MEN'S HOCKEY: Billett Proved Himself, Even Before BC
Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 02:12
I don’t read many student newspapers from other top-flight college hockey schools, but I’m assuming that most, if not all of them, did not do a big feature story on a freshman goalie as part of their hockey season preview. But that’s the buzz that came with Thatcher Demko heading into this season—and deservedly so. Barely 18, he’s projected to be one of the top American goalies taken in the upcoming NHL draft.
Because of those circumstances, the goalie situation for BC has been mostly framed as waiting for the freshman to take the reins and bring the rest of his young teammates to their fullest potential along with him.
Those people apparently don’t remember that, two years ago, the Eagles faced the same situation in net—just substitute “Demko” for “Billett.” Billett arrived on campus in 2011 with the following accomplishments: he was elected to the EJHL All-Star Game in each of his three seasons with the New Hampshire Monarchs, he led his team to titles in 2010 and 2011, was the EJHL Goaltender of the Year in 2010, and had a career .935 save percentage with the Monarchs. That was a lot of potential at the time—enough to believe that Billett could have taken a loaded 2011-12 team to the top.
That team did get to the top, but not with Billett in goal. Junior Parker Milner took hold of the starting job down the stretch and was the last goalie standing when BC was the last team at the Frozen Four. Billett made his case, though, especially with a dominant performance early in the season at Agganis Arena. Sound familiar? If the score of that game was 5-1 instead of 6-1, the parallels would be too overwhelming.
Billett was somewhat forgotten heading into this season because of a sophomore season that featured concussions and Milner as the entrenched senior starter.
Head coach Jerry York didn’t forget, though, and said he realizes he should have given Billett more of a shot last year.
“Last year we never really had a chance to play him with Parker,” York said after BC’s win at Harvard this season. “When we wanted to play him he had a concussion and missed a full month of the season. Looking back I probably should have played him more, but Parker was just so dominant.”
That night at Harvard, York also added, “Our goaltender [Billett] was the difference in the game ... He was one of the key reasons we won the game tonight.”
Last week at home against UNH, the Wildcats outshot BC 16-4 in the second period, but weren’t able to put any past Billett. Kept in the game by Billett once again, BC’s inconsistent but explosive offense detonated in the second period, and the Eagles left with a 6-2 win. After the game, UNH coach Dick Umile said, “[BC’s] goaltender won the game tonight.”
Demko can win games for BC, too, and he did the next night at UNH with an excellent road performance for any goalie, let alone a freshman. For a young, erratic team, however, one that has the capability to drop a home game to Holy Cross—a game in which Demko let in five goals on 18 shots—more reliability in net is much needed.
As tournament season approaches, York would be best served to follow his blueprint from two years ago.