NEW YORK — With Boston College men’s hockey trailing after two periods, Jerry York didn’t need to give any speeches in the locker room. A 2-0 deficit to the defending national champions might cause many coaches to put on their best Herb Brooks impressions. But, despite the deficit, York saw no need. His team got all the motivation it needed from North Dakota’s Rhett Gardner.
The sophomore center from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan gave that to the Eagles by ripping off the helmet of Scott Savage. That penalty gave the Eagles new life: a five-minute major, plus a game misconduct, coupled with 1:30 of 5-on-3 play to enter the third period.
Capitalizing on the power play is a situation BC has struggled with for much of the season. But with goals from Colin White and Christopher Brown, the Eagles re-electrified their half of the crowd at the World’s Most Famous Arena, and silenced the screams of “SIOUX FOR-EVER” from the green and white invaders from the Midwest.
But as soon as the man advantages ended, the Fighting Hawks returned. And the large contingent from Grand Forks, N.D. screamed louder than hustle and bustle of even New York City.
Though they came through on their crucial power play chances, the Eagles struggled to finish in 5-on-5 play. Despite missing star forward Brock Boeser, No. 9 North Dakota used a second wave of momentum in the third period to power past No. 3 BC, 4-3, in the College Hockey Showdown at Madison Square Garden. Between the bright lights of New York and the high-level of play, York believes Saturday night was a precursor.
“Everything about tonight was Frozen Four-ish to us,” York said.
A back-and-forth first period saw the Eagles spend much of their time in the Fighting Hawks’ zone. BC (12-5-1, 7-0-1 Hockey East) bombarded North Dakota (8-5-3, 2-3-1 National Collegiate Hockey) goaltender Cam Johnson with a plethora of high-quality chances. Johnson handily deflected each away nonetheless, even when forced out of the crease. On the defensive end, the Eagles protected Joe Woll with strong play on two penalty kills. Michael Kim continued his recent hot streak with a couple of strong pass breakups and easy clears.
Midway through the period, the Fighting Hawks struck first. Tyson Jost, the hotshot freshman, took in a feed from Austin Pognaski, who carefully avoided a diving Connor Moore. Woll sold out too far to Jost’s right, allowing the Colorado Avalanche prospect to deke to Woll’s left and score.
Five minutes later, Jost struck again, this time on the power play. After Austin Cangelosi whiffed on a soft tip over Johnson—a perfect shorthanded attempt—Jost got another great pass, this time from Shane Gersich. This time, he beat Woll stick side to give the Fighting Hawks a 2-0 lead.
Then came the brawl that, as head coach Jerry York said after the game, gave the Eagles another chance.
Not long after Luke McInnis got slashed, setting up North Dakota’s fifth power play of the game, the Eagles grew frustrated with a lack of luck in drawing penalties. Some extracurricular activity led to a Chris Wilkie slash, before the aforementioned game misconduct. York made sure his guys knew what he expected.
“It gave us a chance to get back in the game, and we took advantage of it,” York said.
The Eagles came out firing at Johnson. Under a minute through the third period, Savage sent a perfect pass from the top of the circles to White. The team’s leading goal-scorer slotted it just past Johnson’s outstretched left skate to cut North Dakota’s lead to 2-1.
With seconds expiring on the regular power play, Brown knotted the equalizer. He took advantage of a Savage blast that was aided by a deflection by David Cotton. North Dakota’s Johnny Simonson was so focused on trying to push away Cangelosi from in front of the net that he abandoned Brown. The sophomore flew in to push it past wide-open space on Johnson’s right.
Yet the Fighting Hawks wouldn’t be denied. Simonsen assaulted Woll with a couple of initial shots. On his second, he pushed it back out to Joel Janatuinen. With Woll screened on the right, Janatuinen gave North Dakota a 3-2 lead.
Without a man advantage, the Eagles couldn’t gain the momentum back. It’s something captain Chris Calnan recognized as he reflected on the game afterward, and expressed an urgency to get that changed before BC’s game against Northeastern this Tuesday.
“I think we could’ve had a little more sustained pressure in their zone,” Calnan said. “Getting more shots to the net, getting guys to the net. We’ll fix that to be ready for Tuesday night.”
Trevor Olson iced the game with two minutes to go, easily shifting around Savage to go low on Woll’s glove side. A pity, because it made a Matthew Gaudreau tip-in with 8.7 seconds to go for naught.
Despite the loss, York takes away one key benefit: practice for the NCAA Tournament. York was thrilled when NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton approached BC about the prospects of playing this game three years ago. For two programs who have been in many big games over the last 20 years, the chance to get some practice in was huge for York’s group of young guys.
“It’s hard to manufacture Frozen Fours or Regional Finals—you’ve got to experience it—but the big stage, bright lights, it’s good for both clubs,” York said.
Featured Image by Tom DeVoto / Heights Editor