Boston College and Maine both played well on Friday night. Both teams turned sound defense into some juicy counterattacks and both teams committed a lot of penalties. But the difference came between the pipes. And because the Eagles’ goalie is Thatcher Demko, BC (7-1-0, 2-0-0 Hockey East) won. Alex Tuch added an empty netter with a minute left in the game to make it a 3-0 final against Maine (0-5-3, 0-2-0 HEA), which was Demko’s fifth shutout in six games.
“We played hard, we had lots of scoring chances,” Maine head coach Red Gendron said. “When we had real good ones, Thatcher Demko stopped us. That’s really what it comes down to.”
The junior from San Diego doesn’t usually make many highlight reel saves, but that’s not for lack of talent. Demko often finds himself in excellent position and corrals rebounds so well that he doesn’t need to sprawl around the crease. But when he did give up a rebound, or when his defense let up a grade A scoring chance, he stopped those too because right now, Demko isn’t in the business of giving up goals. By stopping all 30 Black Bear shots on Friday, Demko bumped up his save percentage to .969—a number that, the way he’s playing, seems low.
“You’ve gotta find a way to get pucks on him and get traffic,” said Gendron. “No goalie has X-ray vision. Superman, I think, could see through people. Thatcher Demko is very good but he’s not Superman.”
Gendron may be right, but if Superman played goalie, he would look something like Demko’s current form. BC’s skaters fed off their stalwart in goal on Friday, aggressively killing penalties and clearing pucks from their zone.
“Thatcher has been on a whole different planet,” defenseman Steve Santini said. “It makes you feel really comfortable, knowing he’s back there, and we’re helping him the best we can, but he’s been phenomenal for us.”
Because Demko pitched another shutout, Santini’s first period snipe was the game winner of record. Colin White, who potted the insurance goal late in the third, circled up the left half wall and slithered the puck to Santini coming down the slot. Santini drifted to his right just faster than Rob McGovern could track the puck and fired his wrist shot short side, top cheddar. It was the blue liner’s first goal of the year and judging from his celebration, he was pretty excited about it. The defensive stalwart played just 22 games and scored one goal last season due to a wrist injury.
“[The goal] felt pretty good, with the injury and everything, it felt like I never really hit my stride (last year),” Santini said. “It was the first time in my life I really faced some adversity [over the summer]. I really focused on getting my grip strength back, and I feel 110 percent, way better then before I hurt my wrist.”
Demko, too, struggled with his injuries in the back half of last year’s season, and both Santini and head coach Jerry York partially pointed to health as a driver in their goalie’s recent level of play. That isn’t the only reason, though, because a confluence of factors is necessary to reach the zone that Demko resides in right now.
“He’s had a nice career at BC, but he’s really playing at the highest level that we’ve seen him play,” York said. “Part of it is the [double hip] surgery that alleviated some pain and gave him more flexibility, but a lot of it is [he is] more confident, more assertive.”
York noted that Demko was a young freshman when he got to campus, and that he doesn’t turn 20 until December. Added Santini: “I’ve been Thatcher’s teammate for four years (between BC and the U.S. Development Program) and I’ve never seen him as plugged in as he is now. Confident, mature, at times he makes it look easy, and for any team to see that, I think it gives us confidence and helps us win games.”
Demko’s play should give the Eagles confidence and it if it sustains, BC will keep winning games. Maine made a couple mistakes and lost because until Demko comes back to earth, BC’s opponents don’t have any margin for error.
Featured Image by Jake Evans / Heights Staff