CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Many may think that Saturday’s football game between Boston College and Notre Dame will be the highlight of the weekend on the BC campus. It will have to be one legendary game, though, to top the undercard between the BC and Notre Dame hockey teams.
In a hard-hitting, end-to-end battle between these two rivals, the top-ranked Eagles (7-1-0, 6-1-0 Hockey East) held off an all-out third period barrage from the No. 7 Fighting Irish (6-3-0, 3-1-0-0 CCHA), hanging on for a 3-1 victory in front of a sold-out Kelley Rink. The win, the seventh straight for the Eagles, earns them the Lefty Smith-Snooks Kelley trophy, given annually to the winner of the BC-Notre Dame game.
After spotting BC a 2-0 lead on second-period goals by Pat Mullane and Johnny Gaudreau, the Irish came out full force in the third. At 7:10, Thomas DaPauli got his team within a goal, poking the rebound of a Peter Schneider shot past BC netminder Parker Milner (19 saves).
After that, Notre Dame had two cracks at the power play, and each time nearly drew even. Jeff Costello was stopped by Milner on a breakaway with 7:31 remaining and then, with just 3:12 left, Milner robbed defenseman Stephen Johns with a glove save at the right post.
Gaudreau put an end to things with an empty-net goal with 3.3 second left.
“It was a very well-played game from both sides,” said BC coach Jerry York. “There was a lot of good hockey being played out there, whether it was defensive hockey or offensively moving the puck very well.”
If there was one player who was a difference-maker in the game, it was Gaudreau. Besides his two goals, he often times turned on a different speed, moving around Notre Dame defenders and three times forcing the Irish to haul him down, drawing penalties.
“Johnny played outstanding,” said York. “He was hard to control tonight, and he drew a lot of penalties because he had the puck.”
Friday marked the 13th time that the BC and Notre Dame hockey teams squared off the night before the two schools’ football teams meet in their historic rivalry game. BC is a heavy underdog on Saturday against an undefeated Irish squad, and if history has any bearing, the Irish will prevail. BC football has won just once (in 2001) after a BC hockey victory in the classic series dubbed “The Holy War.”
After a scoreless, yet spirited, first period, the Eagles had the best chance to get on the board in the opening minute of the second. BC began the period killing a five-on-three Notre Dame power play and, as the first penalty expired, Steven Whitney came onto the ice and took a home run pass, skating in alone from the blue line. Making a few moves too many, Irish goaltender Steven Summerhays (19 saves) was able to stand tall and make the stop.
Less than four minutes later though, the Irish netminder wasn’t as lucky. Just seconds after the two teams received matching minors, BC ran what seemed like a faceoff play from its defensive zone. After BC won the draw, Mullane darted out of the zone. Defenseman Patrick Wey immediately threw a pass to center ice, finding Mullane in stride. He sprinted down ice and, not getting fancy, dropped his shoulder and stuffed the puck five-hole to give the Eagles the 1-0 lead at 4:41.
Though the play looked completely choreographed, Mullane said that wasn’t the case.
“I actually got kicked out of that draw [as center],” said Mullane. “I was frustrated about it. I don’t know where the puck went but it ended up on Pat Wey’s stick and I saw that lane and shot out there.”
Late in the frame, Gaudreau extended the lead. Breaking in two-on-one, the sophomore shrugged off the defenseman and walked in on Summerhays, firing a shot high on the short side, perfectly picking the upper corner at 16:30 for the 2-0 lead.
After outshooting the Eagles, 9-4, in the first period, the Irish were held to just two shots in the second compared to BC’s 12.
“The second period was a concern of mine; it’s been a problem for us all season,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “We slept through the whole period, frankly. You can’t play 40-minute hockey games and beat a team like [BC].”