CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — One night after the No. 1 Boston College Eagles clinched a share of the Hockey East title, they made sure at home Saturday on Senior Night that there would be no need for the word “co” to accompany the word “champions.”
The Eagles used a determined effort on both sides of the puck to shut out Vermont on the final night of the regular season, 4-0, in front of 6,340 at Kelley Rink and in doing so, clinched the Hockey East regular-season title outright.
It is Boston College’s 12th regular season title, four more than arch-rival Boston University, which is second-best with eight all-time.
“It’s always special to win trophies,” said BC coach Jerry York. “Our aspirations are to go after more trophies [this season]. We’ll switch gears, just not right away.”
BC needed a win or Boston University loss – both of which happened on Saturday – but with the outright title still in doubt, the Eagles faced a last-place Vermont team that, for the second night in a row, played a game where the scoreboard wasn’t indicative of the team’s efforts.
Vermont gave the Eagles everything they could handle and stifled the powerhouse offense much of the game. Boston College, though, was opportunistic, getting two goals from its second line, solid defense and incredible goaltending when needed from Parker Milner, who won his and the team’s 11th straight game.
In an evenly played first period, the Eagles scored the only goal taking advantage of a neutral zone turnover by the Catamounts. Patch Alber tipped the puck ahead to Destry Straight, who skated two-on-one with Chris Kreider. Not even looking pass, Straight riffled a shot high blocker side on Vermont netminder Rob Madore (28 saves) at 19:06 for a 1-0 lead.
BC gave the Catamounts plenty of opportunities to even the game in the form of five power plays through two periods. Vermont, though, did little to put pressure on the BC net and after the fourth of those five bids, the Eagles pounced.
Seizing momentum from the penalty kill, the Eagles newly-assembled second line of Kreider, Straight and Kevin Hayes cycled the puck for nearly a minute. The conclusion was Kreider tucking a loose puck inside the right post at 6:50 of the middle frame to give BC a 2-0 lead.
In the third, Vermont pressed and created havoc in the neutral zone, but the ever-opportunistic Eagles scored twice, once on a perfect Johnny Gaudreau feed to Pat Mullane at 14:31, and against when Bill Arnold finished off the scoring into an empty net with 50 seconds remaining.
Milner (26 saves) shared the shutout with senior Chris Venti, a third-string goaltender much of his career who was given the opportunity to earn a rousing cheer on Senior Night.
With the regular season title in hand, BC can now focus on its first-round opponent, Massachusetts. Despite being the top seed in the playoffs, the Eagles will face a Minutemen team that won the season series from BC. It is the third straight year that BC and UMass will square off in the quarterfinals.
“As we prepare for UMass, it won’t be a 1-8 typical matchup,” said York. “This is a team that took two out of three from us in the regular season and is playing very solid hockey the last 3-4 weeks.
“They played very well against us. That wasn’t a fluke that they took two out of three. Mot many teams have done that this year.”