Top Story, Men's Hockey

Gaudreau Caps Off Wild Third With Game-Winning Goal

BOSTON—It looked to be the beginning of a bad weekend.

After tying last-place Northeastern University on Saturday evening, Boston College men’s hockey found itself down 3-1 entering the third period. The Eagles looked lost offensively, incapable of generating any strong offensive chances despite outshooting the Huskies through the first two periods. That allowed Northeastern to control the puck, continually battering BC goaltender Thatcher Demko and taking advantage of the Eagles’ thin defensive unit that often played on the penalty kill.

But this BC team is not last year’s team. Not even close.

And just as soon as the Dog Pound—NU’s famously rowdy student section—started shouting, ready to knock off the No. 2 team in the nation, it sat back down, waiting for the clock to run out so it could go watch the Patriots game. Jerry York’s squad came alive in filthy fashion, with three goals in a six-minute span to clinch a 4-3 win for the Eagles (13-1-1, 6-0-1 Hockey East) over the Huskies (2-12-3, 0-8-3).

Before looking at how the Eagles won, it’s important to know that they almost lost.

At 6:35 in the first, Northeastern defenseman Eric Williams launched a shot from the blue line. He aimed for a deflection, but the NU forwards in front screened Demko just enough to allow the puck to skirt by him. After a “too many men on the ice” penalty by the Eagles, Williams struck again, this time from the top of the left circle. BC didn’t hide its exhaustion, either. The Eagles, one of the country’s fastest teams, worked hard that period to chase pucks out of their defensive zone. When they finally got a break in the action, they went to the bench panting and looking for water.

The first intermission didn’t help the Eagles’ play in the second. Demko was forced to make several key saves in the second frame’s first few minutes, including one where he pushed the puck away with his arm while his belly was on the ground. At one point, Demko caught a puck right in his stomach on a save. He threw the puck back at the referee, disgusted at how hard he had to work throughout this game.

Unlike the first period, when BC’s forwards struggled to get any chances, they simply didn’t make good on any of their opportunities. Miles Wood, back in action after receiving a game misconduct Saturday, whiffed on his first look at a wide-open net before getting stuffed by Northeastern’s freshman goalie Ryan Ruck on a second.

The Eagles’ deficit looked ready to grow worse after a cross-checking call sent a livid Steve Santini to the box. Yet Ryan Fitzgerald stole the puck away from NU’s defense, dashing down the ice to slot it past Ruck’s glove side, giving BC a shorthanded goal and, seemingly, the momentum.

Or so it appeared.

Almost immediately after, the Huskies’ Zach Aston-Reese responded, taking advantage of the power play with a goal on a rebound off Demko’s pads, putting Northeastern up 3-1. And as the Eagles headed to the locker room searching for answers, they yelled at themselves and the referees in frustration.

Whatever was said in the depths of the historic Matthews Arena must have worked.

As he skated away on the ice, Josh Couturier yelled a couple words unsuitable for print, furious about going to the box on a borderline hard hit and the PA announcer’s inability to pronounce his name—it’s Cah-terr-ee-ay, not Coo-tree-yay. Instead of taking his anger out with a hit, he did it on the puck. Couturier rocketed a shot from the blue line, passing by Ruck to cut the Huskies’ lead to 3-2.

Under a minute later, Tuch showed another glimpse of the potential the Minnesota Wild saw when they drafted him in the first round last year. The sophomore drew Ruck out to the left side of the crease, speeding around the back of the net to wrap it in on the right to tie the game.

But no one came in clutch quite like Matthew Gaudreau. Last season, Gaudreau, the kid brother of BC’s 2014 Hobey Baker winner, Johnny, notched a mere six points—three goals, three assists—while mired on the third and fourth line. Entering the game, Gaudreau doubled his scoring output with four goals and eight assists.

He’d get lucky No. 13 on this day.

Gaudreau took a bullet from Scott Savage, tipping it in perfectly to put BC up for good.

York has touted Gaudreau’s ability to get stronger over the summer, making plays with the puck in a way he hadn’t in the past.

“He’s really surprised all of us,” York said.

Fitzgerald lauded his teammates following the game for their ability to score late and in bunches. BC has outscored its opponents 27-11 thus far in the third period, making no team fully safe.

“I’ve been on teams where, you’re down 3-1, you start making excuses, you start gripping the stick a little tighter,” he said. “But at the start of the third period, there was no panic.”

Yet York gave a big hand to Fitzgerald himself, whose goal was a team-leading 11th of the season.

“[Fitzgerald] was a force in the game and that’s why he’s got a chance to talk to the media today,” York said.

Featured Image by Alec Greaney / Heights Editor

December 6, 2015