Brendan Silk acquired the puck in the neutral zone and went charging down the ice toward Jon Gillies in net, flanked by Patrick Brown. As Silk coasted in, he waited patiently for his moment against one of the nation’s top goaltenders. Just as he was exiting the left circle, he saw his chance and flicked his shot up glove side, beating Gillies and putting the game’s first tally on the scoreboard.
Silk’s goal came more than 30 minutes into Friday night’s top-10 showdown of Boston College vs. Providence College in Providence’s Schneider Arena, an evenly matched game with very little scoring and strong performances in net on each side. In the end, it was BC that would emerge with a 2-0 victory, Silk’s goal coming as the game winner.
The Eagles started off the first period strong, immediately turning on the offense to take a lead in the shot count, but none of their efforts could get past Gillies, who has a season save percentage of .927 and was the starter for team USA in January’s IIHF World Junior Championships.
Midway through the period, Providence kicked into gear, bringing the shot count even, but the Friars were met by a strong presence in net, this time by BC’s Thatcher Demko.
“I thought Thatcher played extremely well in goal for us,” said head coach Jerry York after the game. “I mean, he’s just getting better and better as he gets more exposed, more games, and he gained some experience. For an 18-year-old player, he’s a pretty special player, so I thought he was pretty outstanding.”
The freshman goaltender has started the last four games for BC, helping to carry the Eagles on the current 12-game unbeaten streak.
Demko stayed steady through the entire first period, and the teams headed into the break in a deadlock-just one shot separating their totals, as well.
The second period started out with a much stronger offensive coming from the Friars as physicality increased with the tie remaining unbreakable. Part of the Friars’ domination on offense could have been due to the absence of BC’s Kevin Hayes, who sustained a hip injury during the first period and did not return for the rest of the game.
“It was a hip pointer,” York said. “He took an awkward fall there, probably will be pretty tender for a few … I probably shouldn’t say. I don’t know how long.”
Austin Cangelosi moved up onto the Gaudreau-Arnold line to fill Hayes’ spot, and York said that he thought the freshman did well in the transition.
On several occasions during the second period, especially during shorthanded situations for either team, plays would end with tussles in front of the net as frustration mounted.
“It was a hard, hard game to play,” York said. “There was a lot of physical contact, a lot of scrums.”
York said that the Eagles will be dealing with more close games of this sort as the season comes to an end.
“The crowd was, they were out there to support their Friars pretty well so it was a good atmosphere to play in,” he said. “It did have kind of a playoff type atmosphere, you know, one-nothing through two periods.”
Then, just over halfway through the second period, Silk finally managed to beat Gillies and was assisted by Brown and Steve Santini, giving BC the 1-0 lead, even as the Eagles were being far outshot during the first half of the period. Spurred on by Silk’s goal, BC managed to put up more offensive efforts, but once again, Gillies maintained his composure, keeping the Friars’ deficit at one.
Demko shined during the second period, especially during the first half when seemingly all of the offensive chances were being produced by Providence. While giving up several dangerous rebounds and getting into trouble in the crease a couple of times, the freshman managed to rally each time and avoid a Providence score, making 12 saves in the second after a 10-save performance in the first.
“He’s a mature kid,” York said of Demko. “He’s played at the [National Team Development Program,] that level, he’s gone from San Diego to Boston for school, and he’s got a lot of maturity for a young kid.”
The Eagles came back out for the third period clinging to their one goal lead, but with Demko finishing off his shutout with eight more saves in the final frame, the slim margin would have proved to be enough. BC didn’t settle, though, as Johnny Gaudreau had unfinished business.
Just minutes after a shot from Quinn Smith rang off the crossbar and the play was reviewed and confirmed as no goal, Gaudreau made a mark of his own on the scoreboard with an unassisted goal just at a little more than 14 minutes into the third period, extending his point streak to 21 games and giving BC a bigger cushion over the Friars.
Providence would take three penalties during the final frame, but BC failed to capitalize on any of them, and both teams would finish the night without a power play goal, the Eagles going 0-for-4, the Friars finishing 0-for-4.
It was Demko’s first shutout of his career, coming just as the Eagles head into the Beanpot. York, however, did not say whether Friday’s performance would cement Demko as the Beanpot starter.
“I’m just worrying about getting on the bus here,” he said. “I’m not going to… But he’s playing very well for us.”