Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"BU Invitational"

Could this be National Geographic image of the year? 

When I was just starting to get into BC Hockey a few years back, every time February came around it would be the same old story. The Eagles often had the best team entering the tournament and many thought they would finally end the BU curse but every time BC knocked on the door, it seemed as if the Terriers crushed our hearts with dramatic, late game goals. After Brian McGuirk's tally in 2007, the infamous "BU Invitational" term rang throughout the college hockey world- they owned the tournament and it didn't look as if things would change anytime soon, given that the Terriers once went 20 years without losing to Boston College in the Beanpot (1981-2001). 

My how things have changed. 

Thanks to an overtime strike from Alex Tuch, Boston College took him its 20th Beanpot and 6th in the past 7 years, which is a first in school history. Before diving into details, I just want to say I thought BU played a tremendous hockey game. You can't beat this Eagle team unless you get unbelievable goaltending and Sean Maguire turned in one of the best performances I have seen in that tournament since Sean Fields in 2004. Even David Quinn said after the game that the score would have been 4-0 after the first period if it weren't for Maguire's heroics and while I don't agree with the MVP choice, I certainly tip my cap to him on one heck of a performance. 

I can't count how many times I have sat there at the end of a period this year and said to myself "that is their best twenty minutes of the season." BC just utterly dominated the Terriers in that opening stanza but once again, they could not find a way to put a puck past a hot netminder. It was eerily similar to what happened on Friday night versus New Hampshire- 23 shots and nothing to show for. Obviously, there were two distinct turning points in the first half of the game. At the time the lights went out, BC had been controlling the puck in the BU end for the entirety of the period but as I said earlier, they could not find a way to find nylon. Then, out of nowhere, The Garden's lights went out and both teams were forced to head back to their respective locker rooms, which was huge for BU because they appeared to be chasing the maroon and gold around for the entire game up to that point. Another key moment was when the Terriers were handed almost a minute of 5 on 3 time thanks to two highly questionable calls on Miles Wood and Chris Brown. Wood laid a hit on Ahti Oksanen, who went down like he had been shot but amazingly, he got up and played the very same shift. I haven't seen a replay of the Brown call so I will refrain from comment on that one. Anyway, the BC penalty kill came up big and prevented BU from grabbing the game's first goal, which would have been a total momentum killer given how well BC played early on. 

As I think most BC fans expected, the Terriers came out heavy in the final two periods but not before giving the Eagles a couple of power plays that they failed to take advantage of. BU's penalty kill, a unit that has had its share of ups and downs so far, did a terrific job of keeping the high powered Eagles out of rhythm and to be honest, I can't remember one high quality chance BC generated on the man advantage. Things came to a climax when Jordan Greenway and Casey Fitzgerald exchanged pleasantries after Greenway ran Thatcher Demko and decided to try and rip off  Fitzgerald's helmet.  I never thought I would see a bigger goon than Eric Gryba play for the scarlet and white but the Edmonton Oilers defenseman might have found his match. Greenway, a second round draft pick I might add, wasn't out there to try and make plays, he was out there to hurt people, particularly Demko. I cannot believe they did not call anything when he ran #30 for a second time in the final period. I've seen the replay, there is no reason for him to go barreling in like that on a defenseless goaltender. It was a disgusting display. The teams continued to trade a few unbelievable chances as time wound down in the middle period but still no blood was drawn. 

BU started to find their legs as the game went on while BC had a few shifts where they were pinned down in their own end but once again, I thought the BC blue line did an awesome job of preventing "grade A chances" for the Terriers. Outside of the 2 on 1 in the first period, I don't think BU had a lot of high quality looks, they were mainly from the perimeter and when you're facing a goalie like Demko, scoring goals like that is not going to be easy. Ironically, BU fans spent the entire offseason questioning how BC would be able to recover from the losses of Noah Hanifin and Mike Matheson. Look at how that one turned out for them. Demko deserves most of the credit, he might be the best goaltender BC has ever had (we'll have that debate later) but the play of BC's defenseman cannot go under the radar for much longer. Not to mention the fact they rolled just 5 guys for the entire second half of the game once Josh Couturier went down on a vicious slash from Mike Moran (once again, no call). McCoshen and Santini carried the weight, as always, but I thought the other guys, particularly Michael Kim, stepped up when needed. When you have a forward group that is as talented as BC's is, you don't need your defensemen to take the puck up the ice and create offense every shift, you just need them to be solid in their own end by avoiding turnovers and I thought, for the most part, BC did that last night, especially late in the game. 

I considered walking over the Mass General to watch the overtime in the ICU but just as my thought was gaining steam, Alex Tuch scored a goal that will long be remembered in the annals of Boston College Hockey history. Bill Arnold's tally in 2012 was the strike that officially ended Jack Parker's reign while Tuch's bullet just continued the seemingly perpetual dominance by BC in Boston's midwinter classic. I don't try to play the game of "favorite" players and all that but the fact Tuch scored that goal is pretty darn cool. Here is a guy that has been through a lot in his short time on The Heights. Often criticized all throughout last season and in the opening semester of this year for his seemingly inconsistent play, the fact that he stuck it out and stayed the course says a lot about not only his perseverance but his commitment to his teammates. There aren't many guys who have come here with the type of expectations Tuch had after being drafted in the first round a few years back. Sometimes (Jeremy Bracco) those type of players are so self centered that they could care less about the performance of the team but if you listened to Tuch's post game comments, all he talked about was how much love he had for his teammates, coaches, and school. In my opinion, that is precisely what coming to play hockey at Boston College is all about. Congrats to Alex on a moment he will remember for the rest of his life. 

At the end of the day, it isn't nearly as sweet as a National Championship but beating those guys in a game like that is always special. I always say that BC vs BU is the best rivalry in sports and I often get laughed at for saying it but when you have two teams that play with that much passion and heart for 60 plus minutes, I don't think it can be topped.  When I came home last night, my dad, who played on some talented BC teams that never won a Beanpot, said something along the lines of you don't realize how fortunate you are to see BC win this thing so often because for the first 30 something years of my life, it was the same team winning over and over again. 

So much for that. 

Why BC Won- 

1. Thatcher Demko played outstanding. Despite getting run over a couple of times, the best goalie in college hockey stayed in there and made some huge saves down the stretch. He now holds the BC record for shutouts in a season (9). 

2. Terrific play from the first line. Cangelosi and Gilmour continue to look like totally different players from a year ago while Miles Wood was arguably the best skater out there. 

3. The best players came through when needed. I would love to see a snapshot competition between Tuch and Steven Whitney- both of them have lasers. Zach Sanford is now on a 6 game point streak.....Hobey!! 


How in the world do you not give Thatcher Demko the MVP? Absolute joke. 

Player of the game- Demko. 

Next- Merrimack this weekend. Home Friday. 


1 comment:

  1. Great game and congrats but u as a bc guy saying Bu got " questionable " is ridiculous... We all know who gets every close call and it's not even close but either way congrats... we will be seeing each other in the future..