Three minutes. This game was three minutes from being the semi-official onset of panic in Eagle nation.
Lots to talk about in this one. Let's start at the beginning.
The "Gold Out" BC attempted tonight was a mess. Maybe 1/8 of the crowd outside of the student sections wore yellow. I don't know how they expected so many casual fans to just turn up with a Superfan shirt, but usually the school will provide free shirts (or at least towels) for something like this. On the plus side, if BC doesn't sell those alternate jerseys in the bookstore, it will be an absolute shame. Those jerseys are absolutely gorgeous.
Okay, to the game. BC started this one off about as well as they could have, scoring just 35 seconds into the game. Kevin Hayes took a rebound to DeSmith's right and threw it in off the goalie's skate for the early lead. While the goal was a bit of a fluke, the pressure BC was able to sustain early suggested that BC really deserved it. After BC's quick rush, play settled down a bit and was a little more even. BC kept the lead into the locker room.
UNH decided to show up in the 2nd period, scoring two quick goals to take a 2-1 lead, and from there things seemed to drag on a bit. Finally, Chris Kreider put the team on his back and, with a brilliant individual effort, turned on the afterburners and raced around a UNH defender to tie the game on a shorthanded goal. That's where we stood going into the 3rd period.
Unfortunately for BC, this game looked all too familiar -- a tight game where we couldn't quite generate enough real chances to pull away. Then, as if on cue, late in the third period, UNH scored the goal that should have put us away. Late goals have been killing us, and this game suggested that nothing was different from what we'd been seeing. More than a little concerning, to say the least.
Then, well... everything was different. BC got a power play and scored (WAT I DON'T EVEN... as Conrad would say) to tie the game late. Suddenly, the optimism was back. Then, with under a minute left, BC scored the game winning goal on a beautiful rush on transition -- typically a BC hockey staple but one thing that BC has desperately, desperately missed during our recent slump.
All of a sudden, Conte was rocking. We had 'em all the way!
Well, the truth is, we really didn't. While somehow the game never really felt lost until UNH's late goal, this game was a carbon copy of the rest of our games lately. Average play, staying close, giving up a late killer goal, nothing on the power play.
I really hate to point out negatives for individuals, but Milner did not look good. You can chalk it up to being rusty if you want, as he hasn't seen game time in weeks, but playing like he did in tonight's game just won't cut it going forward. His rebounds were just awful, and on UNH's first and third goals, he was very badly out of position. Milner gave up two goals on five shots in the 2nd period and one goal on three shots in the third period. For those of you scoring at home, that's a .375 scoring percentage in the final two periods -- good enough for UNH to win both the American League and National League batting titles, handily. I'm not Jerry York, and In York We Trust, but Billett really needs to be our goalie from here on.
The power play looked okay, once we could get the puck into the zone and set up. The problem, which honestly hasn't been limited to just the power play, is that we've been struggling to actually do that. Even strength BC did look improved with getting the puck into the offensive zone, but it wasn't happening on the power play. More than once, it took us a minute just to gain possession and set up the power play.
However the late turnaround in this game could very well be the start of something bigger. It was three minutes, but after 57 minutes of watching the Maine games all over again, it was a complete turnaround. Forgive the cliches, but they dug deep and showed a great deal of heart to pull this one out. It is far too early to tell, but that could be the three minutes that turn the season around.
A win Saturday against UNH to sweep the weekend is absolutely necessary for that to be the case, however. Weekend splits aren't going to make anyone feel better. As I keep pointing out, we haven't had a two game weekend sweep since the Texas Rangers still had a chance to win the World Series. Win on Saturday and we could be looking at the start of something big going into trophy season. Lose and we extend months of unacceptable results.
Sound like hyperbole? Think again.
BC takes on UNH in Durham, NH Saturday night at 7pm.