by Matthew Conyers/CHN Staff Writer
DETROIT Boston College teammates Ben Smith and Tommy Cross can remember watching Cam Atkinson score just about any way possible when they were seven and eight years old back in Connecticut.
Atkinson was just a natural goal scorer.
“He can snipe forehand and he’s got the backhand so that makes him even more dangerous,” Cross said. “He can score any why he wants.”
Some things never change.
Atkinson continued to have the hot hand — actually in this case, backhand — Saturday as he scored two goals to help Boston College defeat Wisconsin 5-0 to win its second championship in three years.
To top it off, Atkinson's pair gave him 30 on the season, which — when all was said and done — made him the nation's top goal scorer. He surpassed Hobey Hat Trick finalist Bobby Butler (29) and Hobey winner Blake Geoffrion (28).
“All the guys are saying in the locker room that I led the nation in goals, but I haven’t had to time to think about — we just won and that's all that matters," Atkinson said. "I want to share this moment with the team."
Atkinson made it 2-0 with 18:22 left in the third period on a quick rush to the net, and Chris Kreider added a score only 2:02 later off a pass from Jimmy Hayes.
Atkinson also scored Boston College’s second power-play goal with 12:40 left off a pass from Brian Gibbons to make it 4-0. It follows up a torrid NCAA Northeast Regional and Hockey East tournament, as well.
"I think toward the end of the season we just gained a lot more confidence and just started playing like we should be playing," Atkinson said. "To be No. 1 in Hockey East, then win the [Northeast] Regional, we were on fire then and there was no turning back."
Despite all of this, Atkinson was left off virtually every end of season award list.
But for those that have seen him play since his days back in Connecticut, the sudden surge of production in his second year came as no surprise.
“Whatever accolade that Cam gets, he deserves,” Cross said. “He played unbelievable. I’ve watched him since he was young, he’s always had those wheels. He was electric [Saturday] and he was electric all weekend.”
Cross and Atkinson played at rival Connecticut prep schools and Smith was coached by Atkinson's father early on in their careers.
Atkinson has always loved putting the puck in the back of the net. When he was playing for New England prep school power Avon Old Farms, his legendary coach John Gardner used to say he could score any which he wanted.
But one thing he loved most — something that makes him more of a rarity in today's game — was a good backhand goal.
Over the past four games in the NCAA tournament, Atkinson proved his mentor right. Atkinson said he scored all six of his tournament goals, including three at the Frozen Four, backhanded.
“Everyone was like, 'You got the hot backhand,’” Atkinson said. “I was just fortunate. ... It’s a little old school but as long as they're going in they’re fine with me.”
Boston College proved to be the perfect fit for Atkinson’s offensive talents.
As a freshman, Atkinson had seven goals and 12 assists and was named the team’s best rookie. Still, Smith anticipated big things from the 5-foot-8 forward.
“He had a great year last year but he was just on the edge,” Smith said. “He was about to make that huge leap and sure enough he did.”
Atkinson said it was all a matter of motivation this season after Boston College missed out on the NCAA tournament last year.
"This is so surreal, we came in her with a mission from Day 1," Forward Cam Atkinson said.
But Atkinson believes the offense came alive because of the Eagles’ overall balance.
"We were playing the best opponents we played all year [these last four games] and we just dug down deep and kind of relaxed," Atkinson said. "What kills is that we have four lines that can all generate scoring chances and score goals. A bunch of teams played three lines and that kills them — they get tired. We keep going and our legs are fresh.”
It doesn’t hurt either that the Eagles' top goal scorer lives for the red light and says its the best part of playing at the school.
“To see that red light come on a bunch of times you can’t ask for anything better,” Atkinson said.
For his teammates, talk like that is music to their ears.
“He can do whatever he wants,” forward Jimmy Hayes said. “They can make a highlight film from all the different shots he has. That’s what a goal scorer does.”