CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Most anyone knows that hockey is a 60-minute game. But in case any of the 7,770 fans at Conte Forum forgot, Boston College sent out a clear reminder.
Striking three times in the final 11:12 of the third period, the Eagles broke open a 1-1 deadlock against Maine, taking a 4-1 decision to solidify BC’s hold on the top spot in Hockey East.
“I thought we played really, really well for 50 minutes tonight,” said Maine coach Shawn Walsh. “But give BC credit. They’re a real good hockey team and they took advantage of the breaks in the third period.”
BC coach Jerry York, who knew that his team was outplayed in every facet of the game in the second period, felt lucky to be in position to win the game.
“In the first period we have a little bit of the edge, but in the second period, it was [Eagle goaltender] Scott Clemmensen vs. the University of Maine,” said York. “We came out tied at 1 but it should’ve been 4 or 5-1 [Maine].”
Marty Hughes, a defenseman converted to forward last season for BC, was the offensive hero in the game. After setting up the Eagles’ first goal in the opening period, Hughes added a goal of his own, his first in 22 games, capitalizing on a Maine mistake midway through the third to make it 3-1.
“We came to play in the third period,” Hughes said. “We let them take [the play] to us in the second. Thank God for Scott Clemmensen because he kept it close for the first two periods.”
Indeed, Clemmensen did keep the game close into the third period, stopping a total of 31 Black Bear shots, with 15 of those saves coming in the second period alone.
“We got back on our heels in the second period but we just kept playing,” said Clemmensen. “We knew that Maine had control, but we also knew that it was still a 1-1 game.”
The game featured a host of penalties, with the Eagles having seven power plays to Maine’s five. But it was a non-call in the third period, immediately after which BC scored the game-winning goal, that had Walsh irate.
“Our guy just got horse-collared in front of the [BC] net,” Walsh said. “I guess that’s the way that the breaks go, though.”
Walsh also had a concern that many of the penalties that BC drew in the first period were result of diving, something that is supposed to be a point of emphasis for the officials.
“Until [the NCAA] legislates diving the way it is written in the book, it will always be a problem in college hockey,” Walsh said. “The way that the penalty is called now, it makes it difficult on the referees.
“We decided at the coach’s convention that [diving] would be a point of emphasis this season, but I haven’t seen it called once.”
The opening period was action-packed, thanks mostly to six penalties whistled by referee Scott Hansen opening up plenty of ice, four of them to Maine, to which Walsh refered.
In the opening minute of the period, it was Maine goaltender Mike Morrison (32 saves), making his first start in more than a month, facing the first test. Bobby Allen was set up by Brian Gionta in the slot for a one-timer that forced Morrison to make a quick pad save.
Five minutes later, just after a Maine penalty expired, Clemmensen saw his first quality shot as Matthias Trattnig tried to push a bouncing puck past Clemmensen. But the senior netminder followed the puck all the way, keeping the game scoreless.
At 10:52, Peter Metcalf was whistled for obstruction-interference, allowing the BC power play to go to work again. This time, it would connect. Marty Hughes picked off a deflected Maine pass at the blue line and immediately found Ben Eaves, who one-timed a shot past Morrison for his sixth goal of the season.
The Eagles had a golden opportunity to extend the lead when two Maine penalties led to a 1:08 two-man advantage for the Eagles. BC peppered Morrison, but he stood tall, with a little help from the right post on J.D.
Forrest’s one-timer at 15:56.
A late penalty to the Eagles put Maine on the power play, and also gave the Black Bears their best scoring chance of the period. Lucas Lawson was sprung free for a breakaway from the offensive blue line, but after pulling Clemmensen out of position, the sophomore’s shot hit the post to keep the score at 1-0 through one.
The Black Bears, poised to make a comeback, controlled the second period, but thanks to Clemmensen, BC held them off the board. Back-to-back penalties on the Eagles gave Maine a brief five-on-three, but Maine couldn’t capitalize.
“Clemmensen played a great game for them tonight,” said Walsh. “It’s almost too bad that he didn’t get a shutout.”
At 14:10, it was the Eagles who looked to draw blood when Ales Dolinar’s bid was followed up by Forrest. But an incredible pad save by Morrison kept the BC lead to one.
As the period drew to a close, Maine pulled even thanks to a Brendan Donavan goal and a whole lot of luck. Martin Kariya set up Trattnig in the slot, but the senior winger lifted the shot high over Clemmensen’s head. Everyone in the rink looked toward the corner, where the puck was headed, until it hit a stanchion in the Conte Forum glass. The puck landed on the right side of the net, opposite of where Clemmensen and every BC Eagle was looking, allowing Donovan to pick it up and push it into the open side to even the game at one through two.
BC had two great chances early in the third to retake the lead, but both times were denied by not Morrison, but the post. Eaves breakaway 45 seconds in hit off Morrison’s shoulder and then off the post before coming to rest on the goal line for Maine to clear the puck. At 4:20, BC rang metal again when Bill Cass’ shot from the point was deflected in front of Morrison before clanging off the crossbar.
The Eagles finally did take the lead on one of the nicest single-man efforts of the season. Mike Lephart rushed the puck from his defensive zone, wheeled all the way around the offensive zone with Maine defenders checking closely.
As he cleared to the slot, Lephart unleashed a shot that was saved by Morrison. After a number of whacks by the BC forwards, Dolinar got a point-blank chance that Morrison saved.
But Lephart then, from the back of the net, picked up the loose puck and spun around the post to bury the puck a split second before Morrison and the Maine defender got positioned. That opened the floodgates.
At 10:28, a mishandling of the puck by Morrison gave Hughes an open net to fire his second goal of the season and second point of the night. And at 12:17, a two-on-one break resulted in Chuck Kobesew feeding a wide-open Krys Kolonos for his team-leading 18th goal of the year making it 4-1.
From there, the Eagles had to simply wait for the closing horn, as the Black Bears never threatened again.
With the win, BC moved to 18-6-1 (11-3-1 Hockey East) and coupled with UNH’s loss to BU on Friday, the Eagles took a five-point lead in Hockey East.
Maine (10-8-6, 5-5-4 Hockey East), with 14 points, falls into a tie with BU for fourth place.
Maine and BC will complete the weekend and season series on Saturday night when they rematch at Conte Forum at 7 p.m.