DURHAM, N.H. — Jerry York and the Boston College Eagles proved to the country Saturday night that they still have a few tricks up their sleeves, holding on to a 1-0 lead to secure a sweep of New Hampshire in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East tournament.
Sitting nine spots behind UNH in the rankings and three seeds below in the league standings made no difference to the Eagles, as they were able to focus and take full advantage of the blank slate presented to them in the playoffs. BC junior Matt Price nabbed the game-winner early in the first period while goalie John Muse made 31 saves for his third shutout of the season.
“We’re trying to focus on what we can do and not worry about what other people are thinking about our seed or anything else,” said Price. “We do what we want to do; come out and play a good game ourselves and let everything else take care of itself.”
York added, “I thought last night’s game was kind of out of character for both teams. It was a crazy college hockey game, 5-3,” he said. “Tonight’s game was very well played. I thought both goaltenders were outstanding; I mean some of the saves that Foster made, some of the saves that Johnny Muse made, were really something special. Who would have thought that the early goal by Matt Price would hold up for the rest of the game? That was a good jump start for us.”
Both teams skated a fast, back and forth battle, but BC managed the lone goal of the night in the opening stanza. Price used his puck-handling skills to dodge a defender from the left point and then beat Foster [22 saves] with his backhand to tally his eighth goal of the season at 6:12 and give the Eagles what would be their eventual ticket to the TD Banknorth Garden.
“I think it all started with Benny Ferriero,” Price said. “He finished a check, started the whole play. Turn over to the ‘D,’ made a nice pass up to Kuch [Kyle Kucharski] who then kind of just chipped one over to me. Then he drew both their ‘D’ back into the net and I was just able to come across and curl one in far side of the ‘D.’”
The Wildcats outshot the Eagles 31 to 23, but struggled to generate a point with Muse, the HE Defensive Player of the Week, in net.
“I’m not disappointed with our effort tonight,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “I told them going into the game we needed to do a better job defensively. I thought we competed hard defensively, and both goaltenders I thought played well. We just didn’t get it done offensively.”
The rest of the game was scoreless, but the claws came out five minutes into the second period when a brawl broke out in front of the Eagles’ net. The Wildcats shot multiple times, grabbing the rebounds through the crowd, but couldn’t get it past Muse before the whistle blew.
BC’s Nick Petrecki threw punches with Bobby Butler, falling to the ice and taking the ref down with them. That was enough to keep them in the box for a while, as they both got two minutes for roughing, two for unsportsmanlike conduct, and 10 for game misconduct. Taking a seat with them at 5:03 was Wildcat Danny Dries and Eagles’ rookie Cam Atkinson for roughing.
During the early minutes of the second, UNH’s power play tried to get it done. With the man-advantage, Kevin Kapstad skated from the right point and rifled a shot at Muse, but the Wildcat was denied. A few seconds later there was a flurry where Kapstad got off two more shots, one blocked by a skater and one saved by Muse, and then the puck was stopped again when Dries tried to push it in off a rebound at the crease.
At the halfway mark, Wildcat Paul Thompson shot from the left doorstep on a power play, but Muse deflected the puck, giving control to Peter LeBlanc in the slot. LeBlanc’s shot was then blocked by a BC defender.
“I thought the second period on the power play we had our chances,” said Umile. “Muse came up with some great saves, but Brian played well, I’m not taking nothing away from what Foster did, he kept it a 1-0 game. We had our chances in the second period and a couple in the third.”
“It obviously feels real nice,” said Muse. “But you know it wasn’t just me, it was a lot of the guys too. The defensemen did a real good job keeping everything to the outside, and the forwards did all they could to backcheck and limit their chances and luckily we got away with a win.”
With less than three minutes to go in the final period, UNH had their last will call on the power play when Kucharski was called for hooking, but the BC penalty kill held its own.
“We talked about having the ‘glass jaw’ and having a ‘steel jaw’ prior to the game,” York said. “And you know, a steel jaw can take a hit and can stay in, but the glass jaw you fall apart when something happens. That [last penalty kill] was the perfect example; we’re trying to defend a 1-0 lead and all of a sudden we’re in the penalty kill situation and I thought we showed that kind of steel jaw and resiliency there. We made some good blocks, good plays, and good clears there.”
Despite being knocked out of the Hockey East Tournament for the first time in seven years, the Wildcats, now 19-12-5, still have a good chance at getting a spot in the 2009 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship.
“There’s no guarantees, I told the team,” said Umile. “I’m banking on the fact that we’re going to get in, but you just never know. We’ll take a couple days off and get back at it Tuesday.”
While the Wildcats wait for the NCAA announcement on March 22nd, the Eagles will advance to the TD Banknorth Garden for the semifinals next weekend, their opponent pending on the results of Sunday’s third quarterfinal match ups between BU/Maine and Northeastern/Massachusetts.
York added, “We’ve had a kind of up and down season, that’s why we have to win this thing to get to nationals. I wish we were one of the four teams I talked about [BU, Northeastern, UNH, Vermont] that could play with house money, but we don’t have any; we’ve got to win out here.”