Notebook: Notre Dame Bruises BC With Defense And Goaltending

After a long, two-week hiatus, the Boston College men’s hockey team faced off against the same Notre Dame team that brought its undefeated streak to an end on the regular season’s final day. Yet the Eagles were not able to dust off the cobwebs in time for the start of the 2014 postseason on Friday night. In a 7-2 drubbing to the Fighting Irish in game one of the Hockey East quarterfinals, BC was a victim of derailed momentum.

A Tale of Two Goaltenders

A lopsided final tally was partly the result of disparate play in the net. While rookie Thatcher Demko was roughed up in the first postseason start of his collegiate career, he did not struggle as much as Notre Dame’s Steven Summerhays excelled.

The senior stopped 22 shots on the night, derailing a BC offense that initially seemed promising after freshman Ryan Fitzegerald’s first period put-back goal. Yet Summerhays consistently stifled the Eagles’ high-percentage opportunities throughout the evening. His quickness was enough to befuddle Hobey Baker candidate Johnny Gaudreau, who failed to convert with the puck on several open chances around the Notre Dame crease.

All Gaudreau needed was one opportune chance to catch fire, but Summerhays denied it.

Thanks to two consecutive smothering performances from Summerhays and Notre Dame’s defensive unit, the Irish have outscored the Eagles 9-3 over a pair of contests. Head coach Jeff Jackson believes his defense’s efforts have electrified his squad’s performance on the other end of the ice.

“When you defend with a purpose, it creates offense,” Jackson said.

Meanwhile, Demko faced an uphill battle from the end of the first frame onward. The freshman utilized his 6-foot-6 frame early on, holding the Irish scoreless for nearly the entire period before a last second-score from Stephen Johns opened the floodgates.

The goal took both Demko and the rest of BC’s defensive unit off guard, as sophomore Thomas DiPauli lured the Eagle defenders to the right ring before sending a cross pass to a wide-open Johns for a nearly uncontested shot.

From that point onward, Notre Dame tied the Eagle defense into knots, characterized by DiPauli’s third period dupe of defenseman Michael Matheson and an easy finish against Demko for the sixth Irish goal of the game. The lines in front of Demko were breaking down, and the volley of 34 Notre Dame shots became too much to handle.

And as much as sound defense inspired the visiting team’s offense, it could be argued that BC’s inability to convert on offensive opportunities had the opposite effect on Demko’s confidence over the final two periods.

Despite the rough outing and pulling his starting goalie midway through the third period, head coach Jerry York vowed that Demko would be back in the net Saturday afternoon. If any solace can be taken from the defeat, it is the opportunity for a young BC squad to respond to a rare bout of adversity.

“We have our work cut out for us, and we understand that,” York said. “Our only objective now is to get the series to Sunday.”

The Point Streak Lives

Overshadowed in the loss was the continuation of Gaudreau’s point streak, which reached 30 straight games last night on an assist to captain Patrick Brown’s late goal. Gaudreau’s historic run has produced 57 points. Yet the assist to Brown was a lone bright spot for the BC junior last night, as his performance was defined by missed opportunities.