Before its weekend series with Notre Dame, Boston College had not played three games in the Hockey East quarterfinals since Boston University bounced BC in 2004-it swept every opponent en route to the semifinals for nine years in a row. Now, for the first time since it was called the Fleet Center, BC won’t be making the mid-March trip to the TD Garden. Despite a third period barrage on Irish territory, the Eagles were eliminated by Notre Dame, 4-2, on Sunday in the third and deciding game of the series between the Catholic rivals.
“Certainly a very difficult loss for us,” said BC head coach Jerry York after the game. “But I thought our team played well, we competed really hard, we had numerous opportunities to score goals. When you look at our chances we had, and we only had two goals from those chances, you’ve gotta give [Notre Dame goalie Steven] Summerhays a tremendous amount of credit there. He was certainly the difference in the game tonight, from my perspective.”
By puck drop on Sunday, the Irish matching or outplaying BC, which they did for much of Game Three, was not a revelation. BC has been beaten at home four times this season, and Notre Dame has done it three times. Summerhays played well in all three of those games, but on Sunday, his play gave his team the chance to make the trek to the East Coast from Indiana, yet again, come Friday.
“[Summerhays’ play is] a big part of the reason we’re going to the Boston Garden,” said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. “He’s the backbone, he’s got to hold us in there when the storm’s coming, and there were plenty of storms tonight. He played big, and that’s what a great goalie does.”
The first of those storms came very early in the first period, when BC benefited from two uncharacteristic lapses in awareness from Notre Dame. A botched line change in the game’s opening minutes led to a half-breakaway down the left wing for BC forward Quinn Smith, but Smith’s wrist shot from the left circle rang off the inside of the post.
“Even some of the opportunities we missed the net wide with, [Summerhays] was on a good angle … probably influenced where the shots were going to go,” York said. “One of the very first shots of the game, when Quinn hit the post and [the puck] came back out through Summerhays’ legs, it was that type of frustration during the course of the night.”
BC capitalized a couple minutes later when Gilmour raced off the bench and into the Irish zone and blew up a Notre Dame breakout with staggering ease just inside the blue line. Scrambling, Notre Dame left Kevin Hayes open at the far post, and Gilmour spotted the right wing and fed him for an easy one-timer at 4:43 as BC went up 1-0.
In all three games of the series, the team who scored first lost, and Notre Dame answered later in the first period Sunday just as they did Friday. The visiting team, laden with upperclassmen, stayed steady and picked up its play as the period went on.
A little over halfway into the frame, senior defenseman Stephen Johns skated the puck from his own zone, through the neutral zone and the BC defense, and backhanded in a goal short-side from the inside of the left circle. Ruled a no-goal on the ice, upon review there was little dispute that the game should have been tied. The goal was Johns’ third of the series and one of the softest freshman goalie Thatcher Demko has let in during his young career.
Notre Dame took its first lead of the game four and half minutes into that second period when senior forward Bryan Rust pounced on a blocked shot from the point. Rust then finished a great shift by Notre Dame’s top line by burying a wrist shot top shelf from the right side of the slot. Rust’s linemates Sam Herr and T.J. Tynan picked up the assists on the goal.
After Notre Dame threatened to extend its lead with a couple quality chances, BC tied and then took the lead for a brief moment on the back of its power play. At the right point on a 5-on-3, Hayes hit Arnold at the left post, and Arnold’s deflection hovered over the crease before captain Patrick Brown batted in the tying goal at 8:05. Brown drove toward the net again at the end of the man advantage and was credited with another goal off a Johnny Gaudreau rebound, but upon review, Brown was called for goaltender interference on top of the goal being disallowed.
Notre Dame capped off the second by utilizing its patented transition counterattack to go up 3-2 with 4.2 seconds left.
BC started the third firing and sustained the pressure like it hadn’t all series, but Summerhays made the 14-5 shot differential in BC’s favor inconsequential.
“The only goals they really score on him are from inside the crease or wide open back doors,” Rust said. “And with a team like us in front of him who is gonna block shots, who’s gonna pay the price, he’s there to make the easy saves and the really tough ones when we need him to. Having a guy like that, backing us up, gives us a lot of confidence.”
Notre Dame countered one last time when Steven Fogarty blocked Scott Savage’s shot at the Irish blue line, and retrieved the puck in the neutral zone, and proceeded to send captain Jeff Costello on a breakaway. Costello beat Demko five-hole to ice the game at 18:08.
After Friday’s 7-2 drubbing, Notre Dame did not sing the fight song in the locker room because the job wasn’t finished. It’s still not completed, but a big part of it is. Rust wasn’t ashamed to say he, along with his teammates, belted out the rally cry Sunday in the visiting locker room.
“Nice and loud,” he said.