Boston College men’s hockey has won games all season by capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes and scoring in bunches when mistakes are committed. Saturday night was no different.
Powered by three goals in 1:48 in the second period, the Eagles avenged their only Hockey East loss of the season to date and clobbered Maine 7-2. BC finished the weekend with four conference points and a three-game lead on second-place Northeastern.
“I’m sure they were smarting a little bit from when they got beat 5-1 at Alfond [Arena],” Maine head coach Red Gendron said of BC’s Nov. 23 defeat in Orono, Maine. “Did you expect that we would come in here and spank them 5-1 again? I didn’t. So you can’t play stupid … If we had played great, maybe BC would have won anyway, but we played stupid.”
The deciding sequence in the game was that 1:48 in the second period, from 4:18 into the frame to 5:56, specifically. In that span, center Bill Arnold banged in two net-front goals, and then defenseman Ian McCoshen ripped a one-timer in the slot off a great pass from senior captain Patrick Brown from behind the net to make the score 4-1 and put the game out of reach.
The best of the three, though, was Arnold’s first. The senior was on the welcome receiving end of two outstanding passes from linemate Kevin Hayes and defenseman Scott Savage. Hayes, at the point, spotted Savage leaking behind his mark and fired an incredible cross-ice saucer pass to the open space around the left-half wall. Savage corralled the puck and then hit Arnold’s stick flush in front of the goal, and the puck skittered through Maine goalie Martin Ouelette’s legs.
BC is the top scoring team in college hockey, but even for a team that prolific, the Eagles are streaky. When asked if there was a reason for that, head coach Jerry York pointed to how good his offensively skilled his players are, because you can’t score in bunches if you can’t score.
“I think we’ve got some really good offensive players that can make things happen,” York said. [They can turn a play with] no chance into a pretty good scoring chance by moving pucks well, smart. They like to score goals. Guys want to score goals, and also they’ve surrounded themselves with some pretty good teammates to make plays, and kind of read and react [to] different things.”
This particular barrage rattled the Black Bears, who had held their own in the first period, enough that Gendron pulled Ouelette, a Hobey Baker finalist, after McCoshen’s goal.
“Basically, [Ouelette’s] played every game that counts except one, and Boston College hit us for three in a row, 4:18, 5:04, 5:56, so rather than take a timeout, I thought we’d endeavor to change momentum, and that’s why I put [Dan Sullivan] in, because it wasn’t Marty, it was our team,” Gendron said.
The move didn’t help much. BC still outshot Maine 14-5 in the second period, and the Black Bears never regained their composure. Gendron’s team took five more penalties after the goalie switch and only scored after BC’s Chris Calnan took an ill-advised boarding penalty of his own. Maine’s Stu Higgins beat BC goalie Thacher Demko on a rebound with 1:20 left in the second on the power play.
BC added three more in the last period. Brown picked up a goal when Johnny Gaudreau’s power-play shot bounced off Brown and past Sullivan 1:16 into the third. Hayes then earned himself a late hat trick, first rocketing a wrister on a 2-on-1 with Arnold short side over Sullivan’s shoulder, and then adding BC’s third power-play strike of the game with a power forward move in on the edge of the crease with a little over two minutes left.
Hayes’ first goal was a harbinger of how the game would play out. Just a minute into the game, Hayes led a 3-on-2 rush with linemates Arnold and Gaudreau as he powered down the right wing. Hayes flicked a shot off Ouelette, and then collected his rebound near the goal line unmolested and backhanded it in to open the game’s scoring.
“Hayes gets a puck, were supposed to be covering one of the wingers, but then it winds up 3-on-2,” Gendron said. “And Hayes figures out ‘I can take this to the net’, and he throws one, and the rebound comes back to him, and he puts it in. That’s not a matchup problem, that’s a mistake at the other end of the rink, not locking somebody up, leaving the D hung out to dry 3-on-2.”
Other than Arnold’s first goal, which was due to Hayes’ brilliance, every other BC goal can be attributed to a Maine blunder. Three came on the power play because of erroneous Maine penalties, and the other three even-strength goals were caused by Black Bear lapses.
As Gendron explained, the game’s first goal was because of a coverage error. McCoshen was also unmarked as he streaked toward the slot on his goal, and Hayes’ second goal came off a neutral zone-giveaway that led to an odd-man rush.
“Our discipline was gone. Our focus and awareness was gone. And as a result, we were embarrassed here tonight by a very good Boston College team,” Gendron said. “Congratulations to Boston College, they played a whale of a game. Full marks to them.”