With Chuck Kobasew scoring twice in Boston College’s 4-2 win over Michigan and Ben Eaves adding another conventional goal along with an empty-netter, the game’s headliners were easy to identify. Just a shade behind the two was goaltender Scott Clemmensen, who stopped 31 of 33 shots to set an all-time Frozen Four career save record. Goaltenders and goalscorers invariably get the headlines.
However, the stars who put Kobasew and Eaves in a position to score and also kept the high-powered Wolverines away from Clemmensen are more easily overlooked. Senior defensemen Rob Scuderi and Bobby Allen combined to assist on every Boston College goal other than the open-netter and none of the assists was cheap.
Halfway into the first period, the Eagles had generated numerous quality opportunities, but failed to cash in on any of them until Scuderi’s outlet pass from the defensive zone sprung Tony Voce and Kobasew on a two-on-one that Kobasew converted.
On the power play four minutes later, Allen’s shot into traffic was deflected nicely by Ben Eaves into the top of the net.
After Scuderi absorbed a second-period hit along the boards that put Mike Komisarek in the penalty box for roughing, the defenseman assisted on the power-play goal by putting a perfect pass to Kobasew on the left post, where he put the game-winner past Michigan netminder Josh Blackburn.
“I tapped my stick down a couple times and gave him a holler and he gave me a great pass right on my tape,” said Kobasew.
— BC defenseman Bobby Allen, on the Eagle blueliners’ philosophy of play
Arguably, the Eagles’ defensemen who quarterback the power play and the blueliners’ collective ability to move the puck out of the defensive zone in an almost forecheck-proof fashion are major, but mostly overlooked, reasons why the Eagles feature an offense whose explosiveness is second to none.
“They do a great job [on the power play] of keeping the puck in when the opposing team tries to clear it,” said Kobasew. “And they also do a great job of making the great move at the blue line getting the puck down to the net so our forwards can outman them and bang something home.”
According to Allen, though, it’s all in a day’s work.
“The team relies on us to do those things,” he said. “We don’t really want the recognition. It’s pretty easy when you have forwards like we do. We just give them the puck. They’re the ones that create all the chances.”
Allen, for his part, has gotten about as much recognition as a defenseman is likely to get. Namely, not a lot of headlines, but still selections as a First-Team East All-American, First-Team All-Hockey East and Hockey East’s Defensive Defenseman of the Year.
On the other hand, Scuderi — known to his teammates as Scud — remains one of the sport’s best kept secrets. Other than being an All-Hockey East honorable mention, his statistical claim to fame is that he holds the Boston College record for career games played with 168, going on 169.
“Bobby Allen is a First-Team All-American who has gotten a lot of accolades and is going to have a terrific career with the Boston Bruins,” said BC coach Jerry York. “He’s been a real catalyst for us.
“[But] Rob Scuderi has been a real underappreciated player. He’s just gotten better and better and is playing as well as any defenseman I’ve coached. He’s very, very strong on his feet and makes good plays.
“He’ll be a good addition to Pittsburgh’s lineup next year. He’s an NHL-caliber player.”
Allen shares the view that Scuderi is a far better player than his short list of press clippings would indicate.
“He’s the most underrated player — or one of the most — in the country,” says Allen. “He’s played like an all-star the entire season but it seems that he doesn’t get credit for it because he plays such a simple game. I wish people would realize the value he adds to our team.
“Every game in and game out, he’s always there. He’s a tremendous leader on our team.”
Scuderi arrived on the BC campus with little fanfare compared to Mike Mottau the year before him and Allen in his own class. Quietly, though, he has emerged as a defenseman of significant stature.
“I came in without too many expectations, but they gave me a chance to play and I hope to have made the best of it,” he said. “Maybe this year I’ve added a little more offense and improved in some areas. No one plays a perfect game, so there are always some things to work on and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
As for his own impressive, although largely unheralded, game on this evening, Scuderi passed the praise back to his teammates, putting it right on their tape just as he did with the puck to Kobasew in the second period.
“I just happened to get the breaks tonight,” he said. “Chuck is great at getting open. He usually lets you know when he’s open, too. I’m pretty sure that everyone in the building heard his stick bang. I fed the puck to him and he did what he does best, and that’s bury the puck.”
Scuderi is happy just to do his job, help BC win and let others get noticed. Recognition is no big deal.
“It would be different if the top guys who did get recognized were a bunch of prima donnas, but they are just such great team guys that there’s nothing to be jealous of,” he said. “Gionta and Allen and all the people that get a lot of recognition are just such great team guys that it’s tough to be mad at anybody. We have a great team chemistry and no one falls into the trap of being a prima donna.”
Least of all Scuderi, the quietest star behind the headlines, who now cares only about a win for Boston College on Saturday.