BOSTON — No. 19 Boston College came into this weekend 0-for-November, but the Eagles emerged with a two-game winning streak.
With the Eagles and archrival Boston University both coming into the week below .500, it was a gut check for both programs. The Eagles rose to the occasion with a resounding victory last night and escaped with a 4-3 road victory tonight in front of a sellout crowd of 6,224 at Agganis Arena, despite being outshot 44-25.
Ben Smith notched a natural hat trick for the victors, his first as a collegian, while linemate Nathan Gerbe added a goal and three assists on the heels of a hat trick the night before. Freshman John Muse made 41 saves for the Eagles, while Matt Gilroy led the way with a goal and ten shots for the Terriers.
“Obviously Benny’s line was on fire tonight,” BC coach Jerry York said. “He scored three goals; Nathan got another shorthanded goal, and they were all of our offense on that one line. It seems that we’ll keep that line together.
“It was two good teams battling again. I thought that Johnny Muse was outstanding in goal. We really weathered the storm late in the third period.”
After an anemic effort on Friday left Terrier coach Jack Parker furious, he thought tonight was a step in the right direction despite the loss. “In general, I was very pleased with my team’s effort tonight,” Parker said. “It was a total turnaround from last night. We played hard, generated some offense, played pretty well killing penalties except giving up the last one with two seconds to go [on the last BC power play, which produced the game-winning goal].
“Obviously we had a very good weekend on the power play; the only goals we got this weekend were on the power play, two last night and three tonight. I thought Muse played well, and their defense played really well in front of him. We had chances, but we weren’t getting that second or third rebound right in front. He made the first save all night long; I thought he played very well. That Gerbe/Smith line killed us last night and killed us tonight.”
BC struck early with a shorthanded goal at 2:06. Brian Gibbons carried it into the Terriers’ zone then pulled up before dishing to Gerbe on his left wing for the quick shot and goal.
“He’s certainly a dynamic hockey player,” York said. “You’re up on your seat when he has the puck because he’s going to do something very creative and at a high tempo.”
Nine seconds into their first power play halfway through the period, BU tied it up. After a few point-to-point passes, Kevin Shattenkirk was left unmarked for a slap shot that went through a Bryan Ewing screen to beat Muse.
A BC five-on-three at 13:30 led to three terrific Eagle chances but no goals. First, there were two scrambles in the crease that left BU fans holding their breath, then Gerbe hit the post and Bennett’s pad on another close call. After withstanding that, BU took the lead on another power play when Brandon Yip buried the rebound of a Colin Wilson slapper that caromed off the boards behind the BC net at 17:53.
Unfortunately for BU, their one lead of the night held up for just 44 seconds. A BU breakdown in the neutral zone set up a two-on-one with Gerbe dishing to Smith for the one-timer with plenty of net to shoot at as Bennett overplayed Gerbe.
BU looked really good in the second period, but fell behind regardless. Bennett dodged another bullet at 6:41 when a Dan Betram shot ticked off the post and slid across the crease on the goal line before Bennett pulled it back with his glove. After a very long video review, the call was no goal.
Other than that, BU dominated the period but couldn’t score, then Smith got his second goal on a play that made him look more like a Red Sox batter than an Eagles’ skater.
“Obviously, it was kind of a broken play,” Smith said. “I think Mike Brennan gave it up to Nathan Gerbe coming down the wall; there wasn’t really much going on. He just kind of threw it to the right, and it took a funny bounce off of Brett Bennett’s pad, up in the air. Last minute, took a whack at it, got lucky and got a piece of it.”
“Do you bat right handed, Ben?” York asked the right wing.
In the third period, BU had a great penalty kill early with a pair of shorthanded chances, only to give up the ultimate game-winner with two seconds left in the man advantage. Bennett made an uncomfortable-looking groin save on a Gerbe shot but was down and out for the rebound attempt by Smith.
“We’re struggling there, no question about that,” Parker said of his team’s goaltending. “I thought he gave us a chance to win sometimes tonight, but I thought he could’ve had some of the other goals. We’re searching for an answer there, and we’re not happy with it.”
Could third goalie Adam Krause see some time soon in an effort to see if BU has another John Curry on their hands?
“We’ll give some thought to that pretty soon, I think,” said Parker. “We’ll see what happens. It’s not like we’re not going to play him and save him for next year.”
The Terriers brought the crowd to life when Gilroy made it 4-3 on a slapper at 10:21. At that point, though, referee Jeff Bunyon put away his whistle, and despite significant pressure BU couldn’t get the equalizer.
The Terriers played without captain Brian McGuirk, a healthy scratch.
“I didn’t even think of it as far as benching the captain,” Parker said. “It wasn’t ‘I’ll bench the captain and send a message.’ It had to do with the fact that I wanted to sit some guys down who didn’t play well, and I wanted to give some other guys a chance. It could’ve been at least seven or eight other guys that I could’ve benched after last night.”
BU (4-9-2; 3-5-1 Hockey East) travels to Lowell on Friday night before hosting an exhibition game against the US Under 18 team. BC (5-4-5; 4-3-4) is off until December 12, when they play at Harvard.
“I have a long recruiting trip in the morning,” York said. “This will make it a lot easier for Coach to get up and get on the flight.”