Saturday, February 20, 2016

Eagles Clinch First Round Bye

Photo from UVM Athletics
It certainly was not their prettiest game of the season but thanks to a two point night from Zach Sanford and a 35 save outing from Thatcher Demko, the Boston College Eagles took over first place in Hockey East with a 3-1 win at Vermont. The win assures a first round bye in the Hockey East playoffs for the Eagles, who got goals from Austin Cangelosi, Sanford, and Teddy Doherty while Vermont's tally came from senior Jonathan Turk just 15 seconds into the contest. Despite UVM's poor record, this was a quality win for the Eagles given that they did not play a great game and spent almost a quarter of the night in the penalty box, handing the home team a whopping 7 power plays. Give Vermont credit, I thought they played well and although they couldn't find a way to put the puck in the net late, it wasn't for a lack of opportunities.

The game did not start out well as Demko gave up a goal he saves 49 times out of 50 on the game's opening shift. BC had a defenseman that probably overcommitted on the right side of the zone and for whatever reason, no one picked up the trailer which gave Turk a bit of leeway before firing a wrist shot on goal, only to see it trickle past BC's star netminder. Could it have been stopped? Probably, but #30's performance over the course of the final 59:45 all but made up for the slight error. I thought BC responded well after the goal and it was one of the few times all game where they garnered some sustained offensive zone time. Almost exactly five minutes after UVM's strike, Steve Santini made a terrific outlet pass to Miles Wood who fired a puck on net before Austin Cangelosi cleaned up the rebound, tying the game at 1 and giving the Estero, Florida native his 7th point in the past 7 games. Wood made the play by using his speed to beat a UVM defender wide before finding a way to get the biscuit on net, definitely one of the best games of the year for the Nobles product. A minute after Cangelosi's tally, the Eagles were awarded their first power play of the game and took advantage when Zach Sanford potted home his 12th goal of the season. Colin White and Alex Tuch picked up helpers on the play. Blogger is not right about many things but one of these days, someone will give me a little bit of credit for noticing how good Sanford was before he burst onto the scene. They don't win that game without Demko's heroic effort but Sanford, Wood, and Colin White were certainly the three best skaters on the ice.

Special teams were the name of the game as BC was able to score twice on the power play while UVM went 0 for 7. It was an absolutely sensational performance from Coach Ayers' penalty killing unit. You never want to be in the box every other shift, especially when it's your best defenseman taking the bulk of the infractions, but no matter how well Vermont moved the puck, BC stood tall and prevented everything from crossing the goal line. On nights like those, when your killers are exhausted and it is tough to get any momentum going, you need your goaltender to be your best man and Demko filled that role tonight. BC's defense did a good job of not allowing UVM many chances down low but the Catamounts tipped a lot of pucks and forced Demko to react to multiple changes in direction. Captain Teddy Doherty posted a huge power play tally midway through the second, giving the Eagles an all important two goal cushion. If this team is going to go on a big run over the next month and a half, they need guys like him and Jeke to come through because if you look at BC's most successful teams in the past, all have had major production from upperclassmen. The penalty kill will, rightfully so, get most of the credit for the win but the power play was also clicking on all cylinders, especially the top unit of White-Sanford-Tuch, McCoshen-Doherty. The only issue was that they could not find a way to win a face-off and had to spend the first 15 seconds of each man advantage retrieving the puck and bringing it back up the ice. The Catamounts dominated the dots, winning 36 out of 63 draws, which does not happen often against a BC squad that is one of the top face-off teams in the country. I talked about Sanford, Wood, and Demko but I don't think anyone had the puck on their stick as much as Colin White did. Merrimack did a good job of shutting him down a week ago but last night, he was a man amongst boys and had three or four plays where he just blew by the Vermont defenders. The staff juggled White's line around, going with Chris Brown at wing for the first two periods before opting to plug Matt Gaudreau back into that spot early in the third.

To be honest, BC was lucky to escape the third period without any damage being done. The shots were 11-2 but it felt like 31-2, especially in the opening minutes. BC took far too many penalties, once again, most of which were easy calls for the officials. Vermont managed to get a ton of shots but not many were off of 2 on 1's or 3 on 2's. Outside of a semi-breakaway in the second period, the Eagles limited UVM's odd man rushes despite the lopsided shot total. The problem was that they weren't able to generate any consistent offensive zone pressure because every other shift seemed to end with a maroon jersey skating to the penalty box. It's great that they found a way to kill all of those off but when you spend so much time chasing the puck around in your own end, creating any sort of offense is very difficult. If they give that team more than four or five power plays again, it is hard to believe they can hold the fort down once more.

Despite the somewhat underwhelming performance, a win is a win and first place is first place. This time of year, you need your best players to step up and all of BC's big guns did that tonight, led by Thatcher Demko. I thought each line had their moments but Sanford's unit generated the most shots (10). Defensively, they were very good in the final fifteen minutes of the game and it is clear that the staff put a major emphasis on defending tougher in front of the goaltender as most of Vermont's chances came from long distance. That being said, there were a tremendous amount of turnovers in the first half of the game, many of which were blind passes right to yellow jerseys in the middle of BC's own zone. Vermont has been a much better team on Saturday nights throughout the season so I expect them to come out flying this evening. Hopefully, the Eagles are ready to strike back.

Why BC won- 

1. Thatcher Demko played arguably his best game of the year. I can't think of a better performance thus far, maybe the Beanpot, I guess. He made a couple of tough saves look easy.

2. Sanford line was buzzing. Hobey!!

3. Colin White and Miles Wood were flying. Both have been hampered by injuries over the past couple of weeks but it's beginning to look like they're almost 100%. Scary how good both those guys can be.

4. Penalty kill saved the day. Great response after a tough game at Merrimack.


1. Way too many penalties. At some point, they have to break out of the habit.

2. Turnovers in the first half of the game. Vermont, realistically, could have been ahead by two goals heading into the third period if it weren't for some spectacular Demko stops.

Player of the game- Thatcher Demko

Pairwise update- Still in fourth but within a few percentage points of third (North Dakota)

Next- @ Vermont tonight. 7 PM.

No comments:

Post a Comment