Will Boston College come out flat from the long layoff?
Will the top line start clicking again?
Will the young Thatcher Demko regain his top-goaltender form?
These were the questions on everyone's mind in the two long, long weeks between Boston College hockey games. In the end, the Eagles came out flying and delivered its first truly dominating effort in nearly two months, dropping the Denver Pioneers by a score of 6-2 and advancing to the Northeast Regional final.
After being held off the scoresheet in his last game for the first time since October, Johnny Gaudreau played a part in all 6 of Boston College's goals. It started before ESPNU could even pick up coverage of the game.
Goal #1 -- 0:25 of the 1st period: John Gaudreau (Kevin Hayes, Scott Savage)
BC 1, DU 0
It took just 25 seconds for Johnny Gaudreau to start a new point streak. Hayes (who had an impressive game of his own) makes a ridiculous no-look backhand pass to Gaudreau who is all alone in front of Denver goaltender Sam Brittain. Gaudreau somehow pops it over Brittain's shoulder for the tally from point blank to get BC going.
Poor Brittain would have himself a rough night.
Goal #2 -- 5:30 of the 1st period: Kevin Hayes (Bill Arnold, Johnny Gaudreau)
BC 2, DU 0
This was one of Kevin Hayes' most impressive goals of the year. After floating up the boards, he bulldozes his way to the net through three Pioneers before embarrassing Brittain with quite a little finesse move to put BC up 2-0.
BC's attack was relentless in the first period, and perhaps its most impressive gameplay came each time it took a penalty. After holding down the fort during a Denver power play, the Eagles would gain possession almost immediately every time and mount an impressive counterattack.
Goal #3 (GWG) -- 9:34 of the 1st period: Johnny Gaudreau (Michael Matheson)
BC 3, DU 0
For goal #3, that came less than two minutes after a BC penalty kill; a two minutes where BC barely left the Denver zone.
Unfortunately for the Pios, that one time BC left the zone, Johnny Gaudreau led the rush back in and scored a beauty of a wraparound goal. The poor Denver defenseman had no chance.
What an opening salvo from BC -- at this point in the game, 10 minutes into the game, Denver hadn't even put a shot on the board (despite having a power play to work with) and BC already had 10, with three finding the back of the net. That would be all of the scoring for the first period, but by the time all was said and done, BC had attacked to the tune of a 16-3 shot advantage.
The second period was more of the same, particularly with strong play after a penalty kill. A bench minor for Too Many Men (oops) put the Eagles down a man, but it only took 12 seconds after the kill for BC to deliver a gut punch of a goal.
Goal #4 -- 5:29 of the 2nd period: Kevin Hayes (Bill Arnold, Johnny Gaudreau)
BC 4, DU 0
If Denver was entertaining any thoughts of a comeback in the last 40 minutes, they were dashed pretty quickly with this fourth goal. It set the tone for the second period in which BC refused to lift the skate from their throats.
This one was a case of Hayes being in the right place at the right time to cash in -- no coincidence for a player with the hockey IQ of Kevin Hayes. He comes driving into the slot and the puck lands on his stick mid-shot as though it were planned that way all along. Gaudreau made a nice feed and it seemed like it was supposed to get backhanded in by Arnold, but it trickled by right to Hayes.
Goal #5 (Hat Trick Goal) -- 8:13 of the 2nd period: Johnny Gaudreau (Michael Matheson, Thatcher Demko)
BC 5, DU 0
Johnny Gaudreau, somehow, has never scored a hat trick in his college career, as I've pointed out on Twitter during his many, many, many, many two goal games. Less than three minutes after BC's 4th goal, he scores on a bank shot off Brittain to finally get the elusive third goal.
Twitter's @cjzero GIF'd the overhead shot showing how Johnny scored this one -- I'm sure it didn't make Brittain feel any better about his evening.
Alright, almost there. Let's wrap it up.
Goal #6 -- 15:35 of the 2nd period: Bill Arnold (Kevin Hayes, Johnny Gaudreau)
BC 6, DU 0
No cheapie, here. A trademark Boston College transition goal, engineered by Hayes which gets Arnold into the act, and he has an absolutely gaping net at which to shoot the Hayes feed. Brittain completely and utterly sells out on a Kevin Hayes shot (maybe because he was a goal shy of the hat trick? I don't know) but once Hayes passes over to Arnold he isn't even balanced on his skates enough to move over and attempt to block the shot.
Good God, I could watch this over and over. That was played so badly by Brittain. And perhaps that was why, after not 1, not 2, but 6 goals, Denver coach Jim Montgomery pulled his star senior goaltender.
There were some fantastic tweets about this.
Johnny going straight up 1776 on Brittain right now
— Adam M (@adamar108) March 29, 2014
Omg alol RT @smaby_next_year: Brittain has never performed well in Massachusetts, historically speaking
— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) March 29, 2014
Denver scored one at the end of the second on a bizarre sequence in which Ty Loney and Ian McCoshen scuffled right in Demko's crease and eventually got sent off for roughing. Demko essentially stopped playing and watched the two tumbling around and Denver's Trevor Moore scored while no one was looking. The goal would stand, and the Pios would get one more late in garbage time in the third (although, really, garbage time started about 25 minutes into the game) to make it 6-2, which would be your final.
A couple observations:
--Thatcher Demko didn't really have to do all that much in this game, though it probably really helped that he only had to face three shots in the first period. As an 18 year old freshman, he was the one that you might have really worried might have some rust after the layoff, but he got eased in and played quite well for the few chances Denver had. The first goal was a fluke in which he stopped playing (not a good thing, but still) and the second goal was a deflection in front of the crease. Nothing he could have done.
--All this time off is, I think, going to really pay dividends for the top line. Jerry York is going to ride them pretty hard from here on, and with all the time off (including another week off next week, should they make it to Philly, knock on wood), they should be plenty fresh. Not only that, but with all of these games being televised, there are several extra timeouts in each period during which they will be able to rest up and jump on the ice sooner.
--The first line should be able to excel against these non-Hockey East teams because they haven't had the opportunity to play against them or practice shutting them down. It's part of the reason I'm hoping Minnesota State can win tonight.
--Johnny Gaudreau, goodness gracious.
BC moves on to the regional final where they will play either Minnesota State or UMass-Lowell for the right to advance to Philadelphia and the Frozen Four, against Union, who dispatched of Providence College with ease this afternoon to punch their ticket. The Dutchmen look as scary as advertised.
We'll be back here tomorrow with your coverage. The big game will be on ESPNU tomorrow, Sunday at 5pm. Hopefully BC can keep the momentum and advance.