In a game that has serious implications to the top part of the Hockey East standings, this was a game that wasn’t to be missed. The Eagles on this night would end up claiming the Hockey East Regular Season Crown...courtesy of the UMass-Lowell RiverHawks.
This was an emotional night for the Eagles and their fans at Kelley Rink as they honoured their graduating seniors.
Both teams were without key personnel in their lineup. Boston College is still without Ben Eaves (PIT), although he was behind the BC bench in street clothes and should be close to returning to the Eagles lineup. Meanwhile, UNH is still without the services of Nathan Martz (NYR), whose nursing a shoulder injury he sustained in the series versus UMass-Lowell a few weeks back.
The game started out somewhat slow and tentative as both teams looked to measure up the other. The first part of the period didn’t see many scoring opportunities for either team, however it did feature some good end-to-end action. At the 8:19 mark, the Wildcats would draw first blood that resulted from some poor play by BC in their own zone. It all began with a point shot taken by senior defenseman Mick Mounsey. Sophomore Mark Kolanos does a terrific job of outmuscling the Eagles defender draped all over him to gain good positioning in front BC junior netminder Matti Kaltiainen (BOS) for a tip-in. Kolanos after gaining his positioning, manages to get just enough of his stick on Mounsey’s shot to have the puck flip over Kaltianen’s shoulder for the score. Mounsey would draw the lone assist on Kolanos’ goal. However, less than a minute later the Eagles would answer. The play had broken down in front of the UNH net. A mad scramble for puck possession ensued as each team fought to get it. BC senior Tony Voce, finally gains possession and gets off a shot that looked like it hit a body in front. Voce then retrieves his own rebound and finds sophomore Patrick Eaves (OTT) cruising into the slot area. Voce then dishes off to Eaves who finds some daylight behind UNH senior netminder Mike Ayers (CHI) and slides it by him for the score. Eaves’ goal came at the 9:07 mark with Voce and sophomore Stephen Gionta drawing the assists. After the goals were scored, the game’s pace picked up significantly. The momentum swung back and forth several times throughout the remainder of the period. At the 17:11 mark, Mounsey would be called off for a hook, putting the Eagles on the Power Play. Just as the Eagles power play was looking like it was coming together, everything fell apart. Voce launches a shot at the UNH net. UNH junior defenseman Tyson Teplitsky perfectly times and executes a terrific shot block. As a result of the block, the puck slides back to UNH senior Steve Saviano and along with teammate, junior Sean Collins (COL), it creates a two-on-one shorthanded opportunity. With BC senior defenseman J. D. Forrest (CAR) as the “man in the middle”, Saviano and Collins have a nice give-and-go play working. Saviano then proceeds to take the initial shot on net that is kicked out by Kaltianen, problem is he kicked it right onto the tape of Sean Collins’ stick who immediately proceeds to wrist it by him for the score at the 17:52 mark. Saviano and Teplitsky would draw the assists on Collins’ short-handed tally.
The Wildcats came out in the second period with a little more jump in their step. They do a good job of applying some pressure on the Eagles early on. More importantly, it took the Eagles over half the period to notch their first shot on goal. With UNH’s aggressive play in the BC zone and the Eagles finding themselves in some difficulty in trying to get out of their own zone, frustrations began to show. At the 6:10 mark, it resulted in Patrick Eaves earning a trip to the penalty box on an elbowing call. The Eagles top penalty killing unit matched wits with the extremely potent UNH power play that ranked third in the nation coming into the game. UNH put some good pressure on both Kaltiainen and the Eagles defenders but they would be denied a tally. At about the 10:30 mark of the period, the Eagles finally got their first shot on goal. From there, they began to slowly take command of the game. At the 11:33 mark, BC junior Taylor Leahy would notch his first goal of the season and the game’s equalizer on what could only be described as a highlight reel goal. The play begins on a bad turnover along the boards by UNH freshman defenseman Michael Hutchins (SJ). Hutchins looked to have misplayed the puck and a BC player ended up with possession taking it back into the UNH zone. The puck ends up in the left corner where BC sophomore Chris Collins is there to retrieve it. As Collins is looking for a teammate to pass to, Leahy comes crashing in towards the BC net with a Wildcats defender hauling him down as he (Leahy) nearly ends up in the net with Ayers. Collins puts on a nice start-and-stopp move to freeze Ayers. He then times his cross-ice pass to Leahy perfectly and Leahy somehow manages to poke the puck past Ayers while being hauled down for the score. Chris Collins would draw the assist. From there until the end of the period, BC would dominate much of the play, but UNH would get in several great scoring opportunities from their top line of senior Steve Saviano and juniors Sean Collins and Justin Aikins (CBJ).
