Throughout the 2014-15 regular season, No. 9 Boston College (21-11-3) head coach Jerry York preached BC’s small margin for error and propensity for 3-2 or 2-1 games. If his team is going to win anything significant in the postseason, that has to change. But on Friday night, he got a glimpse of what his team is capable of offensively. Two of his highly skilled freshmen, Noah Hanifin and Zach Sanford, rearranged BC’s winning formula with three dazzling goals in a 4-2 win over the No. 17 Vermont Catamounts (20-14-4) in Game One of the Hockey East Quarterfinals.
Halfway into the first period, the wunderkind defenseman Hanifin broke into the offensive zone and eluded UVM defenseman Alex Priviter’s hipcheck at the right half wall, then walked down the end line, and popped goalie Mike Santaguida’s water bottle from the short side. The goal was as important as it was impressive. Entering Friday, the Eagles were 15-2-2 when potting the game’s first tally.
“When I got by [Privitier], I kind of saw a little bit of a space,” Hanifin said. “It was a two on one, and the defenseman definitely took the other guy and gave me a lane to the net, and the goalie dropped right away. I saw an opening up top and just went for it.”
The Eagles are now 1-0 in this postseason series because their talented underclassmen kept making highlight reel plays. A little more than a minute into the second frame, Sanford won a faceoff at the left dot in the offensive zone and beat Santaguida from in close before the Vermont defense noticed what was going on to make it 2-0 BC.
On the next shift, Hanifin set Sanford up with a chance for what turned out to be the game winning goal. Hanifin denied a Catamount entry into BC’s zone, then circled back through the neutral zone with the puck before leading Sanford behind the Vermont defense with a pinpoint pass. Again, with Sanford racing down the ice and only Santaguida to beat, the freshman forward went backhand-forward-backhand, leaving just his off hand on his stick and sliding the puck behind a helpless Santaguida. The pass and the finish were two big time plays from two players with the kind of skill to make things happen that most Division-I players wouldn’t attempt.
“I had some moves in my head that I always wanted to try,” Sanford said of his second goal. “I thought of that one and it worked, which was nice.”
BC’s fourth goal, and third and three minutes, came when sophomore Ryan Fitzgerald waltzed in from the half wall on a power play and beat Santaguida in the five-hole—given this goal came right in front of the sophomore goalie, its one he probably should have been expected to stop it. But the Eagles bounced Santaguida, who had a .927 save percentage entering Friday, for the second time this season, this time before the game’s halfway mark.
“Really the story of the game was our inability to stop the bleeding for that three and a half minute period” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “It’s hard to chase anybody when you’re down four.”
The Catamounts chased and cut the lead in half, but the initial deficit was too much to overcome with BC’s strengths on defense and in net. The Eagles created and converted enough offensive opportunities early in the game that any Vermont response would never be enough.
If replicable, what the Eagles did early on Friday night could mean a lot more than a 1-0 series lead in the conference quarterfinals for the 2014-15 Eagles.
“Playoff hockey is significantly different than the regular season,” York said.
For his team’s sake, it will be, and Friday was a harbinger of more goals—and potentially, trophies—than the regular season bore.
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor