It wasn’t the first goal of the game, and it wouldn’t be the last. It wasn’t the comeback goal, or the go-ahead goal, and it wasn’t even close to being the nicest goal on the night, although he would score that one as well.
To a casual observer, the third goal scored by Boston College on the way to a 6-4 victory over Boston University Friday night was nothing more than a mark on the scoreboard, a margin stretcher in a high-scoring rivalry bout.
But when Johnny Gaudreau spun away from BU’s net—red light beaming, goal horn blaring—and pointed his stick in the air and his hand at linemate Bill Arnold, Conte Forum erupted in a fit of riotous, eardrum-testing jubilation.
The wrist shot marked the junior winger’s 20th goal of the year and his 17th game in a row with a point, and after a period and a half of missing passes, falling all over the ice, and fading out of the game, Gaudreau didn’t look back.
Neither did BC.
On paper, it was supposed to be a BC blowout, the Hockey East-leading Eagles against a BU team battling to stay out of last place. The first period on Friday night was one of parity, though, and as head coach Jerry York stressed all week, the teams’ histories transcended the Hockey East standings imbalance.
“BU-BC games are—that either I’ve played in or I’ve watched or I’ve coached—have always been special games,” BC head coach Jerry York said after his 950th win. “The rivalry is really something very, very special. I thought tonight’s particular game—you know full house, big crowd, and BU did an outstanding job in the first period.”
The Terriers struck first at 10:47. Breaking across the Eagles’ blue line, BU center Robbie Baillargeon streaked toward Eagles goaltender Brian Billet’s right post. Despite a sprawling effort from defenseman Scott Savage to smother the shot, Baillargeon wristed a laser past Billett’s outstretched glove and into the upper twine to open up a one goal lead for the Terriers.
BU’s advantage wouldn’t survive the period, though, and on the power play with 46 seconds remaining in the first period, the Eagles struck back. From the right-side boards, freshman forward Ryan Fitzgerald whipped a cross-ice pass to sophomore defenseman Teddy Doherty. Stick back, Doherty unleashed a misguided slap shot at the BU net. His effort flew wide but reached the waiting stick of freshman forward Adam Gilmour, who turned to net and slipped the equalizer past Terriers goaltender Sean Maguire.
BC opened the second period down a man, but the Eagles would finish the frame up two goals. After killing Quinn Smith’s hooking penalty, BC exploded on offense and launched a siege of pucks on Maguire. At 4:35, the dam broke. Unable to contain a blast on net, Maguire spilled the puck to his left. In a display of utterly lethal finishing, a lightning-fast Quinn Smith pounced on the rebound and, dragging it to his right, backhanded it past the hopeless Terrier goaltender.
The BC offense was just getting going. If Maguire was hoping for any relief in action, his wishes were in vain. The Eagles took 19 shots in the second period, and at 11:05, Gaudreau’s power play goal doubled the Eagles’ advantage.
“I thought [Gaudreau] was better as the game went on, but our whole team got better as the game went on,” York said.
BU survived the second period without relinquishing control again by the grace of luck and a fantastic display of goaltending and acrobatics from Maguire, who made 38 saves on the 43 shots he faced by night’s end.
“He made some big saves,” said BU head coach David Quinn after the game. “We’re lucky we have two good goalies. The job he did when I put him in against Maine, he gave us a chance, and he certainly gave us a chance tonight.”
BU freshman forward T.J. Ryan slapped in a goal at 2:50 in the third to shrink BC’s lead by one, and BU would score two more times by period’s end to send Billett’s save percentage for the game to .852—but thanks to fourth-line scoring, BC would never give up the lead.
Freshman Chris Calnan continued a solid January by scoring from point-blank off an assist by linemate Gilmour at 6:20 in the period. Just over three minutes later, Calnan would return the favor by sending Gilmour a cross-crease pass on a platter for his second goal of the game.
“Our game was kind of pushed by Adam’s line here,” York said. “I thought they were outstanding tonight.”
Down by a goal with time dwindling, BU pulled Maguire in favor of an extra skater. It was a move that would pay off for those with a taste for the spectacular, but not for the Terriers.
Pinned on the boards by the red line, Gaudreau closed out the game with a ridiculous backhand shot, looping the puck all the way down the ice and into the empty net. Gaudreau’s effort sent Conte Forum erupting again—this time in celebration of the best goal of the night.
“I’m still trying to picture that turnaround back hand from the red line, it was open net, dead center,” York said. “I could sit there with 10 pucks looking at it and maybe make four of them.”