|BC celebrates Hanifin's goal. Photo from The Heights|
After a heart breaking game @ Hockey East newcomer UConn and two straight losses vs rivals Boston University and Harvard, both on home ice, I began to have some serious doubts (as you probably read) about the direction of this team. They looked slow, tired, and were being outplayed for large portions of each one of those contest. It appeared as though BC would miss the NCAA tournament for just the second time since 2003.
And now he's got them going.
Thanks to goals from Alex Tuch (x2) and Noah Hanifin, the Boston College Eagles once again invaded the Jack Parker Rink and came out with a potentially season altering victory over a highly touted Boston University team. Let's get one thing perfectly clear before we talk about the game. I'm as big a fan of American hockey as anyone out there and I hope Jack Eichel does great things for this sport in the United States but we need to be really clear here- BC completely shut him down tonight, he was as much a factor as I was out there. Whether it was the return of defensive specialist Steven Santini or the terrific play of Chris Calnan, Mike Sit, and Quinn Smith, the maroon and gold just found a way to totally take him out of the game. They were physical with him, they didn't give him any room, and most importantly, it seemed like he never had the puck on his stick, something that was all too common in the first game. Only two guys in white were -2 tonight, and guess who one of them was?
I thought the first period was undoubtedly BC's best of the season as it seemed like the puck was in BU's zone the entire period and every time the Terriers went the other way, BC kept their chances to the outside. After an iffy call on Quinn Smith early in the game, the officials rewarded BC with their first of two lengthy 5 on 3's following a dirty hit on Thatcher Demko by highly touted recruit AJ Greer. The good guys responded as Noah Hanifin, who was (along with Tuch), by far and away the best player on the ice, fired home a slap shot giving him his 3rd goal of the season. Ever since both he and Tuch have come back from the World Jr's, they have both looked like the type of guys that could carry this team on their shoulders with all the talent they possess and that is exactly what took place tonight. As the period began to wind down, BC caught BU, particularly Eichel, sleeping while attempting to try and get back so Hanifin took advantage by taking one of their defenseman wide, dragging him behind the net before firing a crisp pass to a wide open Alex Tuch who roofed it past Matt O'Connor with about 2 minutes to go in the period.
The Eagles continued their strong play in the second period as they completely dominated the Terriers at times and were once again rewarded with another long 5 on 3 with about 8 minutes to go. Interestingly, BC has received three 5 on 3's in the past four games (one vs Dartmouth, also a goal) and boy are they moving the puck well. In past years, they wouldn't use a 1-3-1, especially in the Gibbons-Atkinson-Whitney era but with the size they currently have up front, it almost forces the opponent to play that guy in the middle (either Sanford or Tuch). The more you get the opponent to move laterally, the more holes that are going to open and that is exactly what happened on Tuch's second goal as BU's defenseman (Hickey), who was supposed to be the guy covering the middle, dropped right down to defend the cross ice pass and next thing you know, it's 3-0 after two.
Give credit to Coach Quinn and the Terriers because like always, they battled back. Say what you want about BU but ever since I've been watching them, they seem to always find a way to avoid a blowout and make it a contest....except for the 2006 regionals. With 14 seconds left in the second, they called Teddy Doherty for tripping and the home team took advantage when St Sebastian's product Danny O'Regan snuck one through a lot of traffic and eventually past Demko early in the third to make it a two goal game with a lot of hockey left. This could have been a real turning point in the game because the crowd was finally into it and BU seemed like they had all the momentum but actually, it was the Eagles who controlled the majority of the play for the middle half of the period. Cam Spiro (who got a lot of playing time due to an Austin Cangelosi injury) and Zach Sanford barley missed out on making it a 3 goal game. Unfortunately, the only mistake BC's third line made all game, a turnover at the blue line, resulted in BU's second goal with 4 and a half minutes to go. Really not much you can say other than it was a good play by their defenseman keeping it on off the wall and of course the initial shot hits something and deflects right on to Matt Lane's stick.
The last four minutes might have been the longest of my entire life but somehow, someway, Zach Sanford blocked an Evan Rodriguez shot at the blue line and sent the puck 77 feet into the empty net, giving BC two more Hockey East points and more importantly, catapulting them into the all important 16th slot in the pairwise. This is the first time since October that BC has been on the right side of the tournament bubble.
Honestly, not much I can say other than Jerry York. This team looked so bad at times before Christmas but somehow he's got them playing as well as any team in college hockey. If they stay healthy, and I'm not sure about Cangelosi's status, then there is no doubt in my mind that we can't be the last team standing there in April. Talk about 2008 all you want but the coaching job he has done with this team thus far has been truly remarkable, I mean one fan in particular thought the world was ending after that loss to Harvard.
"We're going to be a pretty good club after Christmas"- Coach York after the game @ UMass
1. Everything. I absolutely love beating those guys.
2. Hanifin and Tuch were special. Santini makes a bit of a difference, eh?
3. Can we get a Demko for Hobey website going?
1. Not sure about Cangelosi's status. He sat for 10 minutes to start the second but returned, only to exit again in the third.
Player(s) of the game- Hanifin and Tuch
Next- @ Maine Sunday @ 3
Watch out baby. GO EAGLES !!!!!!!!!