After a rocky first period that saw the visitors from St. Francis Xavier jump out to a 2-0 lead, the Boston College men's hockey team responded with 40 minutes of dominating hockey en route to an 8-2 win on Sunday afternoon.
While lopsided wins over Canadian foes have been commonplace for BC in exhibition play, St. Francis have been no slouches in their most recent games against NCAA opponents, including fighting to a close 2-1 loss at BU last night.
Destry Straight and Michael Sit were held out of today's game with injuries, but we got a good look at the rest of BC's weapons, with 14 forwards, 9 defensemen, and 3 goaltenders all seeing playing time for the Eagles.
One evident difference right off the bat was that BC really does have weapons all over the lineup. While last year, BC seemed to spend a lot of the game grinding away and waiting for a moment of brilliance by Johnny Gaudreau or Steve Whitney, BC attacked in waves this afternoon, with every line buzzing the St. Francis net at some point during the game.
The Eagles' first line of Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes, and freshman Austin Cangelosi, looks likely to stay put as the top line on Thursday night when the season opens for real in Michigan. They connected right away, with each of them scoring a goal on the day.
The second line started out with Billy Arnold centering a pair of freshmen, Ryan Fitzgerald and Evan Richardson. Both freshmen looked confident moving the puck and seemed to have good speed as well. Arnold lit the lamp with the game winning goal in the second period to make it 3-2.
The surprise of the day, to me, was the strong play of what was listed on the depth chart as the fourth line: freshman Adam Gilmour centering Cam Spiro and Brendan Silk. Gilmour was impressive and poised throughout the game, but it was Silk and Spiro who combined to provide the highlight of the game, with Silk slipping a gorgeous pass behind the St. Francis defense to a streaking Spiro, who was hooked from behind. Spiro was awarded a penalty shot, which he converted with a sleek move to open up the pads of Morgan Clark and stuff home a five-hole goal, elating the Spiro fanatics of Section OO.
The third line was also stout, featuring captain Pat Brown between freshman Chris Calnan and last year's breakout player, Quinn Smith. Calnan scored a game-tying goal at 5:31 in the second period, redirecting a nice centering feed by Brown. Brown also provided another highlight late in the game, scoring the 6th BC goal from behind the net, banking his shot off a St. Francis player.
The "fifth liners" - Matt Gaudreau and Peter McMullen - got in on the action in the third period, combining for a goal to make it 7-2.
The defensive pairs: Isaac MacLeod and Danny Linell started the game as a pairing. MacLeod was ejected from the game in garbage time after a 5-minute major for kneeing, which I thought was a bit of a harsh call - but the referees were looking to prevent garbage time shenanigans, which is understandable.
Ted Doherty started the game paired with Steve Santini; Scott Savage skated with Travis Jeke, and Ian McCoshen was paired with Mike Matheson (this is going to be a VERY good combination). Colin Sullivan was the ninth defenseman. Matheson picked up where he left off with some good offensive rushes and strong puck movement on the power play. McCoshen also got a lot of time on the power play and looked confident as well.
Santini and Savage look ready to embrace a physical role on the team, with Savage laying out a St. Francis player in the first period with a good, clean body check, and Steve Santini getting into a jousting match in garbage time as the game wound down.
Each BC goalie - Brian Billett, Thatcher Demko, and Brad Barone - got a period in net. Billett stopped 3 of 5 shots faced, and Barone turned away all 6 he saw. The most exciting moment for BC fans, of course, was the first appearance of Demko in the second period. He wasn't tested with too many good opportunities, but he did look stout and confident between the pipes, saving all 7 shots he faced.
Johnny Gaudreau punctuated the game with a trademark Gaudreau goal. Kevin Hayes led him with a long, lofted pass, sending Gaudreau streaking around the St. Francis defense. Gaudreau picked up loose puck, made a move across the front of the net, and tucked a backhand shot past Clark for the final BC goal to make it 8-2.
Ultimately, there's still a lot of questions about who will be in the lineup on Thursday night and the play of the lower lines did not make the coaching staff's decisions any easier - especially when you consider the fact that Straight and Silk will be in contention for playing time, too, if they're healthy. One thing's for certain: BC has a lot more weapons at their disposal this year than last, and that's very encouraging.
I wonder if Brian Billett getting the nod in the first period means he's currently the starter. I figured he would be given an opportunity, but I also think everyone is hoping Demko seizes the job right away, the way John Muse did in his freshman year.
Keep an eye on The Boston College Hockey Blog for updates from practice this week. It should be very interesting to see who skates on a line with whom as the season draws near.
The day of hockey continues at BC tonight when the women's team takes to the ice at 5 PM for their season opener against Maine. The men have Thursday night's game at Michigan before returning home a week from today for their home opener against RPI.
From Hockey East Online, the scoring summary:
|#||Prd||Time||Team||Score||Type||Scored By||Assists||Offense On Ice||Defense On Ice|
|1||1st||13:31||SFX||1-0||EV||Michael Kirkpatrick||Rob Slaney
|2||1st||17:30||SFX||2-0||PP||Michael Kirkpatrick||Jason Bast
|3||2nd||4:46||BC||1-2||EV||Kevin Hayes||Danny Linell
|4||2nd||5:31||BC||2-2||EV||Chris Calnan||Patrick Brown
|5||2nd||7:24||BC||3-2||EV||Bill Arnold||Ryan Fitzgerald||24,19,6,4,22||18,25,44,4,10|
|7||2nd||18:46||BC||5-2||EV||Austin Cangelosi||Johnny Gaudreau
|8||3rd||2:51||BC||6-2||EV||Patrick Brown||Steve Santini
|9||3rd||3:17||BC||7-2||EV||Peter McMullen||Matthew Gaudreau
|10||3rd||16:13||BC||8-2||EV||Johnny Gaudreau||Kevin Hayes