Boston College Shoots Down Yale
by Mike Machnik/CHN Senior Editor
WORCESTER, Mass. It was Air York versus Air Allain.
In the highest scoring NCAA tournament game in 50 years, Boston College defeated Yale, 9-7, in the final of the Northeast Regional to advance to the Frozen Four for the fourth time in the last five years.
Most Outstanding Player Cam Atkinson's hat trick led the way, giving him 27 goals on the year. Linemate Joe Whitney added a pair, as did Jimmy Hayes.
Mark Arcobello had an incredible six points in a losing effort, netting a hat trick of his own. The Bulldogs trailed by as many as five goals in the third before rallying to score three straight, but the highest scoring team in the nation could get no closer.
The last time two teams combined for 16 goals in an NCAA tournament game was March 17, 1960, when Michigan Tech defeated St. Lawrence, 13-3, in the semifinals.
"I thought Yale was a fine an offensive team as we've had a chance to play in the last few years," said Eagle coach Jerry York. "Their stick skills, their ability to score goals, gave us all kinds of problems.
"The game was never over, just because of their skill set. We're looking at a pretty good lead, and then all of sudden we're back on our [heels], protecting down the stretch."
Almost from the get go, it was a wide open, up and down game, a style that Yale coach Keith Allain said he was comfortable with.
Allain had rolled the dice the night before in starting rarely-used goaltender Ryan Rondeau, but he left no stone unturned tonight in an attempt to find an answer that would keep pucks out of his net. Billy Blase replaced Rondeau (18 saves) midway through the game with BC ahead 5-2, and Jeff Malcolm came in with 15 minutes to play and the score 7-4.
"I don't think we were very good as a team defensively," Allain said. "Obviously the goaltenders are part of that. But certainly they weren't the only part of that."
It didn't help that late in the first period, Rondeau was beaten on a fluke play, a 160-foot wrist shot by Eagle defenseman Carl Sneep. Sneep iced the puck on the penalty kill, lifting the puck from high in the slot in his own end, and it bounced about 20 feet in front of Rondeau and changed direction to catch him by surprise stick side. That put BC ahead for good, 2-1.
It was the kind of goal every goalie has the bad fortune to give up at some point, but it couldn't have come at a worse time for Yale.
"That was a huge goal," said Atkinson. "A really long goal, as well.
"I don't think I've ever seen that in college hockey. It definitely got us up on the bench."
Arcobello downplayed the effect of the goal on his team.
"I don't know, every goal's a momentum swing for us. I don't think one goal really sums up the whole game."
"There's nothing you can do," said Allain, a former goaltender himself. "What you want to do is get as close to that bounce as you can, so it doesn't have much room to play on you.
"It took a perfect bounce for them, and a terrible bounce for us."
The second period saw the teams exchange goals before Atkinson scored back-to-back at 4:57 and 10:29 to make it 5-2, first stealing a Ryan Donald clearing pass and firing it in from ten feet out, then slamming in a feed from Brian Gibbons on the doorstep. Atkinson's second goal chased Rondeau from the game.
One of the keys in BC's win was getting production from their big guns again.
"Cam has gotten into a dry spell, his line, but they've been working hard and practicing hard," York said. "Their effort's always been there, they just haven't had much luck."
Atkinson's third goal, the key goal of the game, regained some breathing room for BC 4:16 into the third at 7-4. The Eagles had surrendered goals to Arcobello and Denny Kearney (ppg) late in the second period as a 6-2 lead was reduced to 6-4.
"[Joe Whitney] had a great block," said Atkinson, now tied for second in the national goal-scoring race. "I think he was hurting a little bit, after he came back to the bench, but he gave me a little breakaway and I got some speed and was fortunate to put it upstairs."
After Hayes added two more goals to make it 9-4 midway through the third, it appeared to be over. But Arcobello completed his hat trick on the power play with 6:28 to go, and Brian O'Neill scored his second of the night less than three minutes later as Yale made it 9-6.
Malcolm came out for an extra attacker with three minutes to play, and the Bulldogs cashed in on a deflection by Broc Little to pull within two at 18:38. Arcobello scored or set up Yale's final three goals in a heroic effort to will his team back into it.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of my guys," said Allain. "There were numerous occasions during the course of the game where they could have thrown in the towel, and they never did.
"You guys see it here tonight, but that's what I've come to expect from this group, particularly this senior class for the last four years."
"For the Yale team, the Yale program in general, when you can have 20 guys compete down five goals to a team like BC, it says a lot about what we believe in," said Bulldog senior captain Ryan Donald.
Publicly at least, BC didn't seem too concerned with the seven goals allowed. A win is a win, and the Eagles have had a lot of them lately — and good teams find ways to win all kinds of games.
"We had a lot of good, and a lot of bad tonight," said Ben Smith (two assists). "But the good thing is we came out on the right side of it. 9-7 games, they're always a little scary, especially with a team like Yale who's so good offensively. But it was just one of those nights where, who can score the most goals, and tonight we did it."
"I think that's going to help us as we move forward, being able to play both types of games," Smith said. "Being able to gut it out as we did last Friday [3-0 win over Vermont in Hockey East semifinal], yesterday against Alaska and being able to use our offense and our firepower to win a 9-7 game."
York also didn't seem concerned about his team's missed opportunities the last few games to put teams away.
"I think putting a team away means you win hockey games. We're winning games, and we feel very excited about that. Hopefully it will continue," York said.
"The games at the national level, they come in all different [kinds]. There's 2-1 games, there's 9-7 games. Your objective is to win and advance, and we were able to do that tonight. ... They don't ask you if it's a pretty game. The games are always different. ... Would I like to win a 1-0 game more than a 9-7 game? To me, it's not a big factor.
"I just want to win games."
A 10-0-1 record in the last 11 says that's exactly what they're doing.