Top Story, Men's Hockey

Eagles Clinch No. 1 Seed, Share of Regular Season Title With Win Over UMass Lowell

All season, Jerry York has been unenthused with the many wins of Boston College men’s hockey. He doesn’t care that the Eagles ran through their biggest rivals—Boston University and Providence—unblemished, or the two unbeaten streaks that have reached double digits. All he cares about is coming out on top when his favorite time of year rolls around: trophy season.

Well, coach: two down, two to go.

By beating No. 11 UMass Lowell, the Eagles will proudly bring the Bertagna Cup back to Chestnut Hill after a one-year hiatus. Regardless of what happens tomorrow at the Tsongas Center against the River Hawks, No. 2 BC (24-4-5, 15-1-5 Hockey East) will be the top overall seed in the Hockey East Tournament. The 3-1 victory, BC’s 15th-straight game without a loss, also clinches at least a share of the Hockey East regular-season title.

The Eagles got off to a hot start on senior night at Kelley Rink. A mere four minutes into the game, Matthew Gaudreau skated down toward River Hawks goaltender Kevin Boyle. His shot deflected high off the goaltender’s pads, perfectly for Ryan Fitzgerald to take a baseball-esque swing at it into the net.

Six minutes later, the hole for UMass Lowell (20-8-5, 11-6-4) only deepened.

Alex Tuch gave a juicy rebound up for senior captain Teddy Doherty, who slammed it home to put BC up 2-0. After the goal, Doherty raised his arms and leg, mimicking the typical celebration of his linemates, Tuch and Zach Sanford, before welcoming a mob around him in front of a screaming student section. Many SuperFans behind the UML goal held signs honoring the teams’ four seniors—Doherty, Travis Jeke, Brendan Silk, and Peter McMullen—and following the game, York commented on how much Doherty’s goal meant for the Class of 2016.

“It’s a small senior class, and they haven’t played a heckuva lot through their four years, except for Teddy,” York said, “but they’ve contributed in a lot of different ways, so I feel really good about it.”

The River Hawks swung the momentum back their way to close the first period. Austin Cangelosi committed a poor turnover deep in BC’s zone, allowing the puck to find its way right to Lowell right winger Adam Chapie. The senior wristed it past Thatcher Demko to cut BC’s lead in half.

But that would be the last time Demko allowed himself to get beaten. The Eagles struggled to stay out of the penalty box for much of the second and third periods, yet each time, Demko stood on his head. The Vancouver Canucks prospect made save after save, often when forced out of position by Lowell forwards drawing him to a particular side. On one of the more impressive sequences, Demko went into a full split on what was essentially a four-minute power play—Sanford and Casey Fitzgerald earned minors one after the other—stuffing a UML player’s shot.

“Our goaltender, Thatcher, was very instrumental in the win,” York said. “We got some great saves by [him].”

He did it all without receiving any help. The Eagles struggled against Norm Bazin’s notoriously tough defensive system. Their best chance was during a 5-on-3 late for 1:15 late in the second period. But River Hawks defenseman Tyler Mueller stuffed Adam Gilmour on the best look of the night, spreading out with his stick while Boyle sold out too far to the left to keep it a one-goal game.

Through much of the third, the Eagles played back, trying to clinch the game without selling out too much offensively. But as it turned out, Lowell would simply hand it to them in the third period.

With a little over three minutes remaining, Cangelosi went to the box for a face mask, giving Lowell a prime opportunity to tie the game. But Bazin, frustrated with what he saw from his team against BC’s stifling power play, rolled the dice and pulled Boyle to give the River Hawks a 6-on-4.

His gamble failed.

A mere 20 seconds after the power play began, Demko fed the puck quickly to Ian McCoshen. The defenseman got it over to Ryan Fitzgerald, who notched the dagger—a shorthanded empty-netter for his 20th goal of the season. Following the game, Bazin was ready for a question he knew he was bound to face, reacting to the fact that his team was not only 0-for-7 on the power play tonight, but 4-for-40 since the beginning of 2016.

“You gotta go with your gut sometimes,” Bazin said. “You got to try something, because to wait with one minute left, you might not get a power play. […] I was hoping we could generate more with a two-man advantage.”

With a victory and another trophy, you might expect York to be in full celebration mode. But the head coach takes no comfort from his team’s accomplishment, at least not yet. After all, the Eagles only have a share of the title. They control their own destiny to win it outright, with a tie or win against Lowell on Saturday, or a tie or loss by Providence against UMass. And York, a notorious competitor, does not like to share.

“That’s our task tomorrow night,” York said. “It’s not to celebrate that we’re going to possibly share a title. We want to win it.”

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

February 26, 2016

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