PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The ice at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center had been freshly painted for the NCAA East Regional tournament just days ago. Unfortunately, it didn’t dry until the 6,583 fans at Saturday’s tournament had the pleasure – or displeasure – of watching paint dry as Boston College and Ohio State played a boring, trap-filled game with the Eagles advancing, 1-0.
The game was full of neutral-zone bottlenecks, with neither team able to muster much transition. The only goal, a shorthanded tally by BC’s Tony Voce, came 5:56 into the game with neither team able to sustain offensive pressure for the remainder of the night.
“You’ve got to expect the unexpected,” said BC head coach Jerry York, whose Eagles will face Cornell for the regional championship and a Frozen Four berth on Sunday afternoon. “This was the second game today and it being really hot out, the ice wasn’t conducive to passing and creativity.”
The result was a cumulative total of 47 shots, despite 13 combined power plays. More shocking was the lack of quality scoring chances, limited to a combined 21 in the game, and the only goal came shorthanded.
Despite the lack of excitement through the 60 minutes of hockey, Voce’s goal provided a highlight-reel moment. He was just coming onto the ice and hanging out behind the entire OSU defense when Eagle defenseman J.D. Forrest cleared a puck high in the air over everyone, including Voce.
But the junior forward leaped into the air like an NFL wide receiver, barely got a finger on the puck to slow it down, and then walked in all alone on Buckeye goaltender Mike Betz (20 saves).
“I think J.D. Forrest was just trying to dump the puck,” said Voce of his leap. “I jumped and was able to tip the puck and pick it up.”
Voce then released what York called an “NHL-like shot,” blasting a 20-foot snapper over the glove of Betz for one of the few celebration moments for the partisan Eagles crowd. Voce admitted that he was trying to pick the spot in the upper right-hand corner.
From that point on, the game turned into a tight-checking and somewhat sloppy affair, playing much into the hands of OSU, a physical team that wanted to slow down the fast-skating Eagles.
“We knew coming in that [BC] had a ton of team speed and it was part of our game plan to slow them down,” said OSU’s senior defenseman Scott Titus. “I think we did a good job of doing that. We were trying to get pucks deep. But towards the end of the game they did a good job of clogging [the neutral zone] trying to hold on to the one-goal lead and I think they did a better job than we did.”
OSU coach John Markell, now 2-3 coaching Ohio State in NCAA tournament games, said he was happy with his team’s execution of the game plan but was disappointed with his team’s performance on the power play – going scoreless in seven opportunities.
“[The game] came down to the power play and unfortunately it wasn’t there for us tonight,” said Markell, who said he was surprised that Voce’s goal decided the affair. “At this point I guess that’s the most disappointing thing.”
The win for Boston College came under surprising circumstances. Being outshot for only the fifth time all season, BC was held to a season-low 21 shots. At the same time, anyone who saw BC’s last outing 15 days ago – a 6-5 double-overtime loss to Boston University in the Hockey East semifinals — might be shocked by the fact that the same team could even play a 1-0 game.
York credited that not only to a solid defensive effort, responding to OSU’s defense-oriented style, but also the play of goaltender Matti Kaltiainen (26 saves).
“Matti was coming off of a performance against BU he wasn’t very pleased with,” said York, who will face Cornell for the first time behind the Eagles’ bench. “During this week at practice, he kept saying ‘I feel a lot better, Coach, I feel a lot more comfortable going into this game,’ and I thought his play reflected that.”
The win propels BC to the regional final for the fifth time in six years, and improves York’s tournament record to 11-3 since arriving at Boston College. The Eagles reached the Frozen Four in four consecutive seasons between 1998 and 2001, capturing the national title in 2001.
As far as what York expects from Sunday’s regional title tilt versus Cornell, he feels the tight-checking affair with OSU was excellent preparation.
“To play a team that big and that strong [in Cornell] – when you look at Cornell’s team I think [tonight] will help us play in that type of [physical] game.”