MANCHESTER, N.H. — If Boston College rookie Brock Bradford has proved anything in the past week for the Eagles, it’s that he’d rather be lucky than good.
For the second straight game, Bradford notched the game-winning goal, and similar to Saturday’s winner in a 3-2 victory against Providence, throwing the puck to the net was the best play the young Bradford could make.
With 2:51 remaining in regulation and the game knotted at two, Bradford’s shot from just above the goal line hit and then trickled past UNH netminder Kevin Regan (35 saves) and into the net to send the small Boston College portion of the 8,411 in attendance at Verizon Wireless Arena into temporary pandemonium.
“Early on in the season, if things aren’t going in you have to put your head down and put it to the net,” said Bradford, who said that he wasn’t even sure how the puck got in the net, whether it bounced off Regan or a New Hampshire defenseman. “It’s never a bad play and I was just fortunate for it to go in.”
“It’s good to recruit fortunate players,” said BC coach Jerry York with a smile.
Fortunate indeed were the Eagles on Tuesday, as Bradford’s goal was one of two strange bounces that ended up in the back of the BC net.
But York stood by the fact that no matter how you get the puck to the net, the fact that it gets there can make all the difference.
“We’re fortunate in both instances,” said York, talking about his club’s first goal that came of a Regan gaffe and the third goal that was simply a bad bounce. “It’s hard to get the puck to the net, with sticks on pucks and shin pads on pucks. It’s hard to create offensive scoring chances and it’s hard to get those chances on net. So it’s the rule of thumb that the more shots you get the more chances you have to put goals on the board.”
On the other side of the coin, for New Hampshire, the loss is a tough pill to swallow. The Wildcats competed hard with the Eagles for the entire game and, in essence, lost due to puck luck.
“It was a good hockey game,” said Umile. “You just don’t want to lose a game on a play like that.
“I told the team it wasn’t from a lack of effort. Right now, pucks are finding ways of getting into the back of the net.”
For BC, besides just luck, another success was the play of its penalty-killing unit. Entering the game with a .757 kill percentage and facing a New Hampshire team that’s scored eight of its 16 goals this season on the power play, keeping the UNH power-play unit scoreless on the night and holding it to three shots in five chances was impressive.
“We worked very hard on [the penalty kill] this week in practice,” said York. “That’s part of our defense work. Going into the game we were concerned about the matchup [with UNH's power play], but the goaltender’s your best penalty killer and [Cory Schneider] made some terrific saves.”
Indeed, Schneider did make plenty of big saves, 33 in all, in what York called his best performance of the season to date.
The first period was relatively even territorially and, at the end, probably should’ve been even on the scoreboard if not for Regan’s gaffe in net.
With 1:25 remaining in the frame, BC’s Chris Collins fired the puck at Regan from the left corner. Regan stopped the puck with the blade of his stick but then, attempting to corral it under his glove, instead pushed the puck right between his legs and into the net to give BC a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
In the second, New Hampshire came out with extra jump in its step and early in the period pulled things even. Craig Switzer’s slapshot from the left point through traffic hit a BC defender, the redirect being just enough to beat Schneider and knot the game at one at 5:15.
At 12:35, the Wildcats took their first lead of the night, this time on a hard wrist shot from the stick of Daniel Winnik. Cutting over the blueline, Winnik’s criss-cross move beat two defenders, leaving him alone with Schneider.
BC, though, wasted little time answering. Sixty-eight seconds later, Pat Gannon banged the rebound of a Brian Boyle shot past Regan to even the game at 2 heading to the third.
Midway through the period, Hemingway nearly gave the Wildcats back the lead. He picked up a loose puck in the slot, spun 180 degrees and blasted a slapshot that Schneider somehow got with his left shoulder, keeping the game even.
That stood as the only high-quality chance until Bradford’s goal late in the period that sealed the victory for the Eagles.
The win improves BC to 3-2-1 (2-1-1 Hockey East), while UNH drops to 2-3-1 (1-1-0 Hockey East).
The Eagles will enjoy a 12-day hiatus before traveling to Vermont to play their first-ever Hockey East game versus the Catamounts on November 13. UNH is back in action this weekend with a home-and-home series against Northeastern beginning Friday night in Boston.