MEN'S HOCKEY: Seniors End Conte Careers On High Note
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013 21:03
After the final horn sounded on Saturday night, BC’s six seniors saluted to the crowd and skated out of Kelley Rink for the last time. They had kept their perfect class record in Hockey East tournament play intact. More importantly, the senior six had advanced the Eagles to their ninth consecutive Hockey East semifinal at TD Garden.
“My hat’s off to the senior class,” said associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh. “They’ve had an incredible run here, and it’s always nice to watch your seniors finish their last home game with a win. They get to keep moving on, which is exciting for them.”
Despite facing a physical battle against the boards and playing without head coach Jerry York on the bench, the Boston College men’s hockey team swept its quarterfinal series against Vermont with a 4-1 victory.
From the outset, it was clear that the hard-hitting of playoff hockey from the night before had carried over into the second meeting. Vermont came out in a fit of aggression that resulted in a total of six penalties and a number of body checks, one of which sent BC junior Bill Arnold down to the ice in pain.
Yet the Catamounts’ dependence on the penalty kill to compensate for their miscues caught up with them halfway through the first frame. Working the puck around Vermont’s net amidst a power play opportunity, BC captain Pat Mullane wound up in a shooting motion as if he was about to single-handedly challenge Catamount keeper Brody Hoffman. Instead of following through with the shot, however, Mullane fooled Hoffman with a pass near the goal’s unguarded corner to wide-open classmate Steven Whitney, who notched his 25th score of the season to give BC a 1-0 lead. Thanks to the senior-to-senior connection, the Eagles had finally managed to capitalize on an advantage.
“Even when Vermont was doing a terrific job on the penalty kill and it started to get frustrating, the guys on the bench kept a positive attitude and we kept things moving forward,” said associate head coach Greg Brown. “When the game did settle down a little bit and there was some five-on-five hockey, they were ready to go. In that way, it was a whole team effort.”
After Whitney’s goal, Hoffman and the Catamounts managed to maintain a one-goal deficit despite recording more penalties than shots over two periods. Yet the Eagles struck again soon before the second intermission, as junior Patrick Brown corralled a loose puck off of a faceoff and forced it past Vermont’s rookie goaltender to put BC up by two with a period to play.
In addition to the contributions of other role-players on BC’s roster over the weekend, Brown’s score reinforced the importance of depth on a championship-caliber team’s roster—especially during the postseason.
“When you’re chasing trophies, we’ve realized over the years that it’s not always your marquee players that win you those trophies,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s the entire team that wins you championships.”
Conscious of Vermont’s ability to claw its way back into a game, the Eagles sought more insurance on the scoreboard in the third period. After maneuvering through traffic created by Catamount defenders, Arnold quickly dished the puck to a waiting Johnny Gaudreau. The sophomore received the pass and sent it into the net before Hoffman could cover the unguarded corner, putting BC up 3-0.
Yet a night dedicated to BC’s seniors was fittingly capped by one of their own. Returning to the ice after being shaken up from a hit against the boards, Mullane received a pass from Whitney and wristed his 16th goal of the year into the back of the net to give his squad a 4-0 advantage.
Although Matt White soon responded with Vermont’s lone score, goalie Parker Milner and the BC defense limited their opponent to 17 shots over three periods to crush any hope for a Catamount comeback. A complete performance on both sides of the puck sent the senior Eagles away with a win in their final game at Conte Forum.
“I try not to think about it too much,” Mullane said, “but I almost got emotional there skating off the ice, knowing that it was my last time in Conte Forum. The fans and everyone involved with BC hockey have made it so special. It’s been a great four years.”
As the veteran leader of a team with a multitude of postseason experience, however, Mullane realizes the importance of leaving Saturday’s bittersweet goodbye in the past to concentrate on the Eagles’ next challenge—a date with archrival Boston University at TD Garden this Friday. Even so, Saturday’s home victory may provide BC with as much momentum as nostalgia.
“Obviously we have a long way to go,” Mullane said, “but for right now, it was nice leaving here with a win.”