Hockey Notebook: BC Moves On

March 11, 2012

(Photo by Daniel Lee/Heights Editor)

By AJ Pottle

The unanimously No. 1 Boston College men’s hockey team (27-10-1) was able to defeat the UMASS Minutemen (13-19-5) by a score of 3-2 on Saturday night and advance to the Hockey East semifinals. The Eagles were forced to play from behind for the first time since Jan. 27 against UNH, but more spectacular play by junior goaltender Parker Milner highlighted the final win of the weekend series. The Eagles await the results in the rest of the Hockey East playoffs to see whom they will take on at the TD Garden on Friday for the semifinal matchup.

Playing From Behind

The Eagles found themselves in very unfamiliar territory when they fell behind early in the game Saturday night. BC had not trailed in a game for 687 minutes, a record dating back to the second period of the Jan. 27game against UNH, which the Eagles won 4-3 thanks to a Steven Whitney game-winner.  UMass was able to secure the 1-0 lead at the 2:54 mark of the first period thanks to an even strength goal by their speedster forward Conor Sheary. Sheary got the goal on a give and go pass with T.J. Syner behind the net, who was able to wrap around and find Sheary in the slot.

BC was able to answer the bell, but not without a break. During a penalty kill for Bill Arnold’s roughing call UMass’ second line center Steven Guzzo received a game misconduct on a hitting from behind call. UMass, who was already without its New York Rangers prospect Danny Hobbs, was forced to work with a short bench.

 “Tonight was a situation where one of their real leaders, a senior, Danny Hobbs had an injury and could not play,” head coach Jerry York said after the game. “That certainly was a factor in the game today because he is a top-level player.”

BC was able to get the equalizer during the four-on-four play, on a nice finish from junior forward Pat Mullane. Mullane took a pass from freshman forward Johnny Gaudreau and beat Massachusetts defenseman Joel Hanley to get a clear shot on goalie Kevin Boyle. Mullane finished on a forehand wrist shot.

“If we score, then we’ll try and get the next one,” York said, “but if they score it’s almost imperative that you answer the bell there because once you get behind, if you can’t get back into the game you’re not going to advance in this tournament.”

Milner on Fire

Milner has been the most elite goalie in Hockey East and maybe even all of college hockey over the last month of play, giving the Eagles a chance to win every time they step on the ice. Saturday night, and the weekend series as a whole, was no different. Milner gave up two goals on 33 shots and has only given up 16 goals during the Eagles’ 13-game winning streak.

Milner came up big on multiple occasions during Saturday night’s game after a showing on Friday, which York called “The Parker Milner Show.” Milner highlighted the victory with two key breakaway saves on T.J. Syner in the first period and on defenseman Colin Shea later on.

“You look at Parker’s numbers from February on, boy, no one matches him,” York said. “I don’t think anyone in the country, yet alone our own league … If you look at the 13 game stretch we’re on it’s remarkable what he’s done.”

The Road Ahead

The Eagles will have their hands full when they travel to the TD Garden on Friday night. Their opponent is yet to be determined, but regardless of the results on Sunday, York is just glad to have this series under his belt.

“UMASS is the quickest team we’ve played this year as far as skating ability,” York said. “Not just Syner and Sheary, but the team skates very well. I’m awfully excited about advancing. In our league, three of the four games are going into the third game.”

Depending on Sunday’s quarterfinal results, the Eagles will face one of four possible opponents; UNH, Merrimack, Maine, or Providence. BC took the season series against UNH, Merrimack, and Providence, but lost two of three against Maine including back-to-back wins by Maine. Milner and York both cited the Maine series in Orono as a turning point in their season.

“That bus ride back from Orono when we lost back to back games – that was difficult for us,” York said. “The kids just persevered through it and now we find ourselves going to the Garden this weekend to hopefully capture that Lou Lamoriello Trophy.”

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