Sunday, February 24, 2013

Eagles Get HUGE win @ Merrimack

The hallmark of Boston College hockey teams under Coach York has been that they play well in big games, especially when it comes to "trophy season". While there was no trophy on the line tonight, the Eagles got maybe their biggest victory of the season over the Merrimack Warriors thanks to a Quinn Smith overtime tally. Why was this such a big W ? A BC loss would have dropped them three or four spots in the pairwise, another spot in the Hockey East standings, and would mean that they would lose the tiebreaker to MC. Was it BC's best game of the year ? No, they were actually very sloppy at some points in the first half of the hockey game. They had to many careless turnovers which resulted in some good chances for the Warriors but as he usually is, Parker Milner was there for the big saves. One in particular stands out to me. Midway through the second period (game tied) Mike Matheson turned the puck over in the neutral zone, sending a MC forward in a breakaway looking to give his team the lead. Milner made not just a great initial save but also a huge rebound pad save, stopping the Warriors from taking the lead. The Warriors also had a long 5 on 3 in the third period but couldn't get anything by a rock solid Milner. Give credit to him. He knows he had a rough go of it vs UNH but thanks to some hard work with Coach Louge this week, he got his problems figured out and played one of his better games of the season.

While BC was badly outplayed in the first half of the game, they actually scored the first goal of the contest when Steven Whitney fired a vicious wrist shot past Marotta from just inside the blue line. Everybody (including myself) loves to go on and on about how Johnny G is the greatest thing we've seen since Gerbe but right now, Steven Whitney is the best player on this hockey team and in my opinion, he is the best player in college hockey. The thing about him though that Coach York alluded to after the game is that he is not just an offensive dynamite that doesn't do anything in the other two zones. He is what Coach York calls "a three zone player". Yes, he can shoot the puck better than almost anyone in the country but he can also play some real tough, physical defense. It's difficult to find players that are good in both zones...he is certainly one of the best we've had around here in a long time. However, about 5 minutes after the Whitney goal, Merrimack responded with a power play goal by Shawn Bates, tying the score up at 1. On the goal, it appeared that BC had a chance to clear but as you watch the reply, you'd see that Isaac Macleod accidently stepped on the puck, tough break for a guy that played a really good game tonight.

In the second half of the game, I thought BC got back to what they usually do best. They got out, found some open space, and created multiple opportunities on Marotta, who made two highlight reel goals on Danny Linell and Brooks Dyroff. BC kept attacking and appeared to be closing in on the goal ahead goal before Pat Wey and Steven Whitney took two penalties within a few seconds of each other, giving MC yet another power play. Thanks to save great killing by Quinn Smith, Mike Matheson, and Isaac Macleod, the Eagles were able to kill of the long 5 on 3 and actually didn't allow too many great chances for the Warriors. A lot of the shots came from outside the circles and were easy stops for Milner. Certainly good to see BC's penalty kill improving game by game.

After the Eagles barely missed out on a couple great chances late in the third, the game went in to OT where the Warriors defeated the Eagles just 9 days ago thanks to, you guessed it, a power play goal. This time though the game remained 5 on 5 and two of BC's hardest working players connected for what will go down as the season changing moment, should this team go on to do some great things in the spring. Pat Brown did a nice job of getting the puck on net and Quinn Smith did something he does o so well. He goes to the net and finds the puck. It sounds simple and all that but it's not. He always seems to find a way to get the puck in those tight spots. Just a great goal. 

Overall, this is certainly one of those wins that can really change the feeling in your locker room. The difference between a win today and a tie wouldn't have hurt BC too bad in terms of the pairwise but the feeling going back to Chestnut Hill on the bus this weekend was certainly a heck of a lot better than it was last Friday. Now the guys have to get ready for what is another big time tilt Tuesday night vs a red hot Lowell team.

Why BC Won-

1. Parker Milner bounced back in a big way. He was great tonight.

2. They've got the three (maybe four) best forwards in Hockey East. Say what you want but if you ask me, I wouldn't want to go to battle with anyone else besides Johnny G, Whitney, Arnold, and Mullane. When Hayes comes back, this team could get scary good with the level these guys are playing at right now.

3. That big penalty kill in the third.


I thought BC was a bit sloppy at times tonight. If it wasn't for some big saves from #35, I don't know if BC would have won this game. As the game progressed, the Eagles got better but earlier on they looked pretty out of sorts.

Players of the game- Steven Whitney, Quinn Smith, and Parker Milner.

Next Up- Lowell on Tuesday night @ Conte.


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