Saturday, February 22, 2014

Eagles Fly By River Hawks

Another game, another tough opponent, another outstanding defensive performance, and yes, another win. Thanks to a 33 save shutout from freshman Thatcher Demko, the #1 Boston College Eagles defeated the #7 UMass Lowell River Hawks by a score of 3-0 Friday night in front of 6,524 fans at Kelley Rink. Although the River Hawks had 33 shots, I would say maybe six or seven of those were really good, quality, grade A chances. BC continues to do an absolutely tremendous job of defending in their own end, back checking to pick up for unaccounted forwards, and keeping their opponents' shots to the outside. Early on, Lowell generated a lot of rebounds off shots from the perimeter but BC's defensemen did a great job of getting stick on stick, winning the small puck battles, and clearing the zone. When you play Lowell, you're not going to generate a ton of great chances mainly because they play so well in their own end and don't give you much. I think, when it's all said and done however, BC generated a significant amount of grade A chances,  and forced Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck to make some phenomenal saves, especially in the first period. Although they only had three power plays, the Eagles made the most of their first one as Johnny G scored a goal in which only one player in all of college hockey could score. I'll link the highlights but it appears he has just inches of net to work with and he didn't have all that much room between him and the defender. It's stunning what he can do with the puck. Stunning.

Give credit to Lowell because in the second period, they got the game down to their level. It was a slow paced, lot of neutral zone, penalty infested twenty minutes. Isaac Macleod was whistled for a five minute major halfway through the period for contact to the head. The Lowell forward clearly didn't have the puck so it was without a doubt an interference penalty but if anything, it was a borderline game misconduct. Anyways, the following five minutes were BC's best on the penalty kill all season. The River Hawks only managed to get six shots throughout the five minutes. With Macleod out for the game, Kevin Hayes was forced to play defense on the penalty kill and according to Coach York, it was "Kevin's best 60 minutes of the year". The knock on Kevin has always been his play in his own end because over the course of his first three years, he wasn't a very good two way player. Now, he is beginning to become the type of player that can be an asset to this team, not only in the offensive zone where he has an uncanny ability to make things happen, but in the defensive zone where he can be a physical, yet intelligent defensive forward/defenseman. Over the final ten minutes of the second period, Lowell had almost six and a half minutes of power play but barely got anything going, especially around Demko. Every time a River Hawk defenseman was ready to fire a slap shot, their were white shirts standing right in harms way. Pat Brown, Quinn Smith, Scotty Savage, and Johnny G all took brutal slap shots to the lower body area and continued to stay on the ice until the puck was cleared. A skilled team ? Sure, a tough team ? No doubt.

All the talk in the college hockey world has been how BC is just a three man team and can't win because of their depth. Well, considering Pat Brown, Austin Cangelosi, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Scott Savage are a averaging 20.8 points between all five of them so far this season, I would argue that we've got perhaps the deepest team in Hockey East, if not the country. Everyone is expecting those guys to be like Hayes, Arnold, and G, but that's not what their role is, their role is to play well on both ends, minimize the mistakes, avoid turnovers, and score a goal or two here and there. The better Gilmour, Cangelosi, Calnan, and Fitzgerald play, the deeper this team becomes. Look at the past two National Championship teams we've had, look at how good the third lines were on those teams. It's the largest ingredient in a championship caliber team.

Overall, a crucial victory over a very good hockey team. Obviously, the Eagles have already clinched the #1 seed in Hockey East but the goal of the regular season is not to win a Hockey East regular season title, the goal of the regular season is to put yourself in the best possible spot to win a National Championship. As we saw in 2011, being the #2 overall seed can be difficult because you might have to play a team like North Dakota or Michigan in the first round. I don't know about you but I'd rather be the #1 overall seed and play the Atlantic Hockey champion in the NCAA opener. We'll see what happens tonight up in Lowell

Why BC won- 

1. Demko was really good. Again

2. The penalty kill might be as good as it's ever been. Lowell got nothing on their five minute power play and nothing on the other two penalties.

3. "Secondary scoring". Cangelosi and Gilmour have both played really well as of late.


I got nothing. Power play looked really good.

Player(s) of the game- This is tough, but I'll go with Gilmour and Demko.

Highlights- Link

Next up- Tonight 7 PM @ Lowell

Go Eagles !

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