The final period would be Boston College’s best period of the night as they came out with some fire and would be consistent as well as persistent in their attack both offensively and defensively. At the 2:32 mark, the Eagles would take their first lead of the game. A delayed penalty on UNH was about to be called when the Eagles not only maintain pressure long enough to get a scoring chance, but would also cash in. The play all starts with junior defenseman Andrew Alberts (BOS) taking the initial point shot. Ayers does his best to try and corral the puck but to no avail. Ayers is having to also contend with some very big bodies in front of him, most notably the 6’7” freshman Brian Boyle (LA) and the 6’3” senior Justin Dziama (NJ), both of whom are aggressively jamming at the puck to try and get it to squeeze under Ayers’ right leg pad and into the net. After a few attempts by both players along with junior Taylor Leahy, the puck does squirt loose but rather than going into the net, it ends up making its way through the crease toward the far post. Sophomore Stephen Gionta, who was stationed behind the UNH net, made a great heads up play to hurry to the far open side of the net to retrieve then jam in the puck for the score. Ayers and some of the other UNH players protested the goal, but it stood anyway. Alberts and Leahy would draw the assists on Gionta’s go-ahead tally. The Eagles would continue to maintain pressure on UNH, especially on Ayers. The relentlessness of the Eagles around the UNH kept Ayers busy (not to mention probably frustrated the heck out of him) for much of the remainder of the game. Things began to get a little chippy around the midway point of the period that resulted in BC junior Ned Havern (DAL) being handed a 10-minute misconduct penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct at the 9:03 mark. The Eagles’ physical play would get them further into trouble at the 10:20 mark, when senior defenseman Brett Peterson would of on a cross-checking call. Once again the potent UNH power play would go to work. Unlike in their previous attempts in the game, UNH would have difficulty not only getting a scoring chance on the power play, but also getting it set up. The Eagles did probably their best penalty-killing job on the night on Peterson’s penalty. At the 14:23 mark, the Eagles would add to their existing lead and put the game away for good. It began on a turnover by UNH in their own zone. Junior Ryan Murphy (BOS), who seems have found a knack to score the clutch goals, gained puck possession and showed some tremendous patience in outwaiting Ayers, forcing the UNH goaltender to commit first. As the waiting game was taking place between Murphy and Ayers, a BC player managed to get himself in front of Ayers to provide Murphy with a partial screen. Murphy would then proceed to fire the puck over Ayers’ shoulder for the score. The Eagles continued to pressure Ayers until about the last minute of the game when he was pulled for the extra attacker. But having the extra attacker was short lived for UNH as Aikins was called off for a hold at the 19:18 mark. The weak penalty call was the result of Aikins tugging at Eaves (who helped his own cause) as he was trying to make his way toward the empty UNH net to deposit the puck. The game would end 4-2 for BC. Shortly after the final buzzer when BC had won the game, the final score from the UMass-Lowell/Maine game flashed on the jumbotron at Kelley Rink and everyone on the Eagles’ side erupted in cheers as UMass-Lowell had defeated Maine 3-2, thus handing the Eagles their third Hockey East Regular Season title in four years.
What won the game for BC was their speed and their ultra-aggressive play around the UNH net, particularly in the final stanza. Among the notable standouts for BC in this game was Stephen Gionta who not only was great offensively but also made an outstanding heads up defensive play late in the third period that prevented UNH from scoring. The play of the fourth line duo of Brian Boyle and Justin Dziama was also excellent as both players used their size and some aggressive play to create some glorious scoring opportunities, of which one was a goal.
While UNH did lose the game, this was perhaps one of the best overall games of the season. They played tremendously well in the first two periods and did an excellent job of containing both the Eagles offensive attack and their speed in that span. The Wildcats’ top line of Collins-Saviano-Aikins continues to be one of the nation’s best line combinations due to their ability to not only create plays and scoring opportunities but doing them so quickly. Despite his diminutive stature (5’7”), Steve Saviano is a player who is blessed with tremendous skill and hockey smarts. He will certainly garner some Hobey Baker consideration, but he should also garner some interest by some NHL teams, especially with the phenomenal success of another little guy named Martin St. Louis.
The home-and-home series between the two teams concludes tomorrow night when it shifts to the Whittemore Center in Durham.
I went to the return match in Durham, NH this evening, won by UNH 3-2.
Steve Saviano earned 1st star honors with 2 goals. BC made a last minute charge with a goal in the final 4 minutes but was unable to get the equalizer.
Great game though. These college games are what hockey is all about. I particulary enjoy that two line passes are allowed.