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MEN'S HOCKEY: Defrosting For The Beanpot

Offensive Execution And Gritty Defense Lead To Win

Assoc. Sports Editor

Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013

Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2013 23:02

John

Graham Beck / Heights Editor

After sending a laser toward the goal, Quinn Smith and a home crowd eager to erupt watched as the puck discretely snuck past the opposing goaltender. Conte Forum held its breath for what seemed like an eternity as the puck inched toward the goal line, only to be helped into the net by a pair of diving Vermont Catamounts trying to bail their goalie out. The Eagles had grabbed the lead, stolen the game’s momentum, and finally left last weekend’s disaster against Maine in the past.

“Sometimes you get the bounces,” Smith said of the pivotal moment, “and I think we got those today.”

Yet the Boston College men’s hockey team owed more than pure luck to its own gutsy effort on Friday night, as it defeated Vermont by a score of 4-1. For BC, the game snapped a two-game losing streak and ended a win drought at home that spurred anxiety over a potential midseason collapse.

Despite the lopsided final score, head coach Jerry York’s Eagles still looked affected by their recent malaise on the offensive end, struggling to capitalize on breakaways and opportunities near the net. The Catamounts immediately made the most of their own chances, as defenseman Anders Franzon sent a shot off of goalie Parker Milner and into the net for a quick score early in the first period.

“I thought once again, we fell down early at home,” York said. “I think you’ve got to be able to play with a lead and you’ve got to learn how to play with a deficit. You’ve got 60 minutes to play, and the ebb and flow of the game is sometimes going to do that for us. I thought tonight, during this stretch, was the best we played from behind, because even though it was 1-0, I thought we made some good plays and had some really good effort.”

The Eagles’ gritty play on defense and aggressiveness against the boards culminated in one of the game’s pivotal turning points. With BC playing shorthanded late in the first period, junior forward Patrick Brown’s stick was snapped in half by a Nick Bruneteau slap shot. Though without a stick, Brown sacrificed himself to halt a volley of Vermont shots, blocking two pucks with his body and singlehandedly wasting the Catamounts’ power play opportunity. His solo defensive stand drew an ovation from the home crowd and rallied a hungry BC squad playing from behind.

“The first shot hit my stick, so it broke,” Brown said, “and then I was trying to get the puck out of the zone, but I didn’t have my stick. So I was trying to hold it in the corner and then the puck went back out to my point, so I just got into the lane a few more times and did what I could.”

Sure enough, the Eagle offensive attack responded with a productive second period. On a surge toward Vermont’s goal, forward Danny Linell fed a pass that Pat Mullane one-timed past Catamount goalie Brody Hoffman. Smith followed with his own memorable shot from the blue line that was helped in by the opponent only 47 seconds later, marking the first time in a while that a mistake played to BC’s advantage. In less than a minute, the Eagles had tallied as many goals as they had during their entire series against Maine.

“We need to get more pucks to the net, so I think that’s basically what I tried to do there,” Smith said. “I think if we do get more pucks to the net, more bounces like that will happen, especially with guys driving, so it’s definitely a builder.”

Taking a 2-1 lead into the final frame, BC’s offensive barrage refused to relent. Senior forward Steven Whitney sent an off-balanced shot from his knees past Hoffman for a highlight-reel goal. The score not only marked the assistant captain’s 11th third-period score of the year, but also his 16th overall, tying a personal career high for goals in a season.

“It’s been a magical season [for Whitney],” York remarked. “The goal from his knees—I’ve got to watch that on film again. He’s really one of the elite players in the nation. We’re awfully glad he’s here at BC.”

Before the final horn sounded, sophomore Johnny Gaudreau put an exclamation point on the Eagles’ performance with a top-shelf goal of his own. Coupled with a 38-save effort from Milner, the determination of BC’s lines brought a squad desperate for redemption back to the win column in style.

Friday night’s game provides the Eagles with much-needed momentum heading into its first-round Beanpot matchup against Harvard on Monday. Yet Smith realizes that a remarkable stretch run like last season’s can’t solely depend on one successful night, but rather a team’s collective drive to excel.

“I think now that we’re getting into what Coach calls trophy season and everything’s getting really tight,” Smith said, “we really want to start playing with a little more desperation in our game. We’re obviously going to stay calm and collected, but we really want to have that sense of urgency … and just really try to get things going because we want to be headed in the right direction coming down the line.” 

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