As the second period wore on, it was clear that the little things would decide the game. A small mistake here or there could provide the slim margin that would be crucial in the do-or-die game of the Hockey East quarterfinals. That mistake came with less than 10 seconds to go in the period.
BC dumped the puck into the offensive zone, where Notre Dame collected it and broke out. An Eagle got caught too far forward on the forecheck, and the Irish were rewarded with a 4-on-3 break. Some nice tape-to-tape passing from Shayne Taker and T.J. Tynan gave Bryan Rust the puck and a large portion of the net open. Thatcher Demko’s lunge was too slow, as Rust ripped it over his glove and into the net with just 4.2 seconds remaining on the clock. BC wouldn’t score again, and Notre Dame captain Jeff Costello added an insurance goal with under two minutes to go in the game.
It was the second time in the last three games that Notre Dame had scored as the seconds ticked down.
“First minute, last minute of games are important to us,” York said.
Those goals are disheartening to any team, and certainly did the Eagles no favors in this series. In Game One, Notre Dame’s first goal came with nine seconds to go in the first period. The Irish scored the next six goals after that, completely destroying the Eagles. Whether a result of bad luck, good play, or something else entirely, the Eagles must limit the number of goals they give up during the final minutes of periods, or else the resulting massive momentum shift could knock the Eagles out of the tournament they really have their eyes set on-the national championship.
Do-or-die-that’s the time for stars to shine. It’s when Lebron James takes over a game for the Heat, it’s when Derek Jeter delivers a clutch RBI, and when the star forward scores four points.
On Saturday, that’s exactly what Johnny Gaudreau did for the Eagles, scoring four points to help BC bounce back after a humiliating 7-2 defeat on Friday night. On Sunday, however, with BC needing another win to stay in the Hockey East tournament, Gaudreau was unable to deliver.
It’s hard to fault the odds-on favorite for the Hobey Baker for having a bad game-despite having a 31-game point streak, it’s unfair to expect Gaudreau to carry the team every night. With Notre Dame goaltender Steven Summerhays having a stellar game in net, it was clear it would take some of the classic Gaudreau magic to get BC to the Garden next weekend. However, it was the way in which Gaudreau was absent that was so conspicuous.
Apart from one or two moments that had the crowd oohing with his display of skill, Gaudreau was nearly unnoticeable whenever he touched the ice.
Notre Dame’s stifling defense deserves some credit, make no mistake, but that defense didn’t stop Adam Gilmour from having an excellent game or Kevin Hayes from notching two points. Gaudreau very rarely touched the puck, and even more rarely looked prone to do something with it.
Throughout the year, teams have made stopping Gaudreau a focal point of their game plan, but that hasn’t even slowed him down, as he’s accumulated an astonishing 69 points in 37 games.
There was no sugarcoating Gaudreau’s performance-he looked tentative without the puck, and even more tentative with it. If BC wants to advance in the NCAA Tournament, it can do so with the performances of players like Hayes and Arnold, with guys like Brown, Smith, and Gilmour supplementing them. But if BC wants to win it all, it will need its superstar to step it up, in a way he was unable to do on Sunday night.