BOSTON — Between the two of them, Boston University coach Jack Parker and Yale coach Tim Taylor have been behind the bench for over 55 years. However, they both saw something that they’ve never seen before on Sunday night.
Terrier defensemen Kevin Schaeffer and Ryan Whitney each notched hat tricks as BU beat Yale, 7-2, in front of a crowd of 2,219 at Walter Brown Arena. Ryan Steeves scored a pair of goals in a losing effort for the Bulldogs.
The last Terrier defenseman to pull off a hat trick was Tom Poti back on February 28, 1998. Back in the 1993-94 season, Jon Pratt and Bob LaChance had a pair of hat tricks for BU. But no one could recall two blueliners ever managing the feat in one game.
“Did Bobby Orr ever play with Brad Park?” Parker asked “Maybe it would have happened once if they played, but they didn’t. It’s very rare. Pretty good show by those guys.”
“They activate their weak-side defensemen very well and get them up in the rush, [but] a lot of those goals weren’t really those kind of goals,” Taylor said in attempting to explain the six goals by BU defensemen.
“We know that they’re a big part of their offense: It’s something we talked about in our pre-game video session,” Taylor added. “We talked about how they have to be respected, especially off of neutral-zone transition situations. I think it’s a little circumstantial to have two defensemen hat tricks, but they’re good players.”
“The last hat trick I had was probably playing pee wees, but sometimes it goes your way,” Schaeffer said.
The lopsided score was not all that indicative of the closeness of the game. Although they played a fabulous first, BU played poorly in the second: shots were 11-4 Yale, and the shot attempts were a whopping 26-8 in the Bulldogs’ favor.
Yet the Terriers managed three goals on their four shots, and that made all the difference in the outcome.
“I thought we played extremely well in the first period,” Parker said. “At the end of the first period, I told my guys that it’s going to be a different period in the second period for two reasons: One, their coaches probably were a little aggravated with the way they played in the first period and let them know it; and two, they just got off a four-hour bus ride, and they’ll have some legs in the second period. And the second period was just as much Yale as it was us in the first as territorial advantage.”
Taylor concurred with his fellow coaching legend. “I was very proud of our team in the second and third period because obviously we were dominated and manhandled in the first period by a committed BU team,” Taylor said. “They got some offense going, and I know they’ve been struggling, and I was scared of that fact. We’ve been a suspect team defensively all year.
“But to our players’ credit — and not take anything away from BU — in the second and third period we limited some of their shooting opportunities and did some of the things that we have to do to be a successful team because we know we’re going to have a tough time generating a lot of offense,” added Taylor.
The Terriers got on the board at 8:21 when Whitney threw the puck into the slot from a sharp angle in the right-wing corner, caroming the puck off a skate and past goalie Matt Modelski for the lead. Less than three minutes later, Whitney got his second on a terrific end-to-end rush, blowing by a few Yale defenders before beating Modelski, five-hole.
“I think Ryan Whitney in the last six or seven games has looked like the All American defenseman that we thought he’d become,” Parker said. “He looked absolutely terrific out there; he’s had a great run, so he seems to have the monkey off his back.”
At 11:50, John Laliberte got the puck behind the goal line and spotted Schaeffer cruising in from the right point. He teed it up, and Schaeffer roofed one for his first of the night. Laliberte narrowly missed one of his own five minutes later when his backhander almost dribbled across the goal line after Modelski got a piece of it.
Yale had all kinds of chances in the second period but couldn’t score. On an excellent power play, Ryan Steeves had a chance that looked as if it would be much easier to score than to miss, but somehow he shot the puck sideways through the crease instead of knocking it straight in. Meanwhile, BU had made it 4-0 when Kenny Magowan did a nice job of screening the goalie while Schaeffer shot from the right point.
The Terriers made it 5-0 late in the period on a pretty goal when David Klema — playing against his brother Mike, who had three of Yale’s 23 shots — made an excellent play, stickhandling across the slot from right to left and drawing the goalie over before feeding it to Magowan at the far post. Magowan fought off a defender to tip it up and in. For good measure, BU closed out a highly opportunistic period with another goal when Schaeffer intercepted a clearing attempt and shot a long one through a crowd and in.
Understandably, Taylor replaced Modelski with Peter Cohen, who had had a really good period. In another statistical oddity for the game, Cohen actually picked up an assist — not something you generally see out of a third-string goalie. At 11:40, Cohen blocked a shot, and Steeves made an end-to-end rush of his own, finishing with a nice backhander against Sean Fields, who played well in his first action since a mediocre showing against Harvard on Tuesday night. It was Steeves’ second goal of the night; he had spoiled Fields’ shutout bid a few minutes earlier on a redirect of a Jeff Dwyer shot.
Whitney got his hat-trick goal in the last two minutes, once again looking great as he skated around the goalie’s attempted poke check before depositing it in the net for the 7-2 final.
Despite the outburst of scoring from his defensemen, Parker was not altogether pleased with his team tonight. “We’re still snake-bitten up front, and I was real disappointed about how lackadaisical we were with a three-nothing lead,” Parker said. “Other than that, give Yale credit for hanging in there — the score was not indicative of the game.
“We would have been much better off if the forwards got those goals,” added Parker. “Those guys are talking to themselves. We may have won 7-2, but Skladany didn’t get any, McConnell didn’t get any, Mullen didn’t get any. When we are going to start getting some goals from these guys? And more importantly, they’re saying, ‘When am I going to start contributing to the team?’ It’s not a selfish thing — they want to help our team.”
The Terriers (4-4-4) travel to Chestnut Hill to play archrival Boston College on Friday night before hosting Massachusetts on Sunday afternoon. Yale (3-8-0) plays at Rensselaer and Union on Friday and Saturday nights respectively.