Strong Games By Santini And Hanifin Lift Eagles Over Michalek, Harvard

Boston College earned a 3-2 overtime win with huge Pairwise implications over Harvard on Monday in what head coach Jerry York refused to call “The Consolation Game,” but instead referred to as “The Third Place Game.” Without a doubt, the intensity of the game backed up York’s slightly more euphemistic label.

In a relatively empty TD Garden, one noise could be heard loud and clear throughout the afternoon: the sound of Steve Santini crushing Harvard skaters into the plexiglass boards. Santini, along with fellow defenseman Noah Hanifin, was outstanding for BC, playing a vital role clearing the puck in the team’s often employed penalty kill, as well as making sure no Harvard forward felt comfortable anywhere on the ice with a strong physical presence. Santini sent Harvard skaters crashing into the ice and the glass all game with heavy body checks, creating some perfect clips for his personal highlight reel. Hanifin was not quite as physical as Santini, but was just as effective in keeping Harvard skaters from shooting up close to goaltender Thatcher Demko.

Anyone surprised by the fact that it was the Eagles’ defense and goaltending that gave the team a victory probably hasn’t been paying too much attention this season. York certainly expected it.

“We’re a team built for 2-1, 3-2 type games this year and there’s got to be outstanding goaltending,” said York. “We don’t score a lot of goals very easily.”

And that win didn’t come easily for the Eagles by any means. Plagued by sloppy play in the neutral zone, an early lead provided by Alex Tuch quickly crumbled in the second period. Seemingly everything went wrong for BC that period, beginning with discipline. The Eagles took five penalties in the frame, constantly forcing the already short-handed roster to play on its collective heels for half of the period. BC’s penalty kill was for the most part up to the task, allowing only one goal on five chances for the Crimson, but for a team that hasn’t
been exactly prolific scoring-wise this season, playing a man down can be a death sentence.

“We had one, two, three, four, five penalties in the second period,” York said. “One of them was a carryover penalty, but that’s a lot of shorthanded time. It’s hard to have much offense, to have much get up and go offensively. Our shots on net were minimal.”

BC’s second period struggles went further than just the penalties. The Eagles appeared incapable of completing a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone, leading to multiple offside calls and plenty of offensive momentum killers. Sometimes the dump-and-chase offense can succeed, but in those cases, the “chase” part of the equation can’t mean chasing your linemates back to the bench. Throughout the second period, that adaptation of the classic, yet oh-so-frustrating offensive style was seemingly all the Eagles could muster. BC forwards were noticeably tired coming up the ice after playing so much man-down hockey in their own zone, and couldn’t stay on the ice long enough to execute any real offense. The Eagles’ lack of discipline and lack of efficiency passing in the neutral zone led to a woeful two shots on goal in the period, while Harvard peppered Thatcher Demko with 15. When the TD Garden horn signaled the end of the second period, it appeared as if the so-called “consolation” prize would be given to a Harvard team holding a 2-1 lead.

The second intermission seemed to do BC quite a bit of good, as the team came out looking completely different in the third. The Eagles only committed one penalty in the period, allowing for the once exhausted forwards to make simpler passes and finally execute the “chase.” Once the Eagles started winning chases, it was only a matter of beating Harvard goaltender Steve Michalek. This task, however, fared quite difficult against the same guy who only a few weeks ago stopped 63 shots in a double-overtime loss to Boston University. Michalek did surrender three goals on 27 shots, but the stats don’t tell the story in this case. Michalek kept Harvard afloat in the third, making 13 stops including one incredible kick save on Hanifin in the waning minutes of regulation. Once again, Michalek’s efforts in the 2015 Beanpot came in a loss, but this loss came as a result of BC’s shutdown defense and its own stellar goaltender.

A sloppy win’s still a win, and Coach York’s team will certainly take it on the backs of Santini, Hanifin, and Demko. But you better not call it a consolation game—around York, at least.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor