Eagles Rely on Schneider, Luck
by Tom Burke/CHN Senior Writer
WORCESTER, Mass. There were less than two minutes to play and the game already decided when Ryan Jones, Miami's superb first line left winger, burst into the Boston College zone unmolested and flung yet another shot at the Eagles' sophomore goalie Cory Schneider.
The red-headed netminder snagged the puck and froze it, preserving his seventh shutout of the year. Jones peeled off toward the corner in utter frustration and tried to snap his hockey stick across his knee. No luck. But you could hardly blame the guy for trying.
Boston College soon scored its second empty-net goal to make the final margin 5-0, sending the Red Hawks packing and earning a rematch with Boston University in the Northeast Regional final. The Terriers had no problem disposing of Nebraska-Omaha, 9-2, in the evening's first game.
Much earlier in the game, midway through the first period, Jones had managed to break his stick while snapping off a wrist shot from the inner lip of the faceoff circle. Unguarded, he took a pass from the backboards and had Schneider all to himself. But instead of leaping off Jones' stick blade to the near side, the puck dribbled harmlessly away as the blade broke off and skittered into the slot.
If ever there were an omen of things to come, that non-shot was it. Most of Schneider's 12 saves in the first frame were on bids at point-blank range, but the best potential scoring opportunity was the shot not taken by Jones. Schneider also foiled Marty Guerin, Taylor Hustead, Justin Mercier, Matt Christie and Nino Musitelli from close in.
"I guess it just wasn't meant to be," sighed Jones when asked about the broken stick at the post-game press conference.
It almost seemed that the entire RedHawks team sensed it would not be their night after peppering Schneider fruitlessly for the first 20 minutes. They had a large edge in play in the period but nothing to show for it, thanks both to Schneider and to rotten luck. The Eagle skaters regrouped after the first intermission and didn't allow a sustained Miami attack for the rest of the game.
Things quickly unraveled for Miami in the second period. A pass to the crease by BC's Chris Collins glanced in off the skate of Benn Ferriero for the first goal at 0:34, just as a BC power play was ending. Then at 3:14, with BC again up a man, Ferriero tried to pass across the goalmouth to Collins. Miami's Matt Davis made a diving attempt to block the pass, and instead batted the puck right past goalie Charlie Effinger.
Late in the period, BC's Dan Bertram was exiting the penalty box just as Stephen Gionta sprawled and blocked a shot inside the BC blue line. Gionta batted the puck off the boards to Bertram. One of the Miami defenders tripped on a stick that had fallen to the ice, and Bertram squirted in alone, deked Effinger, and backhanded home the Eagles thirod score.
"The hockey god was good to us tonight. It was a very deceiving score," admitted BC coach Jerry York. "When it was 3-0 it could have 0-0, except for a couple of lucky goals."
The Eagle penalty killing units were superb, keeping Miami off the board through eight power plays including a brief 5-on-3.
"They were blocking our shots and closing the lanes all night," said Miami's Jones. "They kept us on the periphery, and then we tried to pop me in the slot a few times, Schneider would make the save."
BC's Collins said after the game that the team modeled its penalty kill after Vermont's shorthanded unit.
"They really buzz the puck. They send three guys after it and don't let anybody set up. We were in awe of them," said Collins, whose empty-net goal with seven minutes to play made the score 4-0 and effectively sealed the win.
Miami coach Rico Blasi yanked Effinger from the net and inserted a sixth skater on a power play with about 10 minutes to go, to no avail. The Red Hawks played most of the final 10 minutes without a goalie in a near-desperate attempt to get something going on offense.
Collins' goal came right after another unlucky turn for Miami. With BC's Anthony Aiello in the penalty box, sophomore center Nathan Davis worked himself into the open and took a feed in the left faceoff circle. With a clear shot at Schneider, who was back deep in the crease, Davis whiffed. It was almost the exact same spot where Jones had broken his stick in the first period.
York complimented his defensemen as well, especially his captain Peter Harrold.
"You can get momentum off defense as well as from offense. When we killed off the 5-on-3 in the second period, it was a great momentum builder," said York.
Harrold said that BC's defensive game had tightened up considerably since the team's two losses at Maine in mid-February.
"It was a big eye-opener for us. They beat us up in front of the net. We knew we couldn't be giving up second chances out there.
"On our penalty killing, we didn't want to let them go back door on us. If we have to give up a shot from the point or the slot area, we will. Cory will have a good chance to stop it."
Said Blasi, "The difference? We didn't score on the power play. They kept us to the perimeter, and when we had a chance in front Cory was there. We tried to go back door on him a few times, but he moves laterally very well."
When asked about his team's season that had just ended a bit before they expected, Blasi added, "This is a team that's lost nine games. They're going out as champions. Not even this year's NCAA champion will be able to say they only lost nine games."