“You don’t have to win every game, but you certainly have to win the right games.”
WORCESTER, Mass. — Teddy Doherty and Thatcher Demko stood in agony, waiting for the referees to emerge from the replay booth in the box.
The zebras were checking a multitude of things. How much time should be left on the clock? What should they do when they’re done taking a look? And, most importantly, did the puck really stay out of the net?
When you see the replays now, it may seem obvious. But Jerry York’s two chief leaders didn’t want anyone in the press room getting the wrong idea. Boston College men’s hockey was centimeters from an all-time breakdown.
“It’s way closer than people thought it was,” Doherty said. “It was right there.”
Three agonizing minutes passed. But soon, the referees emerged. There would be no goal. There would be no more time.
Instantly, pandemonium ensued.
Pack your bags, but don’t forget the sunscreen. BC is heading back to Tampa.
With a 3-2 win over the University of Minnesota Duluth, the Eagles advance to the 25th Frozen Four in program history, passing Michigan for the most of any team in college hockey. BC (28-7-5) will take on the winner of Sunday’s matchup between UMass Lowell and Quinnipiac in the national semifinal on Thursday, April 7. The win also improves BC’s record to 14-1 all-time in Worcester’s DCU Center.
“We’d like to keep on coming back here,” York said.
Throughout the year, Duluth—a team much better than its 19-16-5 record suggests—dominated by using its bruising defensemen, such as Andy Welinski and Carson Soucy, to keep foes out of its own zone. If the Bulldogs can do that, they can keep the pressure on opposing defensemen by pounding the goaltender with a barrage of shots.
Early in the first, the Bulldogs had the Eagles right where they wanted them.
Through the first 10 minutes, BC managed just three shots while fighting off rockets from Duluth’s Adam Johnson and Tony Cameranesi. When defensemen Ian McCoshen and Casey Fitzgerald weren’t locking down the Bulldogs’ top forwards, Thatcher Demko was doing his best to sprawl out from side-to-side to block any attempts by the Bulldogs.
But with five minutes to go in the first, the Captain reminded everyone who’s in charge.
Adam Gilmour split a couple of defenders with some strong work along the boards, before dishing it back to Teddy Doherty at the far circle. The senior blasted the puck at Kasimir Kaskisuo. For a brief moment, Kaskisuo appeared to handle it, but it trickled off his glove and into the net to give BC a 1-0 lead.
Helped by a Travis Jeke penalty, Duluth came out firing to open the second period. A couple of turnovers by BC nearly helped the Bulldogs knot the game up.
It’s a good thing the Eagles have Chris Calnan back in the lineup.
The junior and alternate captain was slowed for several weeks with an ankle injury. Often, he was on the bench, but even when he was back in action, he lacked the bursts of energy that convinced the Chicago Blackhawks to draft him three years ago. Yet one play by him changed the whole game.
Calnan dashed down the ice to beat an icing call, fighting the puck off the boards from a Duluth defenseman. With his back to the zone, Calnan dished it to Zach Sanford. The big man fired on Kaskisuo, who pushed it off his pads. But the rebound was juicy enough for Doherty to reel it in for his second goal of the game and a 2-0 lead for BC.
“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t the last game for us.”
Then that BC defense came back from the grave yet again.
Demko stymied the Duluth attack at every turn, standing on his head while Scott Savage, Steve Santini, and Casey Fitzgerald blocked everything that dared to threaten their goaltender. On one shot by Austin Farley, Demko stuck his right pad in the air to push the puck away.
Thanks to some chippiness by the Bulldogs, BC had the opportunity to control the puck for much of the second. Though the Eagles couldn’t convert on either of their power plays in the middle frame, they consistently maintained possession to just kill off the clock.
By the third, their power-play drought was over.
With a perfect chance to seal his 100th career point and time expiring on a Colton Soucy hold, Ryan Fitzgerald fired a shot from the point up high past Kaskisuo to give BC a 3-0 lead with 13 minutes left.
It’s a good thing he did, too. The Eagles needed every bit of that extra cushion.
Throughout the remainder of the game, Duluth went into overdrive. Head coach Scott Sandelin emptied everything he had. The Bulldogs continually ran their top liners in a desperate attempt to break through the brick wall that was Demko on the goal line.
For a brief moment, it looked like Duluth had. Instead of an easy ending for BC—when has BC ever made anything easy, anyway?—York’s crew made everyone sweat.
Shortly after Tuch was sent to the box for a high stick, UMD’s Austin Farley went top shelf on Demko. Karson Kuhlman joined him in the scoring column by beating the stout BC goaltender low on the pads. Suddenly, a commanding Eagles lead turned into a shootout with four minutes to go. Sandelin praised his team’s ability to fight back so well late on the game, something the Bulldogs have had a knack for throughout March.
“How many of you thought we’d be in this game in entering the third period?” Sandelin asked the media.
Yet, once again, the Eagles are thankful they have their secret weapon.
Wood sat in the box while Kaskisuo went to the bench with one minute left. Now on a 6-on-4 advantage, the Bulldogs bombarded Demko. As the puck crossed in front of Demko, the goaltender quickly swiveled his head to the left. It slowly bounced toward the net as Farley was, again, bearing in on the goal line.
Farley swung and missed. Demko lunged out with his glove and dove for it.
Neither would be the hero. That distinction goes to Austin Cangelosi.
With cat-like reflexes, the junior swooped in with his stick and pushed the puck out of danger. It immediately shuffled over to McCoshen, who sent it flying down the other side of the ice. For the second night in a row, a big defensive play by a forward saved the game for the Eagles.
“That’s how you win games,” York said. “You’ve got to play in crunch time.”
Demko and Doherty’s worries were for naught. In an instant, their minds switched to dancing on.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor