Uncharacteristic Defensive Mistakes Doom Boston College
Eagles Fall to BU in HE Semifinal
by Michael King/Staff Writer
BOSTON For the first time since 2009, Boston College will not win the Hockey East tournament championship. The Eagles fell, 6-3, to rival Boston University Friday night at the TD Garden in the second semifinal game.
With those familiar with the league — and accustomed to BC's dominance over the past several seasons — this is an unfamiliar experience, witnessing a title game without the Eagles as a participant. BC surrendered five consecutive goals against the Terriers after dominating the first 30 minutes of the game. The team was ultimately undone by its inability to successfully kill penalties and its uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns at inopportune junctures of the game.
"Both teams battled. We owned the first half and they owned the second," senior goalie Parker Milner said. "The key for us is when (the opponent) scores a few goals, we need to be resilient, and we weren't tonight."
These few BU goals game after an extended period of Eagle possession. The Eagles suddenly shifted from making confident decisions with the puck to allowing the Terriers to take advantage mistakes and unfavorable bounces.
"We got away from what made us successful in the first 35 minutes," senior captain Pat Mullane said. "Nothing changed with our team — we didn't sit back or become complacent — we still attacked, only the bounces did not go our way."
After BU forward Evan Rodrigues scored to halve the lead at 2-1, sophomore Danny Linell lost control of the puck at the right point on a routine pass from the halfwall. Terrier forward Matt Lane quickly reached the puck before Linell could erase his error. The freshman entered the zone with speed and created enough space to score past Milner.
It's these small types of defensive mistakes that BC has made only infrequently all year. And when they have made these mistakes, the Eagles were even less frequently punished with surrendering a goal. Though the team has one of the younger defensive units in Hockey East, its reliability has been among the conference's best.
Given these breakdowns, it put Milner in difficult positions throughout the game. Despite surrendering five total goals, the goalie still made key saves throughout the second and third periods including a pair of breakaway opportunities for Matt Nieto.
Though the goalie tacitly acknowledges that it's difficult to make saves when consistently faced with breakaway or odd-man rush opportunities, Milner appreciates his defense's commitment to playing the same aggressive hockey which has yielded years of BC success.
"In these games, we're going to go for it, we're not going to back-off on every play and wait for the bouncing puck and try to keep the puck in the zone," he said. "They were trying to make plays. I would rather have the defense play that way than really tentative and afraid to lose."
BC associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh admitted after the game that the Terriers arguably received some fortune to take such full advantage of BC's mistakes.
"They got some energy off the first two goals, then they started stretching [our defense]," he said. "A couple of those were good bounces, but credit to them that's the style they wanted to play to open up the game. I thought we would be able to stem that in the third, but unfortunately we had to continue to kill penalties."
After the shift in momentum with the pair of BU goals in quick succession, the Eagles began to overcompensate and found themselves consistently on their way to the penalty box for various infractions. BC afforded its opponent six separate power plays.
The momentum shift continued to swing as the Terriers exploited increasingly fatigued BC penalty killers. Garrett Noonan struck first in the second, before freshman Danny O'Regan converted twice in the third.
"The biggest thing in the third period was that we just didn't kill penalties well," Cavanaugh said, as coach Jerry York remains off the bench recovering from eye surgery. "Both teams were playing three lines and some our guys probably got tired and didn't have the energy they had earlier in the game."
Despite the loss to the rival Terriers, BC's season will continue. Given their accomplishments this season, the Eagles will definitely be awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The team awaits its seeding and bracket placement to be determined on Sunday.
"It's nice that although we lost, we still have another game left; we're still playing," Mullane said. "Hopefully we'll limit the errors that we made tonight next weekend."
With the Lamoriello Trophy now longer a possibility, the Eagles change their focus to another prize, the national championship, which would validate their season as an undoubted success.
"Winning this tournament means a lot to us, so it's not fun to not get this one. But the big one's coming up in the next few weeks," Milner said.