CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — To stay alive in the Hockey East quarterfinals, No. 3 Boston College accomplished something that it hadn’t done in 44 years.
Goaltender Matti Kaltiainen made 14 saves to post BC’s first shutout over Boston University since Feb. 24, 1960, as the Eagles staved off elimination with a 4-0 victory over the Terriers in Game 2 of their Hockey East series in front of 4,706 at BC’s Conte Forum.
“It was kind of an easy night,” said Kaltiainen. “I like to see at least 25 shots. It’s tough when you’re only seeing 10 shots or so.”
Nonetheless, Kaltiainen stood solid when needed to pick up his fourth donut of the season and sixth of his career, and relied on BC’s offense, dormant of late, to come alive.
That charge was sparked by junior Ryan Shannon, who broke a career-long six-game scoreless streak with two critical goals that spotted the Eagles an early 2-0 lead.
“We haven’t scored the first goal in forever,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “It’s like hitting that first fairway [in golf]. You want to start your round off right, not down by one.”
BC did get off to a great start Friday, and kept things going by stifling BU throughout the game. According to Shannon, the club understood that this was do or die time.
“Tonight was a gut check,” said Shannon. “After losing four in a row, down in the playoffs and facing elimination, everybody had to step it up, look inside themselves and perform. I think we did that tonight.”
York drew on a famous moment in NHL history as a way to motivate his club Friday, showing them a tape of Mark Messier’s famous “guarantee” that the New York Rangers would win to force a Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
“Messier’s a pretty impressive guy,” said York. “He guaranteed that there’d be a seventh game and that helped us because we knew we’d have to win tonight’s game to get to a third one.”
The opening period was staggeringly different for Boston College on Friday than in game one. Despite only holding a slim 8-5 margin in shots, the Eagles — or at least Shannon — were able to solve BU netminder Sean Fields (37 saves), a past thorn in the side of the BC offense, to take a 2-0 lead through one.
The first goal came on the power play when the Eagles pinballed a J.D. Forrest wrist shot from the point, with Tony Voce providing the first deflection before Shannon redirected the puck into the top right corner at 10:09.
Immediately after killing a Taylor Leahy penalty at 14:47, Shannon extended the lead. This time he took a centering pass in the slot from Stephen Gionta and roofed a shot over a falling Fields, placing the puck just under the crossbar for 2-0 lead.
BU, which was held to just 10 shots in Thursday’s quarterfinal, looked to be on a better pace Friday, mustering four shots in the opening five minutes. But the deathgrip from the BC defense held the Terriers to just one more shot for the remainder of the period.
The second period began to lull the Conte faithful to sleep as the Eagles mustered a few quality scoring chances, including a Gionta shot off the left post with 2:20 to play, but nothing got past Fields, who finished the frame with 18 saves. Kaltiainen, on the other hand, was untested, facing only three shots, all in the closing minutes of the period.
Needing to mount offense in the third, BU was only able to fire off five shots on goal, none of any quality. When BC’s Ned Havern scored on a wraparound that bounced up and over Fields at 13:30 and Tony Voce added a shorthanded, empty-net goal with 2:14 left, Saturday’s third and deciding game was set.
For the Terriers, that third game will be played without three key players: David Klema, who reinjured his left shoulder Thursday; defenseman Sean Sullivan who matched Klema with an injured left shoulder of his own on Friday; and the hottest Terrier of late, David Van der Gulik, who left Friday’s game with a Charley horse in the third period.
“We’re down to a few good men for tomorrow night,” said BU head coach Jack Parker. “We’re going to have to find a way to conserve energy.”
The Terriers, one night after being in the driver’s seat, find themselves at a disadvantage, having not scored in nearly a game and a half, and with momentum on the side of a faster and healthier Eagles team.
Still, 60 minutes will decide which team’s run for the Hockey East title continues and which comes to an end. That should be sufficient motivation to help any team, injured or not.