Turnabout is goaltender’s play: BC rookie Billett shines in first Hockey East game

BOSTON — When Boston College rookie goaltender Brian Billett arrived on campus, he did so hungry to get the chance to play.

Little did he know that his first-ever Hockey East start would come in the hostile environment of archrival Boston University’s Agganis Arena. But a week after earning his first start and was named Hockey East  rookie of the week, BC head coach Jerry York gave Billett the nod, hoping to shake things up after BC’s ugly 5-3 loss at home.

“It was unimaginable,” said Billett of the start. “It’s great to start your [Hockey East] career against your biggest rival.”

Billett made his first start exactly a week ago, heading to New Haven, Conn., to take on nationally-ranked Yale. In that game, Billett made 31 saves and kept the Eagles in the game when they trailed 2-0. BC rallied and scoring the tying and game-winning goals in the final three minutes for the rookie’s first career victory.

Saturday he one-upped that performance. Billett stopped 40 of 41 BU shots and took control of a game that finished 6-1 in favor of the Eagles but was hardly that lopsided. Billett stopped all 22 shots he faced in the middle period, something that turned out to be a turning point in the game. BC was outshot 22-8 in the second but scored four times to turn a 1-1 tie through 20 into a 5-1 lead heading to the third.

“He looked pretty solid,” said BU head coach Jack Parker of Billett, who also added his first-career point, an assist on Bill Arnold’s goal that made it 5-1. “Not only was he stopping the puck but he was very poised. He looked very relaxed.”

The rookie netminder agreed, saying that once he began seeing shots, he settled in.

“The more I got a feel of the puck, the more comfortable I felt,” said Billett. “It’s just as important to be mentally strong as you are physically.”

Things haven’t been completely smooth for the rookie since arriving on campus this past fall. York said he was concerned about Billett when he arrived at training camp.

“He started very slow with us,” said York, citing poor conditioning on arrival for the freshman. “We had some major concerns that first few weeks of practice.”

York still has goaltending concerns but now it is one a coach wants to have: the choice between two solid tenders.

Asked if Parker Milner, who started the first 13 games for the Eagles, was still his number one, York paused.

“We don’t want to get into [talking about which goalie is number one],” said York. “The hot goalie will play.”

Still, it has to be refreshing for York to know that he has two very solid options if needed in the season’s second half.