CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — When No. 14 Boston College entered this weekend’s two-game home series with Maine, one of the things that had plagued the team in a recent 0-4-2 stretch was its inability to put opponents away.
This weekend, the Eagles made a clear statement: They’re once again a team ready to go for the jugular.
For the second straight night, Boston College broke open a one-goal game, this time with two third-period goals to defeat the Black Bears, 4-1, in front of a matinee crowd of 6,833 at BC’s Kelley Rink.
Leading 2-1 entering the third, the Eagles stole momentum from Maine after the Black Bears had killed 1:57 of five-on-three BC power play when Barry Almeida finished off a beautiful 3-on-1 with Ben Smith and Tim Filangieri at 8:27 of the third. The Eagles closed out the game with 2:55 remaining when Brock Bradford notched his team-leading 16th goal of the season.
After nursing and surrendering one-goal leads in the final minute of play twice in as many weekends, Sunday’s knockout punch was a sight for sore eyes for BC.
“We did a lot better job playing with the lead,” said Bradford. “We were a lot more confident and we weren’t sitting back hoping to win the game. We kept the pressure on. It’s tough to lose when you’re in the offensive zone.
“Those two last-minute goals that we got scored on in the last two weeks, they’re tough to deal with but we learned something and are a better team because of it.”
For the second straight night, BC clawed out to an early lead only to see Maine come within a goal. Unlike Saturday, when BC boosted the lead to three early in the third, the Black Bears hung much closer as the game remained in the balance late.
Even after Almeida gave the Eagles a 3-1 lead, Maine’s chances remained. A post-whistle scrum saw BC’s Benn Ferriero pick up an extra four minutes in penalties that put the Eagles on an extended penalty kill. But Maine immediately nullified that when Chris Hahn was called for hitting from behind just 15 seconds into the power play.
The referees assessed Hahn a five-minute major and a game misconduct, ending the extended man-advantage.
“That could have been the turning point,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “We’ve had a strong power play lately but unfortunately the five-minute major eliminated that opportunity.”
A tight-checking first period saw the Eagles net the frame’s only goal. A night after scoring his first goal since October 18, Joe Whitney tallied in his second straight game, stealing a puck from a Black Bear defenseman at the top of the right faceoff circle and firing a shot high that beat Maine netminder Dave Wilson (22 saves) glove side at 13:17 to give BC a 1-0 lead.
The Maine defense did a good job in the opening 20 of keeping the Eagles to the perimeter and held a 7-4 advantage in shots despite trailing on the scoreboard.
Early in the second, the Eagles extended their lead on a fluke play when Tim Kunes floated a shot from the left point towards the goal. With multiple bodies in front, a Maine defender waved at the puck with his hand. Though he didn’t appear to redirect the puck, the hand motion along with the puck’s knuckling motion allowed it to elude Wilson over the left shoulder at 2:50.
The Black Bears used the power play to climb back into the game midway through the second. Just six seconds after Nick Petrecki was whistled for hitting from behind, Maine blueliner Mike Banwell walked in from the left point and unleashed a blast that beat Muse high on the glove side at 9:22 to pull the Black Bears within a goal at 2-1.
In the third, it appeared penalties might doom Maine as the club received a bench minor for too many men on the ice and then, just three seconds later, Jeff Dimmen was whistled for tripping. Maine, though, did a good job of pressuring the Eagles and Wilson made the necessary saves to keep the BC lead at one.
Shortly after the kill, Maine was pressing offensively when a bad bounce at the point for defenseman Josh Van Dyk turned into a 3-on-1 for BC. Ben Smith dumped the puck to the late man, Tim Filangieri, who returned the pass to Smith. Drawing both the defender and Wilson, Smith touch-passed the puck across to Almeida, who tapped it into the open net for the backbreaking goal.
Whitehead felt that not only did that goal change the momentum, it magnified the difference on the weekend for the two clubs. BC moved the puck and took shots when the opportunities appeared, while Maine was hesitant at times and didn’t take shots when they presented themselves.
“That one extra stickhandle, that one extra pass characterized our efforts this weekend,” said Whitehead, whose club is now winless (0-6-2) in its last eight.
After BC took the 4-1 lead, tempers flared, leading to a skirmish between BC’s Petrecki and Maine’s Keif Orsini. After Orsini came in high with the stick, Petrecki lost composure and blatantly head-butted Orsini. While Orsini was given a major for the high stick, Petrecki was given a minor for roughing, a major for head-butting and a game disqualification. The disqualification carries with it an automatic one-game suspension and can be reviewed by the league for further discipline.
Petrecki will miss Friday’s game against Providence for the Eagles, their only game next weekend before meeting Northeastern in the annual Beanpot on February 2.
Maine returns home next weekend for single games against Mass.-Lowell on Friday and Massachusetts on Saturday.