BOSTON — According to the cliche, real estate is about location, location, location. According to the results, the 2012 Beanpot championship was all about special teams, special teams, special teams.
Number of even-strength goals prior to Bill Arnold’s winner in overtime for Boston College?
Semifinals, Feb. 6
“It was hard to get terrific chances five-on-five,” said Boston College coach Jerry York.
Number of special-teams goals?
“That was playoff hockey at its best,” said Boston University captain Chris Connolly. “Special teams win or lose hockey games.”
BC’s Pat Mullane got it started at 8:54 of the first period, scoring a sweet short-handed goal. It gave the Eagles 11 on the season, tied for first in the country. When combined with its top penalty-killing percentage in Hockey East, the short-handed goals make BC’s man-down unit close to even strength.
“Mullane made a great play,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “That was a great short-handed goal. That’s not unusual for them.”
Midway through the second, the Eagles went on a 1:51 five-on-three advantage, as glittering of an opportunity to widen the margin as they could have hoped for, but the BU penalty killers showed that they’re anything but chopped liver, too. BC got shots but not the Grade A-plus chances on which goaltender Kieran Millan wouldn’t have had a chance.
“BU played awesome on that five-on-three,” said tournament MVP Johnny Gaudreau, an Eagles forward. “A goal there could have really changed the game a lot. Everyone thinks that five-on-threes are going to be a goal so when we didn’t, our hopes got down a little and we kind of got nervous a little.”
The double-kill gave BU momentum and allowed the Terriers power play in the form of Garrett Noonan to tie the game at 16:11.
The deadlock proved short-lived thanks to another BC five-on-three advantage. Or perhaps that could be better characterized as thanks to the Terriers’ season-long penchant for taking penalties, a tendency that has put them atop the nation in the unenviable category of penalty minutes, the one point of “excellence” the two rivals don’t share.
This time the two-man advantage lasted only 23 seconds and while that wasn’t long enough for the Eagles power play to capitalize, it did soon after while five-on-four to retake the lead.
“Thankfully, we buried the five-on-four,” said Gaudreau, mindful of the potential emotional carnage from getting shut out in two five-on-threes.
That lead lasted until 7:12 of the third period when BU tied it on — you guessed it — a five-on-three power play.
“I thought we executed really well on our power play,” said Parker. “We moved the puck pretty well and scored a couple goals.”
The span of no five-on-five goals lasted until the game was 79 minutes and 53 seconds old.
A five-on-five strike gave Boston College its third consecutive Beanpot, but special teams got the Eagles to the game’s 79:53 mark.
“Coaches talk about special teams having a major effect on championship games,” said York. “They’re pivotal parts of the game. Tonight they certainly were a factor.”