CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Watching Friday’s grudge match between No. 2 Boston College and No. 8 Boston University, it’s obvious that the Eagles lived up to the adage that when given lemons, you make lemonade.
Faced with a game filled with penalties and power plays, the Eagles scored five goals on special teams, including two shorthanded tallies, on their way to a 6-3 victory over the Terriers in the first game of a home-and-home weekend series.
The win catapults BC into a tie for second place with idle New Hampshire, one point behind BU. A win on Saturday for BC would give the Eagles the outright lead in the Hockey East standings.
The story of the game, undoubtedly, was special teams. BC was 3-for-8 with the man advantage, while BU was 1-for-10, allowing a momentum-turning shorthanded goal to Ryan Shannon in the second period and a second shorthander with the BU net empty in the closing minute.
“Special teams were a key tonight, both our ability to defend [when shorthanded] and to capitalize,” said BC coach Jerry York. “That’s a place we’ve stumbled this year.”
It’s the second time this season the Eagles have scored three power-play goals in a game, the first coming on December 28 in a 4-3 win over Cornell at the Florida College Classic. Since that game, though, the sometimes-anemic BC power play has registered goals in six straight contests.
For BU coach Jack Parker, his team’s lack of ability on special teams was frustrating.
“We didn’t have our ‘A’ game today,” said Parker. “We were inept on special teams. We were inept killing penalties and we were inept on the power play.”
Particularly frustrating was BU’s inability to capitalize on two 5-on-3 man advantages, including one in the early stages of the third period when BU trailed just 4-3.
“When we had the 5-on-3′s, we played it like a slow crawl,” said Parker. “[BC] packed it in [defensively], let us hang on to it and we hung on to it.”
At the same time, when the Terriers were able to get quality shots, Boston College goaltender Cory Schneider (19 saves), playing back-to-back games for only the second time this season, was in great position to make the save.
Though Boston College controlled much of the play in the first two periods, BU opened the scoring. The goal, a power-play tally, was the only blemish for the BC special teams on the night. Brad Zancanaro potted the puck at 4:23 of the first, picking up a rebound and roofing it over Schneider.
BC, though, answered quickly with a power-play goal of its own. Patrick Eaves’ quick release wristed made its way through a tough screen, leaving BU goaltender John Curry (33 saves) little time to react and beating him glove-side to knot the game.
The scored remained 1-1 into the second when Shannon, who had a career high four points on the game, turned the momentum with a shorthander at 2:43.
“The puck came off the wall [in the defensive zone] and the defenseman was bobbling a little bit,” said Shannon. “I just stuck my stick out there and it was off to the races.”
Late in the second, Brian Boyle picked up his seventh goal of the season, again on the power play and again through a massive screen that gave Curry no chance. Minutes later at 17:25, BC seemed as if it would pull away when Eaves scored his second goal of the game, picking up a loose puck and firing a quick shot past Curry for the 4-1 lead.
But BU answered just 18 seconds later when Peter MacArthur scored his 11th of the season, sending a rocket of a slapper on net that Schneider never had a chance to save.
Down two entering the third, BU put pressure on the Eagle net early and at 8:52 pulled within a goal. After Eric Thomassian’s shot from 25 feet was blocked by the BC defense, linemate Ryan Monaghan picked up the puck and fired it over the shoulder of Schneider to give a glimmer of hope to the BU faithful who made their way down Commonwealth Avenue.
But late in the game special teams again killed BU. Dave Spina’s power-play goal with 5:27 remaining was the insurance that the Eagles needed, and Ryan Murphy shorthanded goal into an empty net capped the scoring for BC.
The six goals tied for the most that BC has scored this season, matching its effort against Denver on October 15. The line of Eaves-Shannon-Spina combined for a season-best 10 points, figuring in every goal except the empty-netter.
When the teams rematch on Saturday night at Boston University’s new palace, Agganis Arena, the Terriers will face Matti Kaltiainen, not Schneider, in net. Kaltiainen has been nursing a pulled groin he suffered last weekend.
The win for Eagles improved the team’s record to 13-3-3 on the year. It also extended their winning streak to seven games, the longest since a similar seven-game streak through November and December of 2003.
BU drops to 13-8-0 on the year and loses in Hockey East play for the first time since November 7, a span of seven games.
Saturday’s rematch is at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on NESN.