GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Who needs an exhibition game?
Boston College did not have that exhibition tune-up like so many other teams around college hockey did last weekend. Nevertheless, the Eagles put together another dominating performance Saturday, finishing off the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, 6-2, in decisive fashion to clinch the Icebreaker championship in front of 9,420 at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.
Heading into this weekend’s tournament, Eagles coach Jerry York said he was simply trying some different line combinations, but his early season experimentation seems to have paid off quickly. The Eagles’ third line of Johnny Gaudreau, Pat Mullane, and Steven Whitney really seemed to click, and the scoresheet reflected as much.
“They seemed to move pucks very well,” York said. “There are a lot of similarities between Pat, Steven and Johnny. I think we’ll keep them there.”
The freshman Gaudreau, from Carneys Point, N.J., put up four points (one goal, three assists) in a breakout performance.
“He’s got some special qualities; we recognized that in the preseason,” York said. “But to do that on this stage was pretty impressive.”
Mullane scored the first of his two goals 2:21 into the first. A taste of things to come, it was a smart drop pass from Gaudreau that made the goal happen.
In the first period however, UND was able to hold serve. Danny Kristo’s quick pass to Corban Knight on a two-on-one short-handed rush evened the score.
Early in the second, sophomore defenseman Derek Forbort gave the Sioux a brief 2-1 lead at 5:23. His first career goal was a power play shot from the point.
The Eagles then overwhelmed the Sioux with their textbook speed, scoring four goals and dominating the balance of second period.
Chris Kreider tied the game back up with a rebound goal off the left post, and six minutes later Gaudreau scored the go-ahead goal at 13:16 to capture the lead and the momentum by tapping in a centering pass from Bill Arnold.
“The puck moves very quickly with us,” York said. “That helps our team speed. It’s not a race from goal line to goal line. When the puck moves and does a lot of the work, we can play at a high pace.”
Mullane added his second goal on a beautiful one-timer from the slot. Arnold followed up with a back-breaker of a goal that was directed past Sioux goaltender Aaron Dell (10 saves) off the skate of North Dakota’s Mario Lamoureux.
That speed was just too much for the Sioux to handle, at least in the passive state that the usually-formidable defense was in Saturday night.
“Positionally, we were around those plays,” said Sioux coach Dave Hakstol. “But you need to be tenacious on sticks and make those plays. We didn’t do that. Our coverage wasn’t good enough for that four-minute span when they scored three goals. That absolutely changed the complexion of the game.”
Dell was pulled after that goal, giving way to Brad Eidsness. Eidsness had seven saves, but gave up the final goal, a snipe from the right circle by Whitney at 15:15 in the third.
Hakstol said he was impressed with the limited play of Eidsness, but whether that has sparked a goalie controversy in Grand Forks remains to be seen.
“I’m not making decisions 10 minutes after a difficult loss, but he probably earned himself some minutes and a start next weekend,” he said.
As for Boston College, York sees the tournament win as a good first step.
“We talked about it: there are six trophies available to us this year, and we won this one,” he said. “It’s kind of a stepping stone. They all get bigger as the year goes on.”
Boston College’s Parker Milner had 22 saves for his second win. Milner, Kreider, Arnold, Patch Alber and Tommy Cross all were named to the Icebreaker All-Tournament team from Boston College, along with North Dakota’s Brock Nelson and Michigan State’s Lee Reimer.