CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Brian Gionta set what’s believed to be a modern Division I record with five goals in the first period against Maine on Saturday night.
Gionta’s opening frame performance embedded his name in both league and team record books. The five goals in a single period not only set the Hockey East record for goals in a period, but also tied the league record for goals in a game.
Having entered the night with 107 goals, Gionta surpassed Eagle great Joe Cullen’s 111 goals and then tied the all-time team record of 112 goals held by David Emma.
Five goals, though, falls one shy of the all-time Boston College record of six goals in a game held by John Pryor. You actually have to go all the way back to 1939 to find that record, as Pryor accomplished it in a 24-1 win over Cornell.
The classic period began, if you’ll believe it, with the Black Bears putting all of the pressure on the Eagles. In fact, Maine held a 13-11 lead in shots despite trailing, 5-0 at the end of the first.
But the inability to control Gionta, allowing him to be a perfect 5-for-5 in shooting on the period, killed the Black Bears.
Gionta’s first tally came at 7:57 when Bobby Allen’s shot from the point trickled to Ben Eaves. With Eaves and Gionta in back of the Maine defense, Eaves quickly fed the BC captain to bury the 1-0 lead.
At 10:21, Gionta used his speed and the aggressiveness of the Maine power play to his advantage, scoring shorthanded on a breakaway. With the Maine defender closing, Gionta unleashed a perfectly-placed wrist shot that beat Yates over the left shoulder, banked off the post and crossbar and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
The goal led Walsh to replace Yates with Mike Morrison, only to put Yates back in exactly one minute later after the goalie re-grouped a bit. But that didn’t help.
The Conte Forum crowd of 7,770 was electrified when Gionta banged home the rebound of a Brooks Orpik shot from the point at 14:37. The power play tally gave Gionta one goal of each variety — even strength, power play and shorthanded, for the natural hat trick. Still, the fun was just beginning.
A second power-play tally gave Gionta the Hockey East record for goals in a period, surpassing a large group of players all with three. Again Gionta found his was in back of the defense, allowing Ales Dolinar to feed him for his fourth goal in 9:26.
With Maine controlling the play late in the period, there didn’t look to be much chance of a fifth, but when Gionta got the puck with six seconds left, the Conte faithful held it’s breath. Gionta speeded down the left wing and unleash a rocket of a shot that beat Yates over the shoulder with 1.1 seconds remaining to close out the historic period.
Though most paying fans probably felt they got their money worth in the first twenty minutes, the Eagles offense was no where near finished.
On its third power play of the game, Boston College stayed perfect, thanks to some help from Morrison, who once again replaced Yates as the second period began. Yates, having trouble controlling a rebound of a Chuck Kobesew shot, pushed the puck into the corner of the net for a 6-0 Eagles lead.
Krys Kolonos extended the lead to 7-0 at 10:27 of the second before Maine finally struck. Rookie Francis Nault blasted home a feed from Chris Heisten to give the contingent of Maine fans making the trip from Orono some reason to cheer.