Saturday, February 6, 2016

Onto the Terriers

Photo from BC Athletics
It wasn't easy but thanks to a late defensive stand, the Eagles picked up their second victory of the season over UNH and remained in first place. A Michigan loss to Michigan State bumped BC up to #4 in the pairwise, which means that if the tournament started tomorrow, the Eagles would be a #1 seed. It was not the result they wanted but give UNH a lot of credit- they looked like a totally different team than the one I saw in November. I had been skeptical as to whether or not Kelleher and Poturalski were the real deals but after that game, there is no doubt they are two of the best players in the league. There were a handful of NHL scouts on hand to watch them- including Buffalo GM Tim Murray.  I think that team will cause some damage down the stretch and I certainly don't want to see them in the playoffs.

BC's first period was as good as one could ask for- they generated dozens of quality looks but Wildcat goalie Danny Tirone turned in one of the best goaltending performances I have seen in quite some time. In order to beat this BC team, you need your goaltender to stand on its head and despite the 5 goals against, Tirone did that tonight- his defense on the other hand could not make enough plays to stop the high powered Eagles. It is pretty amazing that even though 29 shots were fired on net between the two teams in the first period, no one was able to put one through. BC's had an unbelievable chance when awarded a full, two minute, five on three. The Eagles held the puck inside the New Hampshire zone for almost the entire power play but Tirone came up with some critical saves and the period ended in a 0-0 stalemate. Despite the fact that no blood was drawn, the opening twenty minutes certainly set the stage for what would be two highly entertaining final two periods. Both teams put an emphasis on getting out and skating which led to an absurd amount of three on twos, two on ones, and even a couple breakaways.

The second period was equally as fast paced outside of the fact that there were more whistles, which hampered the tempo. Tirone made one of the best saves I have ever seen (maybe even the best) on Scott Savage in the opening minutes of the stanza but the Eagles struck just a few seconds after that when Austin Cangelosi potted his 12th goal of the season. Obviously, there are a lot of factors that play into stats like this but at this time last season, Cangelosi had just 14 points, as of today he has 24. I think you could certainly make the argument that he has been BC's most improved player along with Matthew Gaudreau. Thirty seconds after Cangelosi's tally, Zach Sanford made a nifty move to  push home his 9th of the season. I tweeted shortly after the goal that the Pinkerton, NH native should be a Hobey Baker candidate and while I am aware that there is no chance he wins it, I do sincerely believe he is one of the top players in college hockey. There are a lot of guys out there who have recorded more points but they play way more than #24 does. When you combine his stellar play making abilities and defensive reliability, I don't think there are many players in this sport who do more for their club than Sanford does for BC. Anyway, after the second goal, BC went into a shell as UNH controlled the play for the remainder of the second period and were finally rewarded when Kyle Smith banged home a rebound off a Matias Cleland point shot. I don't think anyone would deny that the Wildcats deserved better faith in the second.

I think the most compelling part of these past two games is that BC has been able to hold onto a one goal lead in the third period despite facing different levels of adversity. Colin White went to the locker room midway through the final period with an apparent wrist injury (Coach York said it was "kind of sprained" after the game). The staff called for a timeout in order to straighten out the line situation but ironically, it was the Wildcats who notched the next goal and tied the game with 12 minutes to play. Kelleher and Poturalski finally converted on a nice play against a BC top line that was without its go to player. Instead of throwing it in the towel, the Eagles responded with a terrific couple of minutes, highlighted by Mike Kim's first career goal off a slap shot from the point and a funky one timer from Adam Gilmour shortly after. I have talked about it a few times but what Kim has done in under a month on the Heights has been nothing short of remarkable. Can you imagine getting a call one night from your coach saying BC wants you to play for them in the middle of the season? The USPHL is a competitive league but comparing it to Hockey East would be like comparing Winged Foot to Ponkapoag. I'm sure he would be the first to tell you that Monday was not his best game but the ability to bounce back and come up big on a night when the team needed it most is a positive sign moving forward. With regards to Gilmour, every game seems to be a step in the right direction- he has stepped up his game over these past few weeks. Unfortunately, the two goal advantage did not last long as UNH's Dan Correale roofed a pretty backhander past Demko with just under 9 minutes to play. Once again, I thought BC did a great job of finishing the game off and holding on for the victory. Unlike Harvard, UNH had a couple of golden opportunities to tie the game, especially in the last couple seconds, but Demko was there to close the door and allow the Eagles to hold onto first place.

All in all, it wasn't their best game by any stretch but the difference with the this team compared to last season is that they are finding ways to win games. Of course, the main concern right now is health. There is no way to measure this but has there ever been a team ranked this high despite so many injuries? By my count, BC has had 14 different games without at least one player who was in the opening night lineup because of varying ailments. That number does not account for Brendan Silk who has missed every game and will not return for the remainder of the regular season. Calnan is battling a nagging lower body injury. That being said, I do think he will dress next week and test it out early on. Wood should be okay, if the Beanpot was last night, he would have played. As for White, no word yet. I didn't see the actual play where the injury occurred but one has to assume that the medical staff shut him down due to the fact that there was no point in throwing him back out there. As for the guys who played, obviously you know what I think of Sanford and Kim but Scott Savage also had an impressive game tonight, recording two helpers. It could have been a three point night for #2 if it wasn't for Tirone's incredible save early in the second period. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best they could play and 1 being the worst, I thought BC was a 5, mainly due to the fact that they did not play well defensively. It seemed as if there were twice as many odd man rushes for the opponent tonight than there were in the Notre Dame and Harvard games combined. Without a doubt, there is a lot of room for improvement.

Time to refocus, get healthy, and bring the Beanpot back where it belongs.

Why BC Won-

1. Offensive depth prevailed one again. Four different goal scorers for the Eagles, headlined by Sanford who now has a five game point streak going.

2. Penalty kill was outstanding. Coach Ayers' unit went 7 for 7 against Harvard and UNH, two of the best power plays in the country. They need to cut back on the penalties though as 3 of BU's 4 goals against BC were on the power play three weeks ago.

3. Michael Kim played his best game in a BC uniform. Not a bad time to pick up your first career goal.


1. BC gave up far too many odd man rushes. The forecheck seemed a bit out of sorts as there wasn't always a third forward high to cover- they seemed to get overconfident after that second goal and UNH took advantage.

2. They reverted back to taking stupid penalties.

Player of the game- Michael Kim

Next- Yup.

Go Eagles

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