After a dominating performance Friday night against No. 6 Denver, Eagles coach Jerry York talked about areas No. 1 Boston College could improve on, singling out penalties as one particular aspect of the game they needed to work on. Though BC took nine penalties Saturday night, including a five-minute major, the Eagles killed all nine en route to shutting out Denver 3-0 before 6,027 fans at Magness Arena. Sophomore Parker Milner stopped 20 shots while recording his first career shutout.
“I think we responded really well, and it’s a great start to our season,” said Milner. “The atmosphere, second game in Denver, especially beating them in the first, it’s a pretty tough one to get. I’m pretty pleased with how our guys played. The penalty kill was really on. I had to make routine saves all night; they made it really easy for me.”
The Eagles won the first game of the series by capitalizing on neutral zone turnovers with their speed. Barely had the game begun before the Eagles did it again. A turnover by the Denver defense was intercepted by Jimmy Hayes, who skated down the right side boards and fired a sharply-angled wrist shot from the bottom of the circle that beat Pioneers goalie Sam Brittain five-hole.
“Jimmy Hayes picked off that pass in the neutral zone and we countered,” said York. “It was good positioning by him, and he finished it off.”
Though the Eagles outshot the Pioneers 13-8 in the period, they couldn’t build on their lead, and Milner had to make several tough saves, and a Drew Shore deflection barely missed wide right.
“Boston College, they made it very difficult for us,” said Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky. “As a team, they are the gold standard right now. I can’t see anybody any better than that team, and they certainly took away a lot of our options.”
The Pioneers came out with more sustained pressure in the second period, helped by a series of penalties on the Eagles, including a knee-on-knee call on Brian Gibbons, but it was still BC who got the only goal of the period. Duing a four-on-four, Tommy Cross skated the puck up the right side boards and cut toward the middle after he crossed the blue line. Though he was surrounded by three Denver skaters, he got off a quick wrist shot that beat Brittain top corner glove side at 9:15.
“I think if we’re going to be successful, that’s going to have to be the mantra,” said York of his team’s balanced scoring. “You can’t just depend on three guys to score all the goals. And we’re still relatively young; we only have three seniors. Everybody talks about our veterans; we have a lot of experience, but we’re not overly heavy on the senior class.”
At the other end, even when Denver got some pressure, it seemed like they couldn’t get the puck to settle down, and that they were going for the perfect shot. On the weekend, the Pioneers went 0-for-17 on the power play.
“Of all the things we did tonight, that was probably our biggest disappointment,” said Gwozdecky. “I think our power play didn’t adjust as well as we need to. Certainly pucks from the perimeter to the net needs to be more of a focus for us, as opposed to trying to make a specific play. BC did a terrific job.”
Denver’s offensive struggles continued in the third period. Despite having seven minutes of uniterupted power play time, including a five-minute major and game misconduct to Philip Samuelsson for contact to the head, the Pioneers were kept to the outside, and the Eagles outshot Denver 15-4 in the period while having only 2:42 of power play.
“I thought we did an excellent job on the PK,” said York. “We blocked some shots, and we got terrific saves by the goaltender. I thought they had good puck movement, and I never felt comfortable when they were on the power play. Our ability to block shots, and cut down passing lanes, but also get big saves from Parker.”
With four minutes left, Gwozdecky pulled Brittain to try and generate some offense, but it was to no avail. With 16.2 seconds left in the game, Cam Atkinson added an empty-net tally, streaking up the left boards and diving to backhand the puck past the Denver backchecker.
“I think we’ll sit back and analyze the series, but I thought our penalty killing was outstanding, and our compete level was excellent over both games, especially tonight down a man for five minutes,” said York.