“The way he usually scores is on a quick strike, a turnover or he’ll just be sitting in front of the net. He just has a nose for that. You can do all the scoring drills you want with a player, but that’s just instinct.”
— Ben Eaves on linemate Tony Voce
In the early minutes Boston College looked like a team coming off a 15-day layoff. The first five shots on goal all went to Ohio State, at which point it went on the power play. The Eagles killed that penalty impressively, but then took another.
Instead of Ohio State cashing in on the power play, however, Boston College cashed in on the penalty kill. More specifically, Tony Voce cashed in.
He used every inch of his vertical leap to knock down a J.D. Forrest clearing attempt near the far blue line and broke in alone on OSU netminder Mike Betz. Voce ripped the shot into the top of the net, a display of sniper sharpshooting at its best.
“That’s Ross DeRosa’s — our strength coach’s — box jumps right there,” Voce says, referring to a popular plyometric drill to increase explosive speed. “I think [J.D.] was just trying to dump it and I jumped up and tipped it to myself and was able to pick it up. I just took what Coach [Jerry York] calls an NHL shot.”
It certainly was in terms of velocity and precision, not to mention importance. As it turned out, the goal at 5:56 of the first period would be the only one of the game, giving Voce not only his second shorthanded tally, but also a team-leading 23rd overall and a fifth game-winner, also tops on BC.
Not bad for a guy more dominant on the high school gridiron than the sheet of ice.
“Tony came out of Lawrence Academy as a three-sport standout,” York says. “He probably was a better football player, but with his size — [5-8, 185 pounds] — he wasn’t going to play linebacker in most D-I programs. His hockey was just starting to get better and better, but I think he always considered himself a football running back.”
In many ways, Voce carries that football mentality onto the ice, whether it be his rough-and-tumble physical play, bullish intensity or willingness to take a beating in front of the net. Like Ricky Williams, the Miami Dolphins running back, Voce can beat you with finesse moves, speed or strength.
“I like to play with a little chip on my shoulder, getting involved in the corners and in front,” he says. “I’m not afraid to take a beating when you’ve got all the big defensemen there.”
Ask him if he considers himself a hockey equivalent of Ricky Williams, though, and he just laughs. “I’d rather be a safety and get to hit people.”
Voce hit both people and the backs of nets as a freshman, making an impression on the second line with Chuck Kobasew and Krys Kolanos. He finished with 26 points, the biggest of them being his assist on Krys Kolanos’ goal in overtime to win the 2001 national championship.
“On that Kobasew and Kolanos line, he wasn’t just a bookend,” York says. “He was a pretty good player on that side and of course made a terrific play on the OT goal over North Dakota. But he has gotten better.”
Of course, Voce will be shouldering a much larger share of the load in this year’s run at a national championship. The number seven scorer on the 2000-01 team, he’s now atop the Eagle goalscoring list and second to Ben Eaves in points.
He’s also on a hot streak at the best time of the year. He’s now scored goals in six of the last eight games, totaling eight goals.
When asked why he’s suddenly gotten so hot, Voce laughs and says, “We got new sticks finally.”
In truth, it was a message from assistant coach Mike Cavanaugh that did the trick.
“I didn’t have a very good middle of the season,” Voce says. “Coach Cav sat me down and said, ‘You’re one of the leaders on the team. You’ve got to start producing.'”
Voce grins. “I need to get yelled at. I’m not one of the rich kids, you know? I’m a city kid. You’ve got to yell at me and get in my head or otherwise I’m not going to listen. It was good. He yelled at me and told me I had to step up my game.”
With Ohio State disposed of thanks in large part to Voce, Boston College has the first of the four NCAA tournament wins it needs to earn a second national championship in three years. Or to put it in terms that Voce the football player might appreciate, it’s second down and goal to go.
And Coach Cav is warming up his vocal cords.