CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Balanced scoring is a dream for any college hockey coach. The knowledge that balance can help you win hockey games, then, becomes a coach’s bliss.
On an afternoon where Boston College’s top two scoring lines were, for the most part, held quiet, the third and fourth lines for the Eagles responded with four goals and nine points overall as BC skated past cross-town rival Harvard in a post-Thanksgiving non-league matinee game, 5-1, at Kelley Rink.
Fourth-line right wing Andrew Orpik led the way with two goals, his first career multi-goal game, while Matt Price (goal, assist), Cam Atkinson (goal, assist) and Matt Lombardi (two assists) each recorded multiple-point games to pace the Eagles’ offense. John Muse made 18 saves in goal for BC and the penalty kill snuffed out eight-of-nine Harvard power plays, including a 51-second five-on-three in the third.
“We’re becoming a much more balanced team as the year progresses,” said BC coach Jerry York. “We were really concerned about putting Gibby (Brian Gibbons) and Brock [Bradford] and Benn [Ferriero] on one line and loading up with three high-end players. But our other players are all getting better and better and we’re now really just rolling four lines.”
A key to the game was a late second-period goal for BC that broke a 1-1 deadlock. Bradford buried a one-timer from Gibbons with 26.4 seconds left that seemingly took the wind out of Harvard’s sails entering the third. From that point, BC scored three goals in five minutes, 35 seconds and four goals in 16 minutes, 45 seconds.
“I thought we had a good second period,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato, who was extremely disappointed at his team’s third-period play. “Even though they got the goal at the end of the second, I thought we could regroup and come out and win the third.”
After Harvard came out with early steam in the opening period, Boston College seized control of the frame and ultimately outshot the Crimson, 15-4. Thanks to solid play by Harvard rookie goaltender Matt Hoyle (31 saves), the Crimson remained close, allowing just a single goal.
That marker came from Orpik, who made a nifty move at the blue line to elude Crimson defender Peter Starrett, cut to the net and sneak a shot short side that hit the left post then bounced off Hoyle’s back and in at 13:50 to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead through one.
“It was kind of a pool shot,” laughed Orpik, when asked to describe the goal.
In the second, Harvard gained control of the game and on a power play midway through grabbed the equalizer. After getting BC running around on the penalty kill, Matt McCollem fired a wrist shot from the slot against the grain on Muse that beat the netminder high blocker side.
It appeared the two clubs would head that way into the third when BC struck while skating four-on-four. Gibbons curled behind the net and made a quick centering pass to Bradford, who one-timed the puck from the right faceoff circle over the short-side shoulder of Hoyle with 26.4 seconds remaining to send the Eagles to the third with a 2-1 lead.
That goal gave the Eagles plenty of momentum heading. BC came out guns-a-blazing in the final frame, scoring twice early. Cam Atkinson scored on a rush, firing a puck high short side on Hoyle at 2:19. Matt Price fired home a rebound while falling to the ice at 5:01.
“Any time you get a goal late in the period, it’s really important,” said Orpik of Bradford’s second period tally. “Teams are kind of dwelling on the last five minutes of the period and it kind of dictates your momentum and your emotions going into the locker room.”
Harvard attempted to get back into the game and had its premier opportunity while on a five-on-three power play for 51 seconds with less than eight minutes remaining. After BC killed the first penalty, Donato called timeout and pulled his goaltender for a 6-on-4 advantage. Unable to score, the Crimson made a rare move and put their goaltender back in the game on the fly, putting an inquisitive look on the face of many of the 7,884 in attendance.
While that kill was a major turning point in the game, Donato was still more disappointed at his team’s start in the beginning of the third.
“We had some good chances [on the power play],” said Donato. “Really to me, could our power play have been more effective? Absolutely. But the story of the game wasn’t about BC’s great skill being too much for us. I thought they just wanted it a little more in the third period.”
With Harvard’s threat averted, Boston College closed out the scoring with 3:41 remaining when Orpik scored his second of the game. That goal signaled the end of the night for Hoyle, as junior John Riley saw mop up duty to finish the game without facing a shot.
The victory improves the Eagles to 8-4-1 overall on the season and may prove a key victory late in the season when the national tournament field is being selected. Harvard drops to 4-4-2 and is yet to win a road game (0-4-2) in the young season.
BC returns to action on Sunday when it travels to Dartmouth for another 4:00 p.m. start. Harvard is idle for the remainder of the holiday weekend before hosting North Dakota for two games next Friday and Saturday.