CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — One season ago, Brian Gionta practically rewrote the Boston College record books. Fast forward a year, and you can get a bit of a feeling that sophomore Ben Eaves would like to follow in Gionta’s footsteps.
If that’s the case, in the month of November, Eaves has succeeded. Since Nov. 8, Eaves has recorded multiple points in every Boston College game — a span of five games entering Saturday’s contest with UMass-Amherst.
He continued that tradition on Saturday, assisting on three of Boston College’s goals in a 4-0 win over the Minutemen in front of 6,376 fans at Conte Forum.
For six straight games, Eaves has now recorded multiple points, and has 15 (five goals, 10 assists) in that span. To put perspective on that streak, Gionta’s longest multiple-game point streak of his career was three games, as he finished as the second all-time leading scorer at Boston College and the all-time leading goalscorer.
Eaves’ three points were matched by linemate Tony Voce, who scored two goals on the evening. A.J. Walker notched a goal and an assist to give the Eagle top line eight points on the night.
“We’re all pretty smart players,” said Eaves of the line combination that has accounted for 23 of BC’s 48 goals on the year. “We emphasize moving our feet and talking — letting each other know where the other person is. If we do that, we’re usually pretty effective.”
“Ben [Eaves] is such a great player,” said Voce, who became the first Eagle to break into double digits in goals this season with numbers 10 and 11 on Saturday. “We just have to work hard to get open for him. We’re starting to really gel as a group.”
In addition to the stellar play of BC’s top line, netminder Tim Kelleher (20 saves), who started the year a bit shaky, seems to have righted the ship, posting his second straight shutout.
Though untested late in the game, Kelleher stopped an early barrage of shots by UMass-Amherst to keep the game scoreless in the first period.
“I thought [Kelleher] earned the shutout in the first period,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “They had seven or eight real quality, grade ‘A’ chances in that period.”
Kelleher, in fact, said after his last shutout, a 1-0 blanking of Harvard eight days earlier, that the first period is the key to his success.
“I felt more comfortable after tonight’s first period than I did against Harvard,” said Kelleher, who now has four career shutouts. “Like I said, I’ve been working on the first period and it’s going well so far.”
The win for Boston College comes on the heels of what York called “as tough as loss as [BC] has had for a while,” — a 5-4 overtime loss that saw BC rally from a three-goal third-period deficit.
“I was impressed by the heart and the resiliency to comeback tonight [after Friday night's loss],” said York. “We responded with an excellent effort.”
“We had a tough loss at UNH last night,” said Kelleher. “I knew that I had to play well tonight for the team.”
Kelleher would get all the scoring he would need from his team in the first period. Voce opened the scoring at 11:40 when he finished off a power-play tally, tucking a shot at the right post past UMass-Amherst goaltender Mike Johnson (28 saves) to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, the Eagles popped two goals in 30 seconds to take any steam out of the Minuteman sails. Rookie Dave Spina collected a loose puck on an offensive zone faceoff, cut across the circle and lifted a shot past a screened Johnson for the two-goal lead.
At 17:12, Voce tallied again, this time diving to his belly to tip a pass from Eaves between the legs of Johnson.
That five-and-a-half minute explosion seemed to take all momentum away from the Minutemen, who struggled from that point to generate quality chances.
“I thought we’d played with a lot more integrity tonight when the game was in question in the first period,” said UMass head coach Don “Toot” Cahoon. “Early in the game if we put home one or two of our chances, it changes the complexity of the game.”
The Eaves-Voce-Walker line rounded out the scoring in the third period Walker buried a blocked shot into an open net with less than seven minutes remaining.
The win, combined with BU’s loss to Lowell and Maine’s loss to UNH, catapults BC (8-5-1, 4-3-0 Hockey East) into a third-place tie with Providence. The Eagles play two games at Maine next weekend before beginning their Christmas break.
UMass-Amherst (6-8-0, 2-5-0 Hockey East) remains in eighth place, two points ahead of Merrimack, a 4-1 loser to Providence on Saturday. The Minutemen play a home-and-home series with Boston University beginning next Friday in Amherst, to close out 2001.