CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Boston College goaltender Tim Kelleher had plenty to be thankful for one day ago while enjoy his Thanksgiving dinner. A native of nearby Belmont, Mass., Kelleher is one of the few players on the BC squad able to celebrate the holiday with family.
One thing, though, missing from Kelleher’s list of thanksgivings was stellar play between the pipes this season for the Eagles — that was, until Friday night.
The Eagles rode the coattails of Kelleher’s 23-save shutout, while sophomore Justin Dziama scored the only goal of the game as Boston College knocked off crosstown rival Harvard, 1-0, in front of a quiet crowd of 5,868 at the Conte Forum.
For Kelleher, Friday’s performance hopes to be a turning point. Just two seasons removed from a record-setting year that saw him post the all-time lowest single-season goals against average for Boston College, Kelleher entered Friday threatened to become the backup goalie to rookie Matti Kaltianen.
“I felt like I kind of owed it to my team,” said Kelleher. “Out in Wisconsin [on November 2], we outshot [the Badgers] big and it obviously wasn’t one of my best games, and we lost 5-2.
“Tonight was exactly what our team needed. It was exactly what I needed.”
The difference between the two performances, according to Kelleher, was his ability to see shots, thanks to his defense clearing out players in front, as well as his own composure between the pipes.
“I felt like I was under control,” said Kelleher, who picked up his first shutout since a 6-0 win over Providence on January 23, 2000. “I wasn’t really flopping around tonight, which is something that I worked on with [goaltending] coach [Jim] Logue.”
What Kelleher’s shutout did spoil, though, was an equally spectacular 23-save performance by Harvard goaltender Will Crothers. The sophomore, who returned to action Friday after missing three games due to weakness associated with the flu, made save after save, particularly late in the game, to give the Crimson a chance to win.
“I really hoped that [the 1-0 score] wouldn’t hold up,” said Crothers, upset with the feeling that the game’s only goal was of the soft variety.
That goal developed when Dziama broke down the right wing with a half step on the Harvard defender. He uncorked a blast that Crothers got a solid piece of with his glove, but the rebound bounced straight up into the air. The puck landed behind Crothers, who was unsure of its location. The goaltender then fell to the butterfly, backed up towards the net and knocked the puck over the goal line. It would be the only goal of the game, coming at the 15:25 mark of the opening period.
The game itself was a strange affair. Perhaps the players were suffering from post-Thanksgiving Turkey hangovers, but throughout the game, quality scoring chances lacked. Also lacking was physical play, and, as a result penalties and power plays.
There were only a total of three penalties called on the night – one on Boston College and two on Harvard. With a pair of those washing out as matching, the Crimson never enjoyed a man advantage – something that coach Mark Mazzoleni noted doesn’t favor his Crimson.
“We’re not scoring a lot of goals five-on-five,” said Mazzoleni. “If you look at our team right now, Dominic Moore, [Tyler] Kolarik, [Tim] Pettit and [Dennis] Packard don’t have a single five-on-five goal for us.”
Mazzoleni also said that his team didn’t show the hunger on Friday to beat a team like Boston College.
“I thought the big difference tonight was that [Boston College was] more aggressive and assertive on the puck,” Mazzoleni said. “They seemed to beat us to a lot of one-on-one battles.
“It’s a game that if you don’t have the puck, you can score a hell of a lot.”
The win is the fifth straight for Boston College in the series between the two clubs. Friday marked the 103rd time these two classic rivals met.
It was also Boston College’s fifth consecutive win on the season, and brings the Eagles record to 7-4-1 overall. Save the 5-2 loss to Wisconsin, the Eagles have been perfect in November.
Harvard, on the other hand, dropped its second straight and was shutout for the first time since February 9, when it fell 7-0 at Dartmouth.
Those betting that St. Lawrence can repeat the feat of the Eagles in Harvard’s next game should think again. In the history of the program, Harvard has never been shut out in back-to-back games by an American college (the University of Ottawa posted back-to-back shutouts in 1913 against the Crimson).
Next up for the Eagles will be the New Hampshire, next Friday at the Whittemore Center. The Wildcats have soared out of the gates this season, currently sharing first place in Hockey East with UMass-Lowell.