DENVER — The last time the St. Lawrence Saints beat the No. 5 Boston College Eagles was 1982. Since then, the Eagles had gone 11-0-2. So when the Eagles went up 2-0 midway through the second period, it looked to be more of the usual. However, a short-handed goal by Travis Vermeulen sparked a rally, and the Saints scored five unanswered goals to top BC 5-2.
“I thought our line that got the short-handed goal, Vermeulen and Curran, have just been workhouses for us for four years and it didn’t look like the altitude affected them at all,” said Saints’ coach Joe Marsh. “It’s a huge win for us; I’ve never been part of a St. Lawrence team that’s beaten Boston College. It’s an unbelievable opportunity to not send a message to anyone but ourselves.”
The Eagles seemed to have more jump in the first few minutes, narrowly missing converting on a few chances. However, the Saints’ forecheck started to generate pressure, and the Eagles took three consecutive minor penalties. Despite the extended power play time, St. Lawrence couldn’t convert.
“I thought St. Lawrence played better than us,” said Eagles’ coach Jerry York.
With time winding down in the first period, the Eagles got on the board on a pretty play that started with a lucky break. Eagles’ defenseman Patrick Wey sent the puck out of the zone down the ice, but no icing was called. Paul Carey got to the puck behind the net and fought off a Saints’ defender, getting the puck to Ben Smith, who stepped out from behind the goal line and sent a pass to Brian Gibbons in the right circle. Gibbons one-timed the pass high short side by Kain Tisi at 18:47.
Right after the goal, the Saints’ Mark Armstrong was whistled for hooking, putting the Eagles on a power play. They couldn’t convert before the end of the period, and the penalty carried over to the start of the second. The Saints kept the Eagles from getting a shot, and then as the penalty expired, Armstrong drew a penalty on Wey for hooking, but the Saints couldn’t score.
The Eagles finally got their power play untracked at the midway point of the period. With Kyle Flanagan in the box, Cam Atkinson ripped a one-time shot off the left post from the left circle. After the Saints cleared, the Eagles rushed back up ice and Joe Whitney took a shot that bounced off the boards behind the net and came to Atkinson, who, from almost the same spot he hit the post from, fired a one-timer high stick side at 11:55 to give the Eagles a two-goal lead.
With a golden chance to put the game out of reach a couple minutes later on a power play, the Eagles instead let the Saints back in it. A turnover at the offensive blue line led to a two-on-one rush the other way, with Alex Curran carrying the puck up the right side. Just past the right circle, he slid a pass to Vermeulen on the far post, who tapped it home past Eagles’ goalie Parker Milner at 14:18.
“That was huge, and I think psychologically we know they’re a real good team and we’re down 2-0, and I said to my assistant ‘Watch out now.’,” said Marsh.
The Eagles got another chance on a power play late and a chance to get their two-goal lead back, and instead, as the power play ended, the Saints tied it up when Jeff Caister buried a rebound of a Vermeulen shot in the slot past Milner at 17:18.
The Saints had a golden chance to take the lead when they were awarded a penalty shot early in the third. Jake Klancher took the shot, skating down the middle and trying to beat Milner low stick side, but Milner got a pad on it.
Before the Eagles could seize momentum from the save, the Saints struck right off the faceoff when Curan picked up the puck off a pass from Vermeulen in the slot and fired a shot high glove side past Milner at 4:12.
“It’s funny, we talk about how energy from one line might not pay off for that line, but might pay off for a line a shift or two down the road,” said Marsh. “We told the guy who missed the penalty shot not to worry about it. The fact that we had a good bid like that sometimes get the other lines going as well.”
“They miss the penalty shot, I thought we’d get a surge,” said York. “Usually you make that save, the momentum swings back to the team that avoids that bullet.
Just over a minute later, the Eagles’ defense made a bad play, chasing the puck behind the net, allowing Mike McKenzie to get the puck to Alex Bogosian alone at the left post. Bogosian banked it past Milner off the left post at 5:49.
“He’d like that back,” said York of Milner. “It went off the pipe.”
At the midway point of the third, the Eagles got their chance when three penalties were called on the Saints in a one-minute span, giving the Eagles extended five-on-three power play time, but Tisi made a couple of big saves, including one on a Cam Atkinson shot from the left circle.
“We were trying to get some shots, and we just refused to shoot the puck when we had open shots,” said York. “We need to shoot more, especially five-on-three, four-on-three.”
“We have to get better at that,” said Marsh, of the penalties. “He (Tisi) played great. I thought he played really, really well.”
York pulled Milner with over two minutes remaining, looking to spark the rally, but Nick Pitsikoulis scored an empty-net goal from the left side boards at 18:17 to seal the win.
“The plays that worked for us were born of hard work,” said Marsh. “Vermeulen’s line was clearly responsible for the win, in terms of the points they put up and the energy they created.”