“We’re taking the cuteness out of the games and making them harder and stronger players.”
-Jerry York, Boston College men’s hockey head coach
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, the crowd cries.
Noah Hanifin waits on the edge of his seat in the box after getting called for slashing 34 seconds into the middle period. The sweat dripping down his sides, the freshman is desperate for liberation. The Eagles continue their penalty kill: a necessity after both goalies—Thatcher Demko of Boston College and Jon Gillies for Providence College—stifled their opponents’ offensive strikes shot-for-shot in the opening frame.
With the momentum threatening to shift in the Friars’ direction, all Hanifin could do was listen to the chant count down each agonizing moment.
Penalties abounded in the 3-2 victory by the Eagles (16-8-2, 9-5-2 Hockey East) over the Providence College Friars (16-9-1, 8-6 Hockey East). After a couple of trips to the box in the first—two by each team—Hanifin’s opened up the second period.
The niceties between the two regional rivals ended there.
Throughout the first, Ryan Fitzgerald exchanged several shots with PC players, culminating in a Friar tugging at Fitz’s back while he helped a teammate on a messy line change. Moments later, chaos ensued.
BC and PC players threw down their sticks, engaging in a massive brawl at center ice. No ejections resulted from the scuffle, although one fight stood apart from the rest.
Eagles’ defenseman Ian McCoshen held PC’s Stefan Demopoulos on the floor, pressing his face against the ice. McCoshen restrained him while throwing punches, showing the kind of toughness BC head coach Jerry York had been looking for this season.
“I think they’re playing bigger now than they were earlier in the season, they’re using their bodies better,” York said of his team’s performance. York lauded his team’s ability to use their strength to overpower opposing players, especially the line of Adam Gilmour, Alex Tuch, and Zach Sanford.
As for his enforcer? York had some choice words about his play. “I thought Ian McCoshen was just a man out there tonight, he really controlled and dictated the game from our standpoint—he played man’s hockey tonight,” he said.
Five, four, three, two, the crowd continues to roar.
Hanifin is going stir crazy. Like a clock ticking slowly, he processes every single number as if a year passes. With only a moment left, he leaps up: another successful power play kill for the Eagles. It’s a practiced drill by BC players now—only moments before that “one, freedom!” cheer from the crowd—hungry for an even advantage on the ice.
While Kelley Rink’s eyes rested on the eager man standing with his hand on the penalty box door, fellow freshman Tuch has another plan in mind.
Like in their game against Boston University, the three Eagle freshmen came up clutch.
Hanifin, Tuch, and Sanford again scored the only goals for BC on the day, but their contributions went beyond their point totals. Hanifin consistently intercepted passes, keeping the Eagles in the Providence zone all night. Tuch stayed out of the box, setting up solid chances for his linemates to get off solid shots.
But it was Sanford who led the way for BC on Friday night. He put up several excellent chances on Gillies, including back-to-back shots out in front of the PC goaltender to open the third period. He also found Hanifin after making some excellent dekes, but Gillies stopped him again. His goal at 10:52 in the third off a hard rebound by Gilmour, however, put BC ahead for good.
Despite his early season inconsistencies, Sanford found his offense to be not the only plus. Sanford knocked away the puck from a flailing Demko after a Friar onslaught late in the second, showing he could come up big on defense as well.
Sanford had a lot of good things to say about his freshmen teammates after the game as well. “They’re two of my best friends on the team, being in the same grade, so we’re really close off the ice, which really helps the chemistry on the ice,” he said.
Hanifin drives himself out of the box and dashes down the ice to get back into position. Simultaneously, Tuch gets the feed from his linemate Gilmour at the blue line. He rockets down the left edge and, from the top of the left circle, missiles a wrist shot flying beyond Gillies on the right side.
The puck flies by the goalie before he can look down and even attempt to make the save, setting off the horns for BC.
The crowd screams, breaking every sort of decibel barrier, but Hanifin is too excited to keep listening.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor