Boston College men’s hockey needed an answer. If the Eagles were to force a rubber match in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament, they had to find a solution to the Notre Dame offense that had dropped nine goals on them in two games, and a way of cracking the stout Irish defense that powered the beast.
On Saturday afternoon in Conte Forum, it turned out the answer to the equation was simple: x equaled have Johnny Gaudreau do Johnny Gaudreau things.
The country’s lead scorer was—more so than usual—a slippery, defenseman-dodging goaltender terror through three periods, and his efforts provided the clear sparkplug in BC’s 4-2 victory over the Irish and its return to winning form.
“I thought our work ethic was better tonight, I thought our battles were better tonight, and we got a big push out of Billy Arnold’s line and Johnny in particular was really on top of his game tonight,” said head coach Jerry York after the game.
Despite picking up an assist, Gaudreau—along with the rest of his teammates—struggled in BC’s 7-2 loss to the Irish on Friday night. Game in and game out, Gaudreau’s proximity to the goal has correlated with an increase in sieve chants, but on Friday, ND goaltender Steven Summerhays had No. 13 on lockdown, turning away all four of his shots.
Less than 24 hours later, the script was flipped. Gaudreau lit up Summerhays, netting two goals on seven shots and assisting on another pair of scores.
“It’s a do or die game and I needed to come out and show my best and help my teammates and try to help the team get the win,” Gaudreau said after the game.
While BC dominated through three periods—bouncing 33 shots off Summerhays and turning the netminder into a human target—the Eagles appeared to be heading for a cliff early on. Senior winger Bryan Rust put ND up one as his trickling prayer of a shot near the blue line leaked past freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko and into the net.
Pulled in favor of Brian Billett late in Friday night’s game, Demko could have fallen apart, but the freshman rallied, making 19 saves.
“He played out of his mind tonight—after that first goal he played really well,” Gaudreau said.
At 10:28, captain Patrick Brown raced out of the box and buried a sitter from Gaudreau to level the game, and from that point on, BC didn’t look back.
Tormenting Summerhays with relentless shooting, BC took the lead at 17:39. In soccer terminology it would be called a clinical goal: the setup was purely fundamental and the finish was perfectly executed. Kevin Hayes to Arnold to Hayes to Gaudreau—four slaps of puck on stick and then Gaudreau’s wrister found the tween behind Summerhays’ helpless frame.
In a game made up of 13 penalties and six goals, the second period was largely forgettable with zero goals and two minutes in the box. For the most part, the second frame was a rhythmless grind for both the golden and the maroon helmets, and it wasn’t until 5:58 in the third period that the goal horn sounded again.
Defenseman Scott Savage whiffed on his shot, but his second-effort pass found Hayes for an easy tap-in. Seemingly incapable of fading out of a play, Gaudreau picked up the secondary assist.
“He’s one of those team-first type guys,” York said. “It’s refreshing, as a coach, to see that, when clearly your best player is … everything is put team first.”
Less than two minutes later, Gaudreau scored another one of his own, dangling past Summerhays with a filthy backhanded deke.
The goal marked Gaudreau’s 69th point of the season, and although Notre Dame got one back, it placed the game firmly out of reach for the Irish.
With BC’s Hockey East hopes prolonged and a hand in each of his team’s goals, Gaudreau said he’d have an easier time resting up than he did after Friday’s demolition.
“A little bit better than last night,” Gaudreau said. “Last night it was tough to sleep.”