MANCHESTER, N.H. — After a day and a half of upsets and near-upsets in the 2007 NCAA tournament, No. 2 seed Boston College finally restored order, skating to a 4-1 victory over No. 3 St. Lawrence in the second game of the Northeast Regional.
Though the game didn’t require any dramatic comebacks or overtimes for the higher seed to advance, it certainly wasn’t a cakewalk for the Eagles.
“[St. Lawrence] was extremely gritty and they worked extremely hard,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “It was a hard battle for us. They had some chances early in the game and [goaltender] Cory [Schneider] had to make a bunch of big saves.”
The boxscore shows Schneider with only 24 saves compared to his counterpart in the St. Lawrence net, rookie Alex Petizian, who was forced to make 31 stops. But it was Schneider’s play in the first period along with a huge save late in the game on Shawn Fensel, when St. Lawrence pulled its goaltender in favor of an extra attacker, that earned the junior netminder his praise.
As BC held a 3-1 lead, St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh chose to pull Petizian in favor of an extra attacker with 3:40 remaining. Pressuring in the Eagles zone, the Larries mustered a shot from the right point that deflected and hit Schneider.
Fensel was sitting on the doorstep and appeared to have plenty of room to bury the goal until Schneider flashed his left pad to stone the sophomore blueliner.
Brock Bradford’s empty-net goal with 23 second remaining accounted for the 4-1 final.
“I reached as far as I could with the left leg,” said Schneider of the late-game save. “I was lucky to get a piece of it.”
The victory advances the Eagles to Sunday’s regional final, where they’ll take on Miami, a 2-1 winner in Saturday’s opening game, for the right to move on to the Frozen Four.
A major key to the game for the Eagles on Saturday was the play of the special teams. Besides going 1-for-5 with the man advantage, the Eagles stifled the St. Lawrence power play, killing all six opportunities for the Saints.
“Our power play has gone in spurts,” said Marsh of his team’s lack of production with the man-advantage. “[BC] did a good job of fronting our guys. We saw that on tape that they take away the shots from the points. We couldn’t get those shots from the point through and those are the ones that can create second and third chances and some collateral damage.”
Though St. Lawrence carried the play in the opening period, it was Boston College that tallied the only goal.
Brian Boyle scored his 18th goal of the season, and third since being moved from forward to defense five games ago, off a faceoff play just 1:24 into the game. After Ben Smith won the draw to the right point, Boyle maneuvered down the right-wing side, cut to the slot and surprised Petizian with a wrist shot that beat the netminder between the legs.
“We wanted to get that first goal. We wrote that in big letters on the board [in the locker] room,” said Boyle. “We really wanted to get the momentum.”
Another early goal in the second period extended the Eagles’ lead. A scrum in front resulted in Ben Smith poking home his ninth goal of the season just 40 seconds into the frame.
The goal was controversial, though, as referee Derek Shepard had blown the whistle indicating he’d lost sight of the puck. After a lengthy video review of the play, though, it was determined the puck crossed the goal line before the whistle had blown.
Petizian said that he thought it was a late whistle by the referee.
“I thought I had it underneath me and I got pushed into the net,” said Petizian. “It was a late whistle. I thought the ref should’ve whistled it earlier.”
The two-goal lead, though, didn’t last for long. Sophomore Brock McBride picked up a puck at the right faceoff dot and fired a quick shot past Schneider at 2:12 to cut the BC lead to one.
Both teams had plenty of chances in a back-and-forth second period but solid goaltending, along with the goal post on a Joe Rooney power-play attempt at 12:58, kept BC clinging to a 2-1 edge heading to the third.
That’s when the Eagles finally attained some breathing room thanks to the stick of Andrew Orpik. On what looked like a harmless shot to the net by Brian O’Hanley from just inside the blueline, an outstretched Orpik got enough of the puck in the slot to deflect it through Petizian’s legs with 16:26 remaining to give BC the 3-1 lead.
From there the Eagles’ defense, which allowed the Larries just seven shots in the third period, and Schneider finished off the win, the 11th straight for BC.
Now the only thing that stands between the Eagles and their third trip to the Frozen Four in four years is Miami, a team that BC beat last year, 5-0, in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
Though the RedHawks may be the number-four seed in the region, York made it clear that he anticipates a true battle in Sunday’s regional final.
“I don’t think seeds matter,” said York, only the third favorite to advance through the first seven opening-round games. “If you get your team to the field of 16, you’re obviously a good club.”