If you’re the type of hockey fan who believes in the importance of advanced statistics, avert your eyes. On Saturday night, the Boston College Eagles took down the University of Michigan Wolverines 5-1, in what could be—but definitely shouldn’t be—described as a blowout.
The Wolverines skated into Kelley Rink red hot Saturday night. Winners of four consecutive games and six of their last seven, the Wolverines have looked unstoppable offensively since the beginning of November—tallying five or more goals in five of their six wins. Goalie Thatcher Demko, however, did not let it overpower him. Michigan’s dangerous offense only snuck one shot by Demko on the night, as the goalie dazzled with an impressive 41-save performance. Due in large part to Demko’s brilliance as well as an early offensive explosion, the Eagles were able to earn an impressive non-conference victory.
Very early in the first period, it looked as if Michigan’s vaunted offense once again came to play. Sophomore winger Max Shuart pinged a shot off the crossbar only a minute and a half in, which, in some ways, perfectly symbolized the remainder of Michigan’s night offensively. After two more saves by the post, as well as a beautiful stop on a breakaway by Demko, BC seemed on the ropes early.
To make matters worse for the Eagles, Ian McCoshen was found guilty of slashing, granting the Wolverines the first power play of the game. Fortunately for the Eagles, Michigan’s Dylan Larkin was called for holding only 14 seconds later, nullifying what could be an important chance for the Wolverines to take an early lead on the road.
From that point forward, the first period was all Eagles—at least on the scoreboard, that is.
“Very misleading,” said Coach Jerry York. “The first period, we had a three-nothing lead and they hit like four posts. Sometimes you come out of the first period and you say, well we have some puck luck on our side tonight. I think that’s what happened, and it gives us a lot of energy.”
This “puck luck” certainly showed as defenseman Teddy Doherty put BC on the board on the team’s first shot of the game. Doherty scored on a two-on-one rush, racing up the ice along with Adam Gilmour. The junior faked a shot and fired a bullet over the shoulder of Michigan goaltender Zach Nagelvoort. Despite the early goal, BC’s lead still appeared destined to dissolve due to the team’s lack of offensive zone-time.
Less than two minutes later, Matthew Gaudreau started another Eagles’ chance with a nifty play to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Gaudreau almost hit Cam Spiro with a beautiful saucer pass in front of the net, but the puck popped up on Spiro’s stick, flailing wide. The puck from Spiro’s near goal landed in the perfect spot for a McCoshen shot. Nagelvoort, heavily screened, had virtually no chance as McCoshen’s wrister connected top-shelf and BC took a 2-0 lead.
BC’s first period offensive explosion continued seven minutes later, as Destry Straight also beat Nagelvoort top-shelf. After a feed from Michael Matheson, Straight placed his shot perfectly over the goalie’s shoulder, giving BC a commanding lead heading into the locker room.
As for the rest of the contest, well, advanced stats believers should probably not use the final two periods as an example for their cause.
No goals were scored in the second period, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of action. There was—for Demko at least.
By the end of the second period, Michigan attempted 64 shots to BC’s 33. 29 were on target, while BC only managed 16. By the end of the game, Michigan’s total shots attempted bested BC’s by the staggering margin of 90-59, with 42-29 on net. Simply put, Michigan played a stronger game on paper.
Paper, however, doesn’t win hockey games. Thatcher Demko does.
The Wolverines were able to pull within two via a Dylan Larkin goal early in the third, but from that point on, BC clamped down.
Michigan coach Red Berenson noted the team’s competitiveness as well as the idea that the Wolverines could have made a comeback. “This was a good team, a good game. Nevertheless, we just couldn’t get the next goal. The score was 3-1 in the third, we needed to get the next goal and the game really came down to that. They got an ugly goal and the game kind of came down to that.”
Quinn Smith sealed the victory for the Eagles with the crucial fourth goal, as well as netting an empty netter with just over a minute to go.
As it has been so many times this season, Demko took center stage. With the goalie playing the way he has been as of late, BC’s slow start could become something of the distant past. And while the Eagles might need to work on keeping the shot totals in front of Demko down, Saturday night was an encouraging one for a team looking to reclaim its place in the ranks of college hockey.
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Staff