Saturday, February 13, 2016
Sanford Leads Eagles Over Warriors
If you read this blog from time to time, you are probably aware that I get my share of baloney on Twitter for a handful of different reasons. Last week, I tweeted that Zach Sanford should be in the Hobey Baker conversation. To make a long story short, it was not pretty. I realize that there is almost a 0% chance Sanford actually wins the award but #24 made Blogger look pretty good tonight as he recorded 3 points to lift the Eagles to a 6-3 victory over Merrimack. At 21 wins thus far, Boston College has matched their total from a season ago in 9 fewer games. What a difference a year makes.
As was the case last week against UNH, this was the story of two different games. For whatever reason, Merrimack forgot how to play hockey in the first ten minutes of the game and against a team of BC's caliber, that is big no-no. The Eagles were able to capitalize on MC's poor play as Adam Gilmour scored just 1:38 into the contest, thanks to beautiful pass from Ryan Fitzgerald. I probably don't give Fitzgerald enough credit but the season he has put together has been nothing short of incredible. If you told me in August that he would be fourth in the league in points, I would have recommended you to take the first flight to Mars. He is not the fastest player for his size but his play making abilities and lethal snap shot make up for that. Just four minutes after Gilmour's tally, Sanford recorded BC's sole power play goal of the evening and given that it was their only man advantage of the game, I would say it was a successful night at the office for Coach Brown's unit. They have emphasized constant puck movement in order to keep the opposition moving and I thought against BU, they were a bit static but tonight they came through when needed. The onslaught continued when Austin Cangelosi recorded his second penalty shot goal this season on essentially the same exact move he did vs BU in January. Another terrific game for the Florida native who is beginning to run away with the most improved player award in my mind, although you could certainly make an argument for Ryan Fitzgerald. Despite the six goals, Cangelosi, Sanford, Steve Santini, and Gilmour were the only Eagles with more than one point, which goes to show just how deep this team is. Colin White notched BC's 9th shorthanded goal of the season, which is good for second in the country, after banging home a Matthew Gaudreau cross ice pass. Merrimack was able to get on the board late thanks to a snipe from defenseman Jared Kolquist. I think Demko might have been screened but in reality, BC probably should have done a better job of getting in front of the shooter after the puck went around the net on the far side of zone. That minor error aside, BC had a terrific opening period.
I know the final score may not indicate this, but I thought Merrimack played very well over the course of the final forty minutes, particularly in the second period. The first ten minutes of the game were played at a high tempo which obviously favors the Eagles but as time wore on, MC was able to prevent BC from creating chances through the neutral zone. For the most part, neither team allowed many "grade A" chances in the second period but the Warriors were able to take advantage of a BC defensive breakdown with five minutes to go. Merrimack did a nice job of getting the puck below the goal line in order to force BC's forwards deep into the zone and a quick low-high pass resulted in a wide open lane for defenseman Marc Biega who fired home his 2nd of the season. Certainly not the best period out of the Eagles.
Despite the score, it felt as if MC had the momentum heading into the third period because they were able to score two consecutive goals and bring the game down to their level. One figured that they would come out flying in the early parts of the third but that did not happen. Instead, Alex Tuch continued his sensational play by banging home a tally just 13 seconds into the final frame. Make that 7 straight games with at least one point, a career high for the Baldwinsville, New York native. I expanded on this more in the Beanpot recap but ever since the World Jr snub, we have seen a totally different Tuch than the one in the first half. Last year, I was not overly impressed with his skating but it seems to me as if there has been drastic improvements in that department. Just look at how he burned that Merrimack defender. With just under ten minutes to go in the period, Sanford ended the night for the Eagles with a tap in rebound off a Michael Kim point shot.
All in all, I don't think this was BC's best game, by any stretch, but they found a way to get the job done. They didn't give Merrimack many chances on the power play (3) but when they did, the penalty kill came up big with a shorthanded goal and a couple of solid kills. One of the key traits this team possesses is that guys are able to step up when called upon. For example, with Wood and Calnan out of the lineup, BC needed players like Gilmour and Cangelosi to support the top line and they came through. On the defensive side of things, Santini was terrific and despite giving up three goals to a team not known for its offense, I actually thought BC did a pretty good job in its own end. All three of MC's goals came from defenseman and were the result of point shots that probably should have been blocked by a forward so you can't fault BC's blue line for the way they played. With the lopsided score, the fourth line was given some playing time and for the most part, they performed admirably. Since Calnan will not play tomorrow and Wood is back, Chris Brown will likely take over at center for Joey Dudek, who played only his second game since January 15th. Tonight will present a much different test as Merrimack always plays BC tough on their home ice. The smaller surface at Lawler could pose some problems for an Eagle team that likes to use as much space as possible so they need to make sure they get off to a good start. For those wondering if Thatcher Demko will rest, according to Coach York, he will play again tomorrow night. I certainly see why some would want #30 to get a night off but I don't think it is worth the pairwise risk. With North Dakota and Quinnipiac falling tonight, BC has a solid chance of getting that #1 overall seed if they can win out.
Why BC Won-
1. Outstanding opening ten minutes. I think Merrimack forgot what time the game started. Outside of that though, it was a relativity even game.
2. Zach Sanford is pretty, pretty good. The Hobey might be out of the question, but he is starting to show the nation that he is one heck of a player.
3. Scoring distribution. If you look at BC's games this season in which they have scored five or more goals, it will surprise you how spread out the scoring was.
Merrimack took it to BC in the second period. They were not skating circles around the Eagles but got the better of the chances and outshot the maroon and gold by a 10-8 margin.
Player of the game- Zach Sanford
Notes- Calnan is out tonight, Wood is back.
Next- @ MC 7 PM.