CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Although Boston College opened the season as the consensus choice as Hockey East’s top team, Maine invaded a sold-out Kelley Rink with a 7-0 record and the number one ranking. BC, however, proceeded to make a convincing claim that the preseason hype was justified, knocking off the Black Bears, 4-1.
The Eagles took a 3-0 lead and never allowed Maine to close within a goal. Matti Kaltiainen made 23 saves and the BC penalty kill went 6-for-6 with a shorthanded goal to lead the defensive effort. J.D. Forrest, Ben Eaves, Ryan Shannon and Ryan Murphy scored.
“It was definitely [our best game of the year],” Eaves said. “We had played some real good periods, but we hadn’t strung together a full 60 minutes like that. To beat the number one team in the country, a team like Maine, at home in front of a great crowd was by far the best game for us.”
With the victory, BC coach Jerry York achieved yet another career milestone, moving into a fourth-place tie with former BC coach Len Ceglarski with 673 wins. He now trails only Ron Mason (926 wins), Bob Peter (744) and BU coach Jack Parker (682).
“That’s a lot of games,” York said with a laugh. “A lot of Zambonis.”
Boston College (5-2-1, 2-0-0 HEA) can now boast a penalty kill that has shut out opposing power plays 24 straight times and has scored more shorthanded goals than power-play goals allowed, 3-2. Kaltiainen has allowed just a single goal in four straight games.
“We’re playing very, very well in a lot of areas where earlier in the season I thought we were inconsistent, good in some areas but poor in other areas,” York said. “Defensively, we were very strong tonight highlighted by the PK and the goaltender. I thought we really moved pucks unselfishly and created some great offensive chances.”
Maine (7-1-0, 2-1-0 HEA) absorbed the first blemish to its record, looking like a far cry from the team that began the season toppling defending national champion Minnesota, 4-0.
“I thought all their players outplayed ours,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “They outworked us in every category and deserved to win.
“Special teams are always big and in this game that made a real positive difference for them. That’s been a real strength of ours this year, but certainly not tonight.”
The Black Bears also took losses on the blue line as Troy Barnes suffered a concussion and Prestin Ryan was assessed a disqualification for punching with 30 seconds remaining. (Although many other penalties were handed out, Ryan’s was the sole disqualification.) As a result, the senior defenseman will be unavailable as Maine completes its tough weekend road trip with a Saturday game at New Hampshire.
Boston College seized a 2-0 first-period lead on the strength of its special teams, scoring once shorthanded and another time on the power play. The shorthanded goal came off the stick of Forrest at 9:16. The goal developed with Ben Eaves breaking up the right wing on a three-on-two. Eaves dropped a pass just over the blue line to Forrest, who showed a goalscorer’s patience as a defender slid to block the potential shot. Holding the puck as goaltender Jimmy Howard went down, Forrest cut right-to-left and put the puck into the open net.
“J.D. came out of nowhere and was calling for the puck,” Eaves said. “I gave it to him and he just outwaited the goalie there and made an unbelievable play. It just shows what kind of a player he is to see that opening and jump into the play.”
The power-play goal that ensued nine minutes later was also a pleasing one, at least in the eyes of BC fans. After Patrick Eaves flipped a high pass to Tony Voce on the right side of the net, Voce gloved it down and, as a defender converged, slid a pass to Ben Eaves in the low slot. Eaves buried it into the net for his third goal of the season.
Maine had an early second-period chance to get back into the game on the power play as the puck caromed to Jon Jankus following a save by Kaltiainen, but with a wide-open net Jankus couldn’t quickly control it and Kaltiainen dove back to make the stop.
That failed opportunity grew even larger when Shannon made it 3-0 at 7:16. Fending off a defender as he cut in from the left, Shannon somehow stuffed the puck past Howard short side.
Maine then rallied with a goal two minutes later as freshman Luciano Aquino scored his first goal, firing from the right faceoff circle.
The Black Bears, however, were unable to capitalize on power-play opportunities later in the period to narrow the gap. At 14:58 they began a two-minute stretch in which they were either up four-on-three (44 seconds), five-on-three (58 seconds) or five-on-four (18 seconds), but could not beat the BC penalty kill and Kaltiainen.
BC was able to minimize Maine’s third-period chances, allowing only five shots and seizing a decisive territorial advantage in the latter stages until Murphy put the final nail in the coffin at 16:47.