Saturday, February 28, 2015
Despite the entire college hockey media base practically bowing to the guys down the street, despite a hoard of injuries affecting their depth on defense and offense, and despite this being one of the more trying seasons in recent history (I know, it's stunning), Boston College defeated Notre Dame tonight to move within a win and a BU loss of sharing a Hockey East regular season title. Perhaps more importantly, the Eagles remain at 9th in the pairwise and clinched a first round bye in the Hockey East playoffs which begin next weekend with the 5-12 matchups. I'd have to sit down and think about it for a few minutes but I don't think I'm out of line (I know I am a lot) in saying this was BC's best game of the season, I mean, they played absolutely tremendous, especially in their own end. Their star studded defense, led by Noah Hanifin and Ian McCoshen, shut down Notre Dame's top trio of Hinostroza, Lucia, and Bjork. Think about how tough this season has been at times and how often it seems like the media is making BU to be the greatest thing since sliced bread and then do yourself a favor and look at the pairwise and Hockey East standings. It's their most talented team in 6 years and it's our least talented team in 6 years and yet we have a chance to overtake them in the national and league standings on the final day of the regular season..........Don't even get me started about next year.
I thought BC came out and played a tremendous first period, something they have yet to do in the past couple of weeks. One would think that the crowd and circumstances would intimidate a young BC squad but they came out and got pucks to the net, played pristine defense, and scored the all important first goal when McCoshen fired home an Austin Cangelosi pass for his 6th point in 4 games. The staff obviously did their homework because they figured that they could matchup the Calnan line (which was very good) with either Notre Dame's first or second line literally every shift. Notre Dame's top line is as fast and skilled as any in Hockey East but Calnan, Sit, and Smith didn't give them anything tonight. They stayed disciplined in their own end, got pucks deep, attacked ND's young D, and blocked a ton of shots. It's not everyday that blocked shots stick out in my mind after a game but I can remember at least one occasion when Calnan, in the midst of a long shift, laid out his body in order to prevent an Irish scoring chance. Without a doubt his best game of the month. The maroon and gold continued to carry the play after a couple penalties and were rewarded when rising freshman Alex Tuch pounced on his own rebound to give BC a 2-0 lead with three minutes to go in the opening stanza. If Tuch stays hot like this in the playoffs and can continue to put up a point per game, I have little doubt that this team is going to surprise a lot of people.
To be honest, I was very worried about the second period because you never know what can happen especially after what took place against Harvard. Despite blogger's doubts, the guys came out and once again implemented a full out assault on Notre Dame freshman goalie Cal Peterson who played very well in the loss. Unlike in the first period, BC was rewarded two power plays and even though they had some nice setups, they got nothing. The most notable opportunity was when Tuch came crashing down from the blue line looking for a one timer but a Notre Dame' defenseman's stick got in the way, denying a sure goal. Despite the 0 for 3 mark, I like the way both units are moving the puck around although I still think they should just have McCoshen wind up and pound it from the point. In the end, BC held up great in their own end throughout the period and surrendered just 11 shots (mostly from the outside) to Notre Dame.
The third period was just another example as to why Thatcher Demko is the most valuable player in college hockey, outside of Jack Eichel. I absolutely love the toughness this kid shows. I mean, the kid has been walking around campus like he's just been shot in the leg for the past five months but he continues to bring his A game when this team needs it. I'm sure he would be the first to tell you that having guys like Santini and Matheson bring their games up another notch doesn't hurt either. Actually, there was a little scare in the second period when Santini came to the bench clutching his shoulder but after a brief session with trainer Bert Lenz, he returned to the ice and looked great. Hanifin and McCoshen get the accolades but I thought Matheson played much, much better tonight. Three solid games in a row for him. Lastly, I can't talk about the win unless I mentioned Coach Ayers' penalty kill, what a group of warriors they were tonight. It's no secret that I was losing my mind over the PK unit last month but whatever he's done, it's worked. Against Northeastern in the Beanpot it was just sit around and wait for an opponent to shoot the puck, and hope for a block or a deflection. Now, it's constant pressure at the points which worked very well vs a "point" oriented team in Notre Dame. Lots of credit to Coach Ayers in that department.
In the end, great 60 minute effort from the Eagles tonight, perhaps their most "complete" game since the raid on Agganis. Speaking of our good friends from down the street, congratulations to Northeastern on picking up a terrific 6-5 victory on Jack Parker's statue unveiling night. If the Huskies and BC win tomorrow, the Eagles and BU will tie for the Hockey East regular season which is just astonishing considering that the college hockey media (including BC's own blogger) had totally forgotten about the maroon and gold.
Why BC Won-
1. Demko is not bad at all.
2. Penalty kill looks really, really solid right now. Fast, aggressive, blocking shots, no blown coverages, great goaltending.
3. All four lines were terrific but particularly the third line of Sit, Calnan, and Smith.
4. Hanifin and McCoshen play the entire game it seems.
I got zip. Arena is so nice, I'll have more on that tomorrow. We need something like this.
Player of the game- Thatcher Demko
Next- Notre Dame tomorrow @ 6:05