Tuesday, February 2, 2016

One Down

Photo from BC Athletics
After a one year hiatus, the Boston College Eagles are back in the Beanpot finals as they held off a dangerous Harvard squad by a score of 3-2 last night at the TD Garden. The Eagles will face archrival Boston University next Monday night at 7:30 as the Terriers defeated Northeastern 3-1.

I thought last night was the tale of two different games. BC got on the board a minute and a half in thanks to a bomb from Casey Fitzgerald but immediately after that tally, the Crimson took it to the maroon and gold. Harvard controlled the puck for a good chunk of the first, they just could not get any good looks on Thatcher Demko. Harvard clearly had a plan to throw BC off by using their speed on the forecheck. BC withstood any Crimson pressure until freshman forward Ryan Donato made a terrific play, blocking a Mike Kim shot at the BC offensive blue line and then beating out Colin White in a race for the puck through the neutral zone. When you're playing fast teams, such as Harvard is, you can't give them chances through the neutral zone by failing to get pucks deep in the offensive zone and that is precisely what happened on that play. Harvard continued to control the play and were rewarded once again when Kyle Criscuolo redirected an Adam Baughman shot from the point. If you look at the replay, it is clear, at least in my view,  that Jimmy Vesey interfered with Demko's ability to play the puck, in fact, it looks as if Vesey was the one who tossed Demko's stick to the other side of the zone which had an obvious impact on whether or not Demko was going to make a play on the puck. Even if you go back to what happened before the puck went in the net, BC had good coverage at the top of the offensive zone when Vesey broke over the blue line. Kerfoot beat BC's defenseman to the puck and sucked all the white jerseys below the dots before dishing it out to Baughman at the point who recorded his first point of the season. I actually thought it was going to be waved off but when is Blogger ever right?

The second and third periods were perhaps BC's best of the season. The obvious concern coming into the game was whether or not BC's relatively young defense would be able to contain Harvard's top line. Not only did they stop Vesey and company, they made sure the best player in college hockey had zero impact on the game. They didn't give him much room to operate, especially in the neutral zone where he is known to create odd man rushes. The staff mixed and matched which units went out there against Harvard's top guys, sometimes it was White's line but Cangelosi, Wood, and Gilmour also played a major role. I thought an underrated aspect to the game was the fact that Harvard's second line of Esposito, Malone, and Blackwell did practically nothing. All week, we heard about how Harvard was one of the only teams in the country who could roll three top scoring lines like BC but looking back, there was a clear difference in the depth on both ends. Depth aside, the reason why BC won the game was special teams. Whomever won the penalty battle was going to win the game and it came down to the simple fact that BC converted on their chances while Harvard did not. Coach Brown's power play looks lethal right now and they did a great job of getting pucks to the net, especially on Sanford''s tally where BC's guys just outworked Harvard's defenseman in front. It wasn't the prettiest goal you'll ever see but it did the job and that is all they ask.  Just a few minutes later, Colin White gave BC the lead for good when he walked right in and fired one past Harvard netminder Merrick Madsen. Nothing to it except for a terrific player taking advantage of a clear defensive lapse by Harvard- how can you let someone of that caliber walk in like that?

The final twenty minutes contained some of the best defensive hockey I have ever seen. Outside of a couple point shots, Harvard couldn't get the puck past the red line. BC just keep the puck below the goal, cycled it well, and always kept a third forward high to avoid giving Harvard odd man rushes. The turning point in the game was when the Crimson were awarded a power play off a bogus call on Austin Cangelosi because at that point, BC was skating all over Harvard and that was the latter's chance to tie things up. As has been the case all year, the penalty kill came up huge and held the Crimson off the scoreboard, in fact, I don't know if Harvard generated one quality look over the entire two minutes. They had one open net but thankfully, their defenseman's stick broke and the Eagles got out of the dilemma alive. Usually, the last minute of a Beanpot game is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences for any fan or player but BC literally would not allow Harvard to get the puck past center ice. It was incredible. Every time Vesey brought the puck up, someone was there to meet him and quickly pick his pocket.

All in all, I'm very proud of the way BC battled. Playing that type of defense takes just a little more heart and they didn't just keep one of the best offensive teams in the country at bay, they shut them down for forty minutes. Over the summer, opposing fans and bloggers questioned whether BC would be able to defend at the level needed to win hockey games after the departures of Hanifin and Matheson. Let me ask you a question, have you ever seen a BC Hockey team play better in their own end than these guys do? The goal scorers always get the credit but Ian McCoshen, in my mind, might be the most valuable player in this league. Throughout his entire career, he has been paired against the Eichel's and Vesey's of the world and has outplayed them on a consistent basis. On the offensive side of things, Zach Sanford and Colin White stole the show. I think there is a direct correlation between the rise in Sanford's production and the upswing in Alex Tuch's play- they don't score that second power play goal if Tuch doesn't make a tough play to get it out to the point. The issue with Tuch last year and the first half of this season was that he was playing a bit "soft". If you ask me, no player looks like they're playing harder than #12- he brings it night it and night out. As for Sanford, I absolutely love the way he plays the game. He reminds me a bit of Kevin Hayes-slick hands, length, and top of the line offensive instinct. I am biased, but I think he is one of, if not the best, forward in the country. Call me crazy (you wouldn't be the first) but I truly believe that. You can tell me how others have more points and all that but I would be willing to bet that no player does more for their team than #24 does for BC- he plays a major role in every key situation- five on five, power play, penalty kill, and late game, no matter what the score is. When it comes to Colin White, what else is there to say? The kid is simply ridiculous. Outside of Eichel, has there been a better freshman in Hockey East since Kariya? Probably not.

 Don't look now but UNH is coming off a big win at Providence on Saturday so they will certainly be ready to play this weekend.

Blogger had homework last night, anybody know who we play on Monday? Northeastern?

Why BC Won-

1. Complete defensive effort. Vesey didn't produce but you can tell how special a player he is. Pleasure to watch. Penalty kill at the end of the game was enormous.

2. Power play. It has been buzzing as of late with a goal in 3 of the past 4 games. Sanford's unit was especially good.

3. Cangelosi's line was great. They didn't put anything on the scoreboard but they were flying all over the place. Outside of Sanford and White, Wood was BC's best forward.


1. What is up with the $45 parking and $5 waters at the Garden? Horrible.

Players of the game- Sanford and White

Notes- Calnan didn't play much due to an ankle injury. Both backup goalies are hurt- hopefully they're back soon.

Next- UNH on Friday

1 comment:

  1. Let's go Bu!! Hopefully we have out of conference refs because we know when bc plays bu some "questionable " calls happen... 😊 see u monday night!!