CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Boston College scored five goals in the first period and cruised the rest of the way, earning a 7-0 win over Providence on Saturday afternoon at Conte Forum. BC senior Barry Almeida scored one goal, picked up three assists and finished the win a plus-5.
Freshman Johnny Gaudreau and sophomore Bill Arnold each scored twice for the Eagles.
The win pushes BC’s lead in the race for the regular season championship to four, with second-place Boston University set to take on Vermont tonight. Meanwhile, Providence sits in seventh, three points clear of eighth-place Northeastern. (Note: BU defeated UVM to cut BC’s lead to two points.)
Nationally, the Eagles sit second in the PairWise, behind Minnesota-Duluth.
What I Saw
- The first period ended horribly for the Friars, trailing the Eagles, 5-0. BC was obviously the better, more opportunistic team in the first 20. Still, the Friars were hardly horrible, even as the Eagles poured goal after goal past Alex Beaudry. The first BC goal came 51 seconds into the game, with Steven Whitney beating Beaudry with a wrist shot from the high slot off the rush. Like most of the BC chances in the first, it came immediately after a lengthy PC cycle or extended possession. The Friar defensemen failed to identify the proper time to hold their position or retreat, allowing BC breakaways and odd-man rushes. All five of the Eagles’ first period goals came off the rush. Some of which PC could have prevented with a little more caution at the blue line and in the neutral zone. The fourth and fifth BC goals came seconds after Providence power plays expired, and Friar defenseman Myles Harvey manned the point in both of those instances. The 6-foot-5 junior has improved as a triggerman on the power play, but his puck management and poise are still major concerns. Playing a high-pressure club like BC, Harvey is especially susceptible to the dangerous turnover.
- Parker Milner continued his steady play for the Eagles. Even as they saw BC build their lead quickly in the first, the Friars maintained possession for extended portions of the game. They managed multiple scoring chances with their work down low, but Milner made the saves, keeping BC in charge. As always, the BC defensemen were there to wipe rebounds away when he allowed the occasional second chance. Still, Milner’s play is among the main reasons for BC’s late success. It’s no surprise that BC’s current nine-game win streak has coincided with Milner’s assertive grab at the No. 1 goaltending job in Chesnut Hill. In these nine games, Milner’s undefeated with a 1.30 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage. BC’s usual dominant performances are certainly responsible for Milner’s success to an extent, as he faced more than 30 shots just three times in this stretch. His emergence, regardless, will sustain BC as it looks for a fourth consecutive Hockey East Championship.
- Midway through the season, BC lacked its finish — a trait customary to, well, every BC top six forward ever. Whether it was Cris Kreider, Bill Anrold or Gaudreau, the chances came but the goals didn’t. At some point during this nine-game win streak, the Eagles’ highly skilled forward lines have found their finish, and they’re doing it with verve. Their five goals on Saturday showed off the remarkable stick and puck skills common in Chestnut Hill. Whitney sniped a top corner, Michael Sit roofed a centering pass and Almeida and Gaudreau effortlessly beat Beaudry with forehand, backhand moves. During more difficult stretches, the Eagles had all of these chances. They just didn’t finish them. They are now. College hockey: beware.
What I Saw
- His teammates didn’t help him, but Beaudry needs to be better for PC to make any noise in the Hockey East Tournament. There were breakaways and odd-man rushes, brilliant centering passes and massive gaps, but Beaudry failed to make one big save for the Friars in the five-goal BC first period. No matter which club the Friars draw in the first round, they’re going to be outmatched in most parts of the game. They’ll need Beaudry to save tough shots and neutralize good scoring chances. He didn’t do that on Saturday, and the game was over after 20 minutes because of it. His teammates need to be better in terms of driving possession and preventing quick strikes. But they need their senior goaltender to keep them in games, when those mistakes inevitably come.
- The exact opposite was true of Milner. A 7-0 scoreline isn’t going to produce much acclaim for the winning goaltending. The nature of the first period, though, dictated that this game could have looked much different with a lesser performance from Milner. His 11 saves in the first accounted for exactly zero of the most memorable moments, with the Eagles bombarding PC with chance after chance. Three power plays and some lazy play for the Eagle defensemen early resulted in a few good looks for the Friars. The type of chances that could’ve halted BC’s barrage and cut the lead to 2-1 or 3-1, inevitably altering the remainder of the game. Milner negated these chances, however, and kept the Friars from building anything resembling momentum.
- Chris Kreider, Tommy Cross, Bill Arnold, Brian Dumoulin. These players are the headliners for Boston College. All NHL draft picks, all highly skilled players. But Almeida may be the Eagles’ most important, versatile player this season. Always a great penalty killer and depth player for the Eagles in his four years, Almeida has become a top flight goal scorer for BC in his senior season. His 19th goal of the season gave the Eagles a 4-0 lead at 15 minutes, 36 seconds of the first period. Not exactly his most important goal of the year. He did, however, assist on two other BC goals in the period and finish those first 20 minutes a plus-4.
What They Said
“Our first period, although we had decent energy, we made a lot mistakes and they punished us for it. The two obvious ones are with their guy coming out of the box and getting breakaways. It’s the 32nd game of the year. You need to be aware of those situations. We weren’t tonight, and we got pretty well beaten by a very good hockey team.” — PC coach Nate Leaman
At the moment, it’s going to take a team’s best effort to beat BC. Providence looked like a club ready to make an effort like that at the start. Even Whitney’s goal in the first minute didn’t deflate the team too much. However, the Friars’ energy level was offset entirely by a lack of execution across the board. The goaltