No 'Christmas Hockey' for BC
by Tony Jovenitti/CHN Reporter
PITTSBURGH It’s called “Christmas hockey.”
It sounds like a good thing—maybe a little pond hockey with family and friends on Christmas morning, or maybe heading to a game after finding tickets under the tree .
But, according to Boston College coach Jerry York, “Christmas hockey” is a bad thing.
“[Christmas hockey] is a lot of swinging and not competing, because we’re out of the rhythm of our daily practices and games,” York said.
His goal every December is to help his team avoid playing “Christmas hockey” when they head to whatever holiday tournament the Eagles find themselves in each year. This year, the Eagles kept their rhythm and defeated Bowling Green and Penn State to capture the Three Rivers Classic championship at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
York cited final exams and traveling over the holidays as a few reasons that college hockey teams can find themselves in a funk when they return to the ice for holiday tournaments. Also, the best teams often find themselves missing a few key contributors — who often get plucked from the NCAA to go play in the World Junior championships, including BC goaltender Thatcher Demko.
“But I thought our team responded very well,” York said. “We got strong goaltending from Brian Billett and also offense from our blueliners, which we haven’t had a lot of this year.”
Ten different Eagles scored goals in a 5-0 win over Bowling Green and an 8-2 victory over Penn State.
Five of the goals this weekend came from defensemen, even though two of the team’s key defenders — Ian McCoshen and Steve Santini are out of the lineup, playing in the World Juniors. So York had to call on some of his depth to help fill that void.
In the semifinal against Bowling Green on Friday night, the two players he called on — Travis Jeke and Teddy Doherty both found the back of the net. Jeke, a Pittsburgh native, hadn’t played a game all season, yet he netted a backhander and tallied an assist to help the Eagles defeat Bowling Green.
“It was a great feeling being back in Pittsburgh, that’s for sure,” Jeke said.
York said Jeke earned the spot in the lineup through his hard work, and he didn’t put him in just so he can play in front of his family.
“It was great to see him in there,” York said. “He’s earned it. It wasn’t a gift. I wasn’t thinking of keeping his relatives happy.”
Interestingly, BC found itself down a few key defenders in an arena whose main tenant — the Pittsburgh Penguins — have also faced similar hurdles this season.
“We used the Penguins as an example,” York said. “They’re missing two Eagles there — (Rob) Scuderi and (Brooks) Orpik — so they called up (other former Eagles, Philip) Samuelsson and (Brian) Dumoulin. So we didn’t make light of it. You’re going to have injuries, you’re going to have different situations like the World Juniors, and I thought we got a terrific effort. The defense’s play was a key factor in how well we advanced pucks.”
The defense may have helped power the successful weekend for the Eagles, but the familiar stars lit the spark. Less than two minutes into the tournament, Johnny Gaudreau dazzled the crowd with a backhand goal. He also scored on a breakaway in the championship game, deking out Penn State goalie Matt Skoff.
Gaudreau’s line with Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes accounted for 11 points in the two games. Gaudreau, who claimed the tournament MVP title, scored 2 goals and 3 assists. He also continued what is now a career high point-streak of 13 games.
“Johnny is Johnny,” Hayes said. “He’s special. He’s one of the best players in the country.”
The Eagles also got a hat trick from their third line, as Destry Straight scored three times in the championship game.
“They’re just a scary offensive team,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “They make so many plays.”
The win over Penn State marked Boston College’s seventh holiday tournament championship under Jerry York. Though, they have finished in fourth twice during York’s tenure.
“I’ve seen some Christmas hockey out of our clubs in the past, and it’s not fun to watch,” York said.
But this weekend, the Eagles outscored opponents 13-2.
“Luckily, everyone came to play,” Billett said. “No Christmas Hockey.”