing, for now, but that might change once the uniform colors do in October.
“I’m sure it will get there,” Eichel said. “There’s been a few quick jabs so far, but we’re friendly … for now. We play on the same team right now but once we get (to college) I’m sure it will get there. It’s great playing with (Tuch) and I’m sure when we’re against each other, it will be just as fun. We’ll be competitive, but it will be fun.”
Added Tuch, “It will be just as fun competing with him. We’re both obviously really competitive so I’ll give him a little extra hit into the boards, you know, I’ll give him that little extra tap, but it will be fun.”
Eichel, Tuch and Milano found instant chemistry when they were paired together last season, helping the U.S. Under-18 team win the gold medal at the IIHF World Under-18 championships.
The skill on the entire U.S. roster was evident on Wednesday, but there seemed to be a little something extra between Tuch and Eichel.
“I don’t know, we just have something special together,” Tuch said. “Right away, I always felt comfortable playing with him. There just seemed to be something that clicked. He’s such a good player, it’s really easy to play with a guy like that.”
Their styles mesh perfectly. Eichel is a tremendous playmaker with out-of-this-world vision and hands. Tuch is the one who benefits most from that fortune, with Eichel often putting him in the best position to unleash his deadly shot.
“He’s really good everywhere on the ice,” Eichel said. “I like to get him the puck and he’s a great shooter. It feels like we’re in the middle of the season already, where we played together last year.”
Their skating is what separates them, though. The entire U.S. roster skated circles around Sweden, constantly beating defenders to the net on the outside or out-racing Swedish players to loose pucks.
“Their skill is off the charts,” said U.S. head coach Mark Osiecki, a former head coach at Ohio State. “I heard someone say that if you took this team right now and dropped it into the NHL, it might be one of the top-10 skating teams in the league. That’s stuff you just can’t teach.”
Eichel, Tuch and Milano also enter programs with unfinished business. BC, as dominating as it was in the regular season, bowed out in the national semifinal to Union and returns a big chunk of last year’s roster, including Demko, McCoshen and Santini.
The biggest hole s left by Johnny Gaudreau, who signed with the Calgary Flames in April, and that’s where the Eagles hope Milano and Tuch fit in.
Eichel, on the other hand, is entering a BU program that’s trying to claw its way back to respectability. The Terriers were near the bottom of Hockey East last season, and their offense (third worst), defense (tied for worst) and possession numbers (outshot by 9.83 shots per game) were among the worst in Hockey East.
They’re also stepping into quite the rivalry.
“When I visited, it was a BC-BU game,” Tuch said. “When I saw the crowd and the players and just how into it everyone was, that was it for me. I knew where I was going. It’s exciting to be a part of that. I can’t wait. Those are the types of games you want to play in.”