CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — In mid-July, Boston College fans were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that offensive powerhouse Brian Boyle would be returning for his senior year on the Heights.
In Tuesday’s night’s season opener, those same fans got to witness the fruits of his return.
With two goals and two assists, including a backbreaking shorthanded goal in the third period, Boyle helped propel the Eagles to a 5-2 win over crosstown rival Northeastern Tuesday in front of a boisterous crowd of 4,208 at Kelley Rink.
For Boyle, Tuesday night was exactly the start of the season he’d hoped for when he committed to return to BC. The summer of questions began in April when the Los Angeles Kings, who hold his draft rights, offered him a contract in April after the Eagles lost to Wisconsin in the national championship game.
After turning down that offer, Boyle flew out to L.A. in mid-July only to decide that Boston College would be his home for one more year.
Eagles head coach Jerry York, who picked up his 750th victory on Tuesday night, is glad that he did.
“He’s going to be a dominant player,” said York of the 6-foot-7 Boyle. “There were stretches last year where he played that way.”
As impressive as Boyle’s performance was on Tuesday, another Eagle also found time to shine. Sophomore Brock Bradford, who last season had just six points and three goals all year, posted two goals including the game-winner on the power play in the third period.
Said Bradford,” It’s like a 180 [degree] turn this season. I came in and Coach put me on a good line [with Benn Ferriero at center and Joe Rooney on the right wing]. I just feel more confident out there with the decisions I make.”
As dominant as Boyle and Bradford were, ironically for a period and a half it was Northeastern that appeared ready to steal headlines. The Huskies grabbed a 1-0 lead at 1:41 of the second period and rookie goaltender Brad Thiessen (32 saves) looked solid in the Northeastern net.
But the fact of the matter was that through two periods, Northeastern was forced to, and successfully did, kill seven BC power plays. But the penalties, if nothing else, wore down the Huskies. Late in the second, BC got NU running around in the defensive zone and finally took advantage.
At 14:50, Boyle was in the right place at the right time to bury the rebound of a Brett Motherwell shot. And 40 seconds later Bradford picked up his first goal of the night, jumping into the play on the left wing and finishing a feed from Rooney.
In the third, Northeastern continued its march to the penalty box, one that head coach Greg Cronin described as mind-numbing, noting most of the penalties were unnecessary clutch-and-grab fouls in the neutral zone. When the Huskies handed the Eagles their second five-on-three of the night, BC finally capitalized with Bradford firing a one-timer from the blueline over the blocker of Thiessen.
The Huskies were down but not out, picking up a five-on-three man-advantage of their own midway through the frame. That was when Boyle dropped the hammer.
Breaking out of the defensive zone, Rooney carried the puck on the left-wing side. Boyle, playing defense on the power play, decided to jump into the rush, beat his man and take a perfect pass at the hash marks. With little time to make a move, Boyle lifted the shot under Thiessen’s arm, noting “I missed it a little and I think that kind of surprised the goaltender.”
BC’s Andrew Orpik and NU’s Randy Guzior traded late goals to account for the 5-2 final. Cory Schneider finished the game with 22 saves to pick up his 38th career win in net for the Eagles.
Each team now will take different paths as they embark on the season ahead. Northeastern will remain in league play for two weekends, traveling to Vermont for a lone game this Saturday night before heading to Boston University the following Friday for the final of three Hockey East games to begin the season.
Boston College, on the other hand, will start a four-game non-league slate beginning Oct. 20 and 21 at home against Notre Dame and Bowling Green before traveling to Madison, Wis., for a two-game rematch of last year’s NCAA title game against Wisconsin.