After two straight disastrous games, including one of the worst losses in program history, Boston College needed a bounce-back effort against #18 UNH.
It wasn't the prettiest of weekends. BC was outshot, outchanced, and often outplayed in both games. But like Brian Billett on Friday night, freshman Thatcher Demko rung in his eighteenth birthday with an outstanding performance between the pipes to backstop the Eagles to a 2-1 win last night at the Whittemore Center. The victory propels BC into a tie with Providence for first place in the Hockey East standings going into the lengthy holiday break.
Unlike Friday night, in which UNH barraged BC's next, the Eagles kept things a little more under control, with the final shot margin being 29-19 in favor of the Wildcats. But like Friday night, BC made their opportunities count, punishing the Wildcats with great transition play and lethal finishing.
Bill Arnold got the goal scoring started late in the first period with his fourth goal of the season, assisted by Kevin Hayes and Johnny Gaudreau. Matt Willows evened it up for UNH at 7:11 of the second period, in the midst of a barrage on Demko in which he kept the Eagles from falling behind.
After surviving that UNH wave, the Eagles demonstrated their ability to strike quickly (and painfully), with Kevin Hayes uncorking his second laser beam goal in as many nights, ripping a snipe past Casey DeSmith to put BC back on top with just over two minutes remaining in the second period. Patrick Brown got the assist in the midst of a line change, gathering a bouncing puck in the neutral zone and feeding Hayes, who had just charged off the bench,.
The third period saw BC be pretty successful at choking the life out of the game. They were outshot 7-3 on the period and didn't allow very many grade A opportunities.
UNH got their fourth power play on the night (to BC's zero, much like Friday night) halfway through the third on a holding penalty against Teddy Doherty, but the Eagles killed it off. They also survived UNH pulling the goalie for an extra attacker, with Bill Arnold killing a good thirty seconds of the final minute with the puck pinned in the corner behind UNH's net with four Wildcats trying to get him off the puck.
It was a pretty solid defensive performance all around for BC - not brilliant, but devoid of some of the breakdowns that made the Maine and Holy Cross games so ugly. Danny Linell and Isaac MacLeod, who have faced their share of criticism here and elsewhere, both finished as plus players on the night (+2), leading all BC defensemen.
As BCJacket5 predicted in the "final thoughts" thread, UNH did a great job of playing disciplined and avoiding penalties, not giving BC's power play a chance to impact the series. And as much as we love to gripe at Hockey East officials it's hard to argue; there weren't very many questionable non-calls against UNH.
But it didn't matter. A combination of great goaltending and opportune offense spurred BC to one of their biggest weekends of the season. Now they sit in a pretty good spot going into the break.