BC Primed for Another 'Trophy Season'
Eagles Extend Unbeaten Run to 15 Games in Beanpot
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
BOSTON Two years ago, Boston College defeated Northeastern to win the Beanpot on the second Monday in February. That night, the Eagles picked up their first trophy of the season. A young goaltender emerged as the clear No. 1 in Chestnut Hill.
The win added to an impressive unbeaten run. The Eagles' best players carried the load with role players chipping in as needed.
Monday night in Boston, all of that happened again. Boston College defeated Northeastern, 4-1, to win the Beanpot — its fifth in a row.
Thatcher Demko's status as BC's guy moving forward is no longer a question. Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes were typically brilliant. And senior captain Patrick Brown, a grinder in every sense of the word, scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner.
The win stretched BC's unbeaten run to 15 games. Only a tie against Brown on Jan. 11 mars the Eagles' recent stretch of dominance.
In almost every sense, the 2013-14 Eagles have become a haunting replica of the 2011-12 team that overcame a few bad losses to become a juggernaut. BC won 19 consecutive games to end the season that year, capping it with a national championship win over Ferris State in Tampa.
"The biggest similarity is that both teams competed to the very finish," Brown said. "I think two years we had something really special. I think we had great leadership, hard-working players. We had a big freshman class that year too. We have the same thing this year too. We have a big freshman class. A lot of times, people say it's hard with the freshman class, but I love it. They've brought so much new energy every day. They're so excited. Everything is a first for them. They really push the older kids to work harder."
This year, it was a pair of defeats against Atlantic Hockey's Holy Cross and league foe Maine that sparked BC's run.
"It was a bit of a slap to the face," Brown said. "We realized that we aren't that good. We can't just show up. There are a lot of good teams in Hockey East. Then Holy Cross, too. We realized right there that we have to play hard every night. We have a talented team. We want to play in big games, but we need to play hard too."
At 15 games, BC's season has only begun. However, it's clear the Eagles are working toward something just as special as their dominating effort two seasons ago.
Since losing to Holy Cross on Nov. 29, the Eagles have trailed just four times. York's decision to put his three best players on the same line has proved another masterful stroke from the winningest coach in college hockey history. In 15 games together, Gaudreau, Arnold and Hayes have combined for 84 points.
BC coach Jerry York refers to this final stretch of the year as Trophy Season. Scoring goals is fun. Winning games is better. Lifting trophies? Well that's just what the Eagles do.
"Trophy Season is what we call it," Brown said. "We have a lot of trophies coming up, and we want to win every single one of them. In our team goals, the Beanpot just comes along first. … The Beanpot's a great jumping off point into the playoffs."
BC isn't without its flaws. A young defensive corps, talented as any in the country, reveals its inexperience from time to time.
For the most part, though, BC has made its goal for the 2013-14 season quite plain. Currently, BC is four points away from clinching the Hockey East Regular Season Championship outright with five league games left to play. Another trophy is all but assured for York's club.
It doesn't stop there.
Monday's win over Northeastern revealed the resolve York's BC teams typically show. Blessed with skill and world-class talent at every position, a wordless tenacity pervades the BC lineup. Hits are always finished. Shots are always blocked. The forecheck comes in endless waves. Wins and trophies are the rewards. Still, the Eagles never settle.
Brown and his fellow upperclassmen have experienced it all before. There are Beanpots and other trophies on their resumes already. But it's never enough. Entering the season with a large freshman class and a handful of sophomores, BC's elder skatesmen want to win everything in sight not just for themselves but for their less decorated teammates and because that's what BC hockey does.
"The coolest thing about winning this Beanpot is giving it to the freshmen because it's their first time," Brown said. "Their eyes are wide open. Everyone is here for this tournament, and they're all screaming in the stands. You can't hear a thing on the ice. At the end of the day, you get to see the freshmen lift the Beanpot, it's really special."
"There's so much excitement about the Beanpot in our locker room," York said. "It's something we strive for. When you accomplish something you strive for, it's a real proud moment. A quality that we have is that we're happy for other people's success. It's a hard quality to have. Our team is like that. Our seniors are happy to win four straight for their class, but it's better to look at the freshman who are winning it for the first time."
Monday night, Northeastern gave BC everything it could handle. The crosstown rivals were knotted, 1-1, until 14:30 of the third period when Brown managed to redirect an Isaac MacLeod wrist shot while lying on the TD Garden Ice. Gaudreau sealed the win with an empty-net goal before Brown added another for good measure.
Despite the Huskies' best effort and another stellar performance from NU goaltender Clay Witt, an Eagles win always just seemed inevitable — just like did two years ago.
Trophy Season opened in Chestnut Hill on Monday night. There are three more out for the for the taking. Worthy competition awaits for each honor, and the Eagles understand their charge. Regardless, Monday night's masterful performance solidified the Eagles as the favorite for it all, and, as BC so frequently has in these last 15 years, put the rest of the country on notice.