Third Liner's Two Goals Send BC Back to Beanpot Final
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
BOSTON As it always is, the attention was on Boston College's superstar forwards Monday night in the 61st Beanpot. There's Johnny Gaudreau and Pat Mullane. Steven Whitney and Kevin Hayes. Bill Arnold and Destry Straight. The players that make the Eagles terrifying for opposing defenses.
In the first period of Monday's Beanpot Semifinal, these six dynamic talents failed to reach the scoreboard. They created chances and revealed the best Harvard goaltender Raphael Girard could offer. As the period dwindled, though, the Eagles grew more frustrated. A Harvard handpass led to an offensive zone draw for the Eagles with about 30 seconds left in the scoreless period.
BC coach Jerry York didn't send Gaudreau nor Mullane out for the draw. It wasn't Hayes or Arnold either. He stuck with his third line of Quinn Smith, Patrick Brown and Brooks Dyroff. The curious decision raised an eyebrow or two around TD Garden, but second-guessing the great Jerry York isn't something Eagles' fans do.
It took about two seconds for their faith to be rewarded. Brown won the faceoff; Dyroff slid it back to the point, and Pat Wey sent a shot on goal. It was then that many likely heard the name Quinn Smith — perhaps for the first time. Smith drove the net and waited to jam the rebound past Girard. He lifted his shot over Girard's right shoulder to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead in the final moments of the first.
The gritty, bottom-six forward has quickly become a fan favorite at Conte Forum. No, he isn't Gaudreau or Mullane. He won't win the Hobey Baker award at any point in his career nor will he garner votes for other plaudits whether regional or national.
But Quinn Smith is an Eagle without even trying.
"He's a good, hard-nosed checking-type player for us," York said. "Anytime he scores goals is an added bonus. He doesn't consider himself a power-play type guy. He's a meat-and-potatoes, hard-nosed player, and you need an awful lot of those guys on your team. You can have the Johnny Gaudreaus, Pat Mullanes and Steven Whitneys, but you need some real grinders. He accepts that role, and he's very good at it. Every game, he gives us an all-out effort. When he can score like tonight, it's a plus for us."
The 5-foot-8 winger accepts his responsibilities with the Eagles and chips in offense when the opportunities are there, embodying the mentality that makes Boston College as successful as it is. His goal in the first period Monday night changed a hard-fought first period into a decided BC victory. He added a second at 18:18 of the second period, which proved the eventual game-winner, as the Eagles rolled to a 4-1 victory. Next Monday, they'll take on Northeastern in search of a fourth straight Beanpot title.
Over the years, the gifted playmakers and goal-scorers York attracts to Chestnut Hill received most of the credit for BC's dominance of the 2000s. In the same time, York has developed another series of players that excelled in less glamorous roles. Smith is one of the latest. Three years ago in this building, it was Matt Lombardi netting a hat trick, including an overtime winner, in a Hockey East championship game against Maine. On the current BC roster, Brown, Dyroff, Danny Linell and others join Smith in complementing their NHL-bound teammates.
Like many of these grinders of championships past, Smith's role with BC was never guaranteed unless he stuck to the skills and habits that made him a standout at Avon Old Farms and with the United States Hockey League's Youngstown Phantoms.
A season ago, he played 32 of 44 games for the Eagles during their latest run to a national championship. Beginning the season in a rotation and eventually carving out a regular place on BC's fourth line, Smith scored one goal and added three assists on the year — hardly a freshman season that caught people's eyes around the country. It did, however, warrant a regular role in BC's lineup, as well as occasional penalty-killing duty.
"When I came in as a freshman, we had an unbelievable team," Smith said. "It was hard to crack the lineup, but coaches stayed on me, the captains did the same, just telling me to work hard. Help the team win games and play a role. I play my role as best as I can. They're not going to put me into a role that's not suited for me. I think it's working out so far."
This season, he's dressed in all 24 games for the Eagles. His two goals on Monday gave him four on the season to go along with a pair of assists.
"It means a lot," Smith said. "It always means a lot when you can help your team win games. We have a lot of people on this team that can score goals. It just so happens it was my night."
Smith's plans for his time at BC has included a focus on the process, knowing his chance would come if he stuck to the skills and mindset that earned him a place with BC. The aggressive but responsible demeanor is something York seeks as he fills out his roster. The coach knows he needs the Gaudreaus and Giontas and Gerbes. But the Quinn Smiths figure just as heavily into the ultimate success of these teams.
"For every power-play player, you need someone who can kill penalties and block shots," York said. "The third and fourth lines in college nowadays … you talk about your top six, but your bottom six has to be very effective or you're not going to win a lot of hockey games. Quinn brings an awful lot to our team.
"He'll want to be on the power play, though, I can hear it now, 'Come on, coach,'" York joked about his grinder looking to show off his new-found scoring touch.
York doesn't have much to worry about, though. Quinn Smith is an Eagle, and he'll do his job. If scoring chances come, he'll bury them like he did on Monday night. Otherwise, he's just happy to play his part as the Eagles begin yet another trophy season.