At 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, Patrick Brown is strong, but not that Kevin Hayes-effortlessly-burying-defensemen-into-the-boards type of strong. He’s got hands, but not those Johnny Gaudreau-deke-anything-on-legs sort of hands. Brown is a solid all-around two-way hockey player, but statistically, he’s the sixth best forward on the team, and his name is often lost in the hurricane of accolades whirling around Hayes, Gaudreau and Bill Arnold.
On Monday night in the Beanpot final, though, it was Brown who came through when Boston College needed a spark the most. It was the center who, sprawled flat on his back struggling for a piece of the puck, scored the game winner in BC’s 4-1 victory over Northeastern and then practically deked Clay Witt out of his pads for the fourth goal.
When the Eagles won their fifth Beanpot in five years, it was Brown who reminded everyone in attendance why he’s captain of the No. 1 team in the nation.
“Here’s a player that was kind of a lightly recruited player by us,” said BC men’s hockey head coach Jerry York after the game. “He played maybe 10 games his freshman year, but he just had something about him, he kept working and getting stronger.”
Like “grit” and “heart,” “intangibles” is a word that has been abused and cliched to a point where its meaning—if it ever really had a coherent definition—is bastardized and hopelessly muddled. Brown provides an easy target for “intangible” talk, but that would be a discredit to him.
A better and more meaningful description for Brown would be “glue.” He’s the type of player that—in the midst of 24-game point streaks, flashy goals, and massive hits—keeps doing the little things right. Brown’s the fundamentally sound leader, the glue that keeps the squad together.
Coming into Monday night, the senior had seven goals and nine assists for 16 points on the season. In the Beanpot semifinals against Boston University, Brown had zero points, making it into the box score thanks to his four shots on goal. From the instant the puck was dropped in the championship game, though, it was clear that the whole night would be very different.
The BU game was a frustrating three periods of hockey. Devoid of any sort of rhythm for long stretches of time, it devolved into a whistle-marred scrap battle—but whatever element had been missing in the semis erupted in the first frame of the final. The refs put away the whistles, calling just three penalties over 60 minutes, and allowed back-and-forth, fast-paced hockey to run TD Garden: heart-pounding near misses, punishing hits, and scoring chances galore.
BC goaltender Thatcher Demko earned his keep early, making 16 saves in the first—with shots coming through the screen from close range as BC struggled to clear the crease—and Northeastern’s Witt performed similarly, stopping 10 shots.
At 8:40, though, Hayes broke through and beat Witt to put BC up one. In typical fashion of the country’s top line, everyone was involved as Gaudreau cut down the wing to the red line and dished a pass to Arnold, who tipped it to Hayes for the finish.
As the game swung between shootout and slugfest, that 1-0 score held and the tension rose until 18:36 in the second period, when Kevin Roy—a ghost for much of the game up until that point—jumped on BC’s blown clearance pass.
Deking and burying his shot into Demko’s right side, Roy provided a perfect sitter for John Stevens, who fired it home as the Eberly Award-winner watched helplessly from the other side of his net.
BC outshot the Huskies 16-11 in the third period, but the stats don’t tell the full story. The two teams swung back and forth, causing heart palpitations for both contingents of fans, and Northeastern was down BC’s throat for much of the period, forcing phenomenal saves and goal-line clearances out of Demko and his defense.
The Beanpot war raged on, and as the two goaltenders continued to produce save after save, the game began to feel primed for overtime.
Then, at 14:30, Brown broke the deadlock.
Battling with Stevens just in front of Witt’s crease, Brown was jockeying to set up a screen, struggling to put himself in a position where he could redirect a shot at the Huskies’ goal. As Isaac MacLeod pulled back his stick and fired in a shot from the point, Stevens threw down Brown, dragging him to the floor.
Many players would have thrown their hands in the air looking for a call. Most would have lost focus on the play. Not Brown.
Sprawled on his back, Brown kept his eyes on the puck and somehow managed to get a piece of it with his stick—just enough to fling it past Witt and secure the championship for BC.
“That’s an amazing goal for us,” York said. “I need to see it on film, but I think it’s going to be a highlight reel [one].”
A few minutes later, Gaudreau would put the game out of reach with an empty netter. Then, with 50 second remaining and Witt back in net, Brown took a victory lap. Picking up the puck at center ice, Brown raced toward net on the fast break, and with some quick stick handling, demolished Witt glove side.
In a game full of doing the little things right, it was a rare moment of eye-widening flash from the captain—a reminder of what the glue can do.
“Most teams you see in the country, their very best player’s their captain,” York said. “Historically that’s the way it is. Patrick’s got such leadership skills that he didn’t have to be our best player. He didn’t have to be an All American or a Hobey Baker candidate [for the] team to recognize him. We vote for our captains, and it was unanimous that he’d be our captain.”