FF Capsule Preview: Boston College
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
Resume: 28-7-4, Hockey East regular season champion, NCAA Northeast Regional champion
Boston College enters this Frozen Four with history on its side, winner of the national championship in the last three even-numbered years (2008, 2010, 2012).
Streaks are nothing new to the Eagles, who went on a 19-game unbeaten streak in the middle of the season and saw its top star, Johnny Gaudreau, score a point in 31 straight games.
Spotlight On ...
The Big Line
It’s the moniker Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes have become known by these past few months, totaling 192 points and more goals (76) between the three of them than eight teams totaled the entire season.
Their reputation grew to mythical proportions at the NCAA Northeast Regional, where Gaudreau (3 goals, 5 assists), Hayes (3 goals, 4 assists) and Arnold (2 goals, 2 assists) were the only line to find the back of the net for BC until Ryan Fitzgerald scored early in the third period of the regional final against Massachusetts-Lowell.
“You watch those guys and it’s impressive what they do,” Fitzgerald said. “You watch how they play and how they approach everything, and it’s really impressive. It’s great to be able to learn from players like that.”
Added BC head coach Jerry York: “They’re everything I thought they would be.”
It wasn’t just the fact that the Eagles lost to Holy Cross the day after Thanksgiving, it was the manner in which they did.
Despite a feverish third-period comeback attempt – the then 3-9 Crusaders inexplicably were leading the Eagles 5-1 through two periods – BC couldn’t complete the comeback bid, falling 5-4.
"It was certainly at a juncture in our season where we were a pretty good club, but just pretty good,” York said. “We expected to win pretty easily, that particular game, and got upset. I think that kind of made us think that pretty good wasn't going to help us accomplish the goals we had. That helped us become a better club, no question."
Call it a wakeup call. Call it a whatever you want. But since that loss BC is 20-3-2 in its last 25 games with all three losses coming to the same team: Notre Dame.
Take your pick as to what’s more impressive: Boston College’s 19-game unbeaten streak following the loss to Holy Cross, or Johnny Gaudreau’s ridiculous 31-game point streak that spanned from Nov. 1 to the Hockey East quarterfinal round on March 16.
Not ironically, the two coincided with much of each other.
“We've got players capable of scoring goals in all four lines, and they're allowed to score," York said. "It just happens to be John's line. But we'd like to get some more offense from different people, certainly the blue line would help an awful lot.
"In a perfect world, sure, you'd like all four lines contributing to the offense, you want your defense to contribute to offense, but again, each game is different.”
Offensive Outburst vs. Denver
Defense might win championships, but few defenses have been tasked with stopping an offense as potent as BC’s.
Against Denver goalie Sam Brittain – a player who many thought was the best at his position in the nation – the Eagles exploded for six goals, running the senior from the crease after the second period.
As if the Eagles needed to prove anything, dismantling one of the game’s best this season was a great way to do it.
Players to Watch
Johnny Gaudreau, Junior, Forward
What else can be said by Gaudreau. who should find out on Friday that he has won the Hobey Baker Award?
In the modern-era, which includes bigger goalies and even bigger goalie pads, Gaudreau has been as dominant as any player we’ve seen play college hockey.
“We scouted him,” Denver head coach Jim Montgomery said after watching Gaudreau score six points, dispatching his team 6-2 in the opening game of the Northeast Regional. “You know what he’s going to do, but until you actually see it in front you, until you see that shoulder drop and you see that creativity, you just don’t know.”
Kevin Hayes, Senior, Forward
For those that believe Hayes’ 63 points were due to Gaudreau flanking his left wing, the senior and former first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks had 21 points in 14 games before he was even paired with Gaudreau in December.
“It’s hard not to get on the scoring sheet with guys like Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold on your line,” said the ever-humble Gaudreau.
Hayes uses a powerful 6-foot-3 frame to beat opponents on the wall but also skates exceptionally well for a bigger forward.
Thatcher Demko, Freshman, Goaltender
The BC freshman goaltender has more to prove than any individual in this tournament. Not only is he trying to become the latest freshman to guide BC to a national title between the pipes – John Muse was the last – but Demko is also under the watchful eye of NHL scouts, as he’s expected to be one of the first goaltenders selected in June’s NHL Entry Draft.
"No one has a crystal ball,” York said. "He's had his ups and downs during the course of the year, like any freshman, but his competitiveness in practice and his desire to get better have never wavered."
Demko has been spectacular this season, winning 16 of his 20 starts and posting a .920 save percentage, taking the starting job from junior Brian Billett in the second half of the season.
Denver head coach Jim Montgomery on Johnny Gaudreau: "I have always said this: John Gaudreau is the kind of player that anyone should pay money to come see. He's worth the price of a ticket. He’s so creative, he’s like Pavel Datsyuk, he does things you've never seen before. He doesn't end up on breakaways like he does on flukes. His timing is impeccable. I've been trying to show our players that when you realize a turnover has happened, he's already two strides ahead of you and behind you
“Johnny Gaudreau. He’s the one. He’s the straw that stirs the drink.”
Montgomery then quipped he wanted a Gaudreau clone.