Freshmen Steal Spotlight for Boston College
Third-Period Goals Send Eagles Back to Frozen Four
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
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WORCESTER, Mass. Watching Boston College this season, it’s easy to sometimes miss the contributions of freshman Ryan Fitzgerald.
He’s not huge – only 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds – and he plays on a line without Johnny Gaudreau (76 points), Kevin Hayes (63 points) and Bill Arnold (52 points).
He’s quiet by nature. A silent leader who has excelled – he’s won championships – at every level he's played.
He’s OK being the quiet guy. The one who does his job, does it well, and keeps winning trophies.
But you would have been hard-pressed to miss him Sunday night.
Just 21 seconds after Massachusetts-Lowell took a one-goal lead early in the third period of Sunday’s Northeast Regional final, Fitzgerald collected a puck in the neutral zone, split the Lowell defense – the top pairing of Jake Suter and Zack Kamrass – and beat who, for much of these playoffs, has been unbeatable – Massachusetts-Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck – to tie the score.
The Eagles took the 4-3 lead just over 10 minutes later off the stick of another freshman – defenseman Ian McCoshen – and would never relinquish it, advancing to its seventh Frozen Four in the last 11 seasons.
“Ryan made what we call a running-to-daylight play, finding the open space to get that goal.” BC head coach Jerry York said.
It’s harder for McCoshen to go unnoticed, just on size alone. He’s 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds and has a knack for knocking around most of the other team's top forwards in the defensive zone.
But despite that size and physicality, if you’re not Gaudreau, Hayes or Arnold, your name likely hasn’t been uttered much this season.
McCoshen’s goal came off a feed from his sophomore defensive partner, Teddy Doherty and he blasted it into the gaping net with relative ease after Hellebuyck made a diving effort to the left post.
“Ian’s always talking,” Doherty said. “He’s one of the louder guys on the team. I was thinking shoot all the way, and he was screaming and thankfully I passed it over and he made a nice shot.”
Added Arnold, “Teddy made a patient pass and Ian almost had an open net. Teddy froze (Hellebuyck).”
Fitzgerald’s goal helped stymie Lowell’s momentum after it took its first lead of the game just 43 seconds into the third period and his stellar two-way ability after the goal helped cement the win.
“Ryan made an unbelievable play splitting the D and getting that goal,” said yet another BC freshman, goaltender Thatcher Demko. “That gave me a lot of confidence moving forward.”
The goal even impressed BC’s “big line,” which accounted for eight of its 10 goals this weekend.
“It was huge,” Arnold said. “That goal by Ryan was unbelievable. It was a skilled goal. He’s driving to the net hard, coming off a goal against. … There’s always a little more excitement on the bench seeing the young guys score like that in a big game.”
After McCoshen’s goal at the 11:16 mark of the third, the Eagles seemed intent on establishing their 1-2-2 forecheck and protecting the lead. But still, McCoshen and Fitzgerald were making plays typically seen by upperclassmen. Then again, they were playing in spots typically reserved for upperclassmen.
With just over three minutes remaining Fitzgerald picked off a breakout pass at the blue line and effortlessly dumped the puck back into the Lowell end.
It’s a two-way style he likely learned from his father, former NHL’er Tom Fitzgerald, who established himself as one of the best two-way players in the game over his 18-year career.
“The only thing going through your head is to not let one in,” he said. “I’m happy Coach York has the confidence in me to put me out there in a situation like that. We have a 4-3 lead with three minutes left. You’re just trying to take away passing lanes and then if you get it, get it deep. It’s all working as a team in those situations, though.”
Then, with only about 10 seconds remaining, a puck trickled into the slot in front of Demko while he was off balance and a flurry of Lowell sticks came swiping at it, but it was McCoshen’s that knocked it out of harm’s way, sending it to the side wall as the rest of the clock burned out.
“We have three freshmen D and I liked them when we started in September,” York said. “As the year has gone on, they’re even better than I thought they would be. They’re big, thick kids. McCoshen, that was a big play. I’m glad he came from Minnesota to play out here.”