MEN'S HOCKEY: Eagles Win At Tough Alford Arena
Published: Monday, November 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Playing games at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena has been no easy task for the Boston College men’s hockey team in recent years—since 2009, the Eagles had not been able to win a game in Orono when facing the Black Bears. On Friday night, before 4,733 screaming fans, the No. 1 Eagles had a chance to try their luck once again at Alfond, this time facing an unranked Maine squad whose record was a paltry 1-6.
By the start of third period, however, things were not going as the Eagles would have hoped for. After two periods the score was tied 2-2, and while the Eagles eventually ended up winning the game 4-2, the team’s eventual victory was by no means easy.
“It’s always been a difficult place to play, I think Maine feeds off the home crowd very, very well, and they’ve got some good players,” said head coach Jerry York following the game, acknowledging perhaps the leading factor that has made it so difficult for the Eagles to win in Maine in recent years.
After a scoreless first period it was clear that the game was not going to be an easy contest for the Eagles. Maine was able to keep up with BC’s high-caliber play with ease, and the Eagles were unable to execute on several key chances to score.
At 1:06 in the second period, forward Kevin Hayes finally put the Eagles on the board with a power play goal, a slap shot from the right point assisted by Destry Straight and Patrick Wey. Quick to respond, Maine tied the game up less than a minute later when Will Merchant received a pass in the slot and put it home for a goal.
When BC scored again later in the second period, this time on a wrist shot from the point by defenseman Isaac Macleod, Maine responded just 24 seconds later with a goal of their own. Tied against the Black Bears going into the third period, the Eagles’ No. 1 rank was potentially on the line if they were to lose.
That danger was put to rest, though— BC came out flying during the third period, and when Maine defender Klas Leidermark received a two-minute minor for interference at 3:20, the pressure was on the Eagles to regain the lead.
A minute and a half into the power play, the Eagles executed. After an attempted wraparound on the Black Bears’ goaltender Martin Ouellette led to a loose puck in front of the net, forward Johnny Gaudreau was able to bang home the Eagles’ third goal from the top of the crease. Danny Linell and Michael Matheson were credited with the assists on the goal. From that point on, the Eagles never looked back. Although the team failed to execute on a power play 7:41 into the period, as well as on a five-on-three advantage that lasted 37 seconds, the team continued to move the puck well, dominate play, and close the gap in Maine’s shots on goal advantage.
For the first time all game, the Eagles were able to maintain their lead. At 18:45 in the third, Maine pulled Ouellette in exchange for an extra skater on the ice. A miscommunication among the Black Bears, however, led to a two-minute bench minor being called for having too many men on the ice, and an Eagles power play for the rest of regulation. Then, with 11 seconds left in the game, BC forward Bill Arnold sent a cross-ice pass through the neutral zone to forward Steven Whitney, who proceeded to score on Maine’s empty net, sealing the Eagles’ first victory at Maine in nearly three years.
“I think the keys to the win on the road tonight were capitalizing on the power play, and Parker Milner’s play in goal— he made some incredible saves,” York said following the game. Milner was the third star of the night’s game, finishing with 28 saves.
The success of each team’s respective power plays was undoubtedly the difference maker in Friday’s game. While the Black Bears went 0-for-3 on their chances, the Eagles were 3-for-6 on the night, and 2-for-4 in the third period, when the goals mattered most.
“[Maine’s] play is not indicative of what the record would say, they played hard, they played well,” York said. “It was a difficult win for us to achieve tonight.”
As difficult as the victory was, the Eagles cannot afford to look back on any shortcomings that occurred. The Eagles will welcome Maine to Kelley Rink on Jan. 24 and 25 later this season, and while there will be no home crowd for the Black Bears to feed off of in those games, the Eagles must certainly be ready for another fight.