CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Entering the game, there was the faint appearance of a stumble.
After a rousing start to the season offensively (averaging 5.5 goals per game in the first nine games of the season), there was a bit of a lull for Boston College.
The Eagles had just one win in the last four games leading into Friday night’s tilt against New Hampshire.
But despite being outshot 41-21, the Eagles rounded back into form with four second period goals, pounding the Wildcats 6-2 in front of 6,277 at Conte Forum.
“Our team was very opportunistic,” BC coach Jerry York remarked. “We had some chances and we didn’t miss many. If we had chances, it [became] a red light. We had some excellent chances and capitalized on them.”
The game started 15 minutes behind schedule after the Wildcats’ team bus got caught in rush-hour traffic and it appeared in the opening five minutes that the Wildcats’ skating legs were still on the bus.
After a weak shot from Brett Pesce was blocked at the blue line, Johnny Gaudreau pounced in the neutral zone. Gaudreau stepped in front of Pesce and broke away, deking past the outstretched right pad of Casey DeSmith to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
“We did a terrible job backchecking on the rush,” UNH coach Dick Umile lamented. “They got a breakaway. Look who got the breakaway. We let him get behind us. That’s not a good plan.”
Despite the ease of the breakaway, the grinding pace of play for UNH developed into an asset for the Wildcats as the period wore on. In fact, it’s fair to say the Wildcats dominated puck possession throughout the game. A suffocating forecheck kept the puck in the attacking zone for the bulk of the period, leading to two Eagles penalties and a sense that the game was leaning in their favor after the first period.
And that was true. But only for the next 66 seconds.
That was how long it took for the Eagles to relinquish the lead, then snatch it right back. After Jeff Silengo wired a snap shot top shelf in the first 18 seconds of the period, the Eagles responded less than a minute later with Steve Santini pouncing on a DeSmith rebound.
So it was back to the grind for the Wildcats and despite the attacking zone pressure, the Eagles began to, one-by-one, pick their spots and take advantage of gaffes.
The giveaways piled up, the sloppy puckhandling from DeSmith became more perilous and as the game passed the midway mark, the Eagles finally cashed in, scoring three goals in 100 seconds to put the game to bed.
All had similar characteristics – short bursts in the offensive zone, preceded by a UNH turnover or rebound in a dangerous area. Austin Cangelosi, Teddy Doherty and Kevin Hayes all scored without truly having established any presence in the offensive zone.
“From the net out, we didn’t play well defensively,” Umile said. “We just gave it to them in the second period.”
To give credit to Boston College, they were yet again opportunistic in their opportunities, scoring five times on DeSmith with just 17 shots, with all but one (the Gaudreau breakaway) coming against the run of play.
Overshadowed in the offensive outburst for BC was the effort from Brian Billett, who settled in after BC regained the lead in the second period, posting an impressive 39 saves in the win.
“Brian made some outstanding saves,” York said. “New Hampshire had the puck an awful lot and were very creative in the offensive zone, which resulted in some excellent grade-’A’ chances against us, but I thought Brian was excellent in goal.”
The win allowed BC to leapfrog UNH into second place in Hockey East, under vastly different circumstances from years past, when these two teams would regularly meet with the regular season title in the balance.