CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — A season ago as Boston College cruised to its fourth national championship, it was a sure-fire offense that paced the club. For the first six weeks of the 2010-11 campaign, though, that offense was, for the most part, missing.
That is until Friday.
In a rematch of last year’s Hockey East championship against Maine, a game the Eagles won 7-6 in overtime, Boston College’s offense was equally as explosive, though the game was hardly as suspenseful as the No. 10 Eagles routed the No. 3 Black Bears, 4-0, at BC’s Kelley Rink.
The game was the opposite of how the early season has developed for both teams. BC has struggled to score, netting four or more goals just twice, while the Black Bears have been an offensive juggernaut, averaging 4.10 goals per game.
A major factor, though, in that turnabout was special teams. Maine entered the game with a power play that scored 21.9 percent of the time but on Friday was 0-for-7 against the Eagles, allowing a shorthanded goal in the process. BC
entered a respectable 18.3 percent on the power play but buried two goals with the man advantage on Friday in just four chances.
“Special teams obviously cost us tonight,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “It’s been a strength of ours but certainly not tonight it wasn’t. We were 0-for-7 on the power play. They were 2-for-4.”
A major part of the special teams play was a penalty shot for Maine’s Gustav Nyquist in which BC netminder John Muse denied the former Hobey Baker finalist, and an extended 5-on-3 in which the Eagles kept the Maine power play to the perimeter.
“It gave us a lot momentum, the penalty shot, but then the 5-on-3, they had full possession for a full minute-and-a-half, but Patrick Wey especially stood out in that span, blocking shots,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “We did a nice job
lining up on the puck, it was almost like having another goaltender out there.”
Goaltending was also a major factor in the game. BC’s John Muse recorded his third shutout of the season, stopping all 32 Black Bears shots, while Maine rookie Dan Sullivan (14 saves), a stalwart in net in the early going struggled
at times and was pulled at 7:13 of the third after allowing BC’s fourth goal. Shawn Sirman (six saves) finished the game in net for the Black Bears.
“It was not his best,” said Whitehead of Sullivan. “He’s been so consistent, so sharp for us. But a goalie makes a mistake and everyone notices. A lot of guys have made mistakes in previous games and he’s covered for us all season.”
Whitehead wouldn’t say whether or not Sullivan or Sirman, or possibly even third-string goaltender Martin Ouellette, dressed for Friday’s game, will be in net on Sunday.
Maine came out of the gates with speed and took the play to the Eagles early. Despite a five-minute major to Joey Diamond for boarding, the Black Bears still had the best early opportunity. Nyquist’s drew the penalty shot after Joe
Whitney hooked him on a shorthanded breakaway. The talented junior, though, couldn’t fool Muse, who flashed his right pad to counter Nyquist’s move.
“[Nyquist] came down pretty slow, which was pretty surprising,” said Muse. “I tried to let him make the first move and luckily I stayed with him and got a pad on it.”
Later in the frame, Maine took back-to-back penalties to give BC a 70-second 5-on-3 power play. The Eagles took just 33 seconds to capitalize as Paul Carey redirected Whitney’s centering pass over Sullivan’s shoulder for a 1-0 lead.
The Black Bears had their chance to answer with a late power play. Instead, Sullivan made an ill-advised pass behind the net that led to an easy Brian Gibbons goal at 18:58.
In the second little improved for Maine. Tommy Atkinson scored the frame’s only goal—the first of his career—blasting a rebound between Sullivan’s legs at 7:34.
It was late in the frame that Maine had a 5-on-3 for 1:44, but the Eagles penalty kill looked unbeatable, keeping most chances to the outside and clearing the puck multiple times.
BC added a power-play goal by Pat Mullane in the third to account for the 4-0 final.
The loss for Maine is was its first in league play and first since a 3-2 loss at Michigan State on October 15. The Black Bears fall to 6-2-3 overall and 4-1-1 in Hockey East.
The Eagles improve to 7-4-0 (5-3-0 Hockey East) and have now posted four victories in games following losses.
The two teams will square off in the rematch on Sunday at 1 p.m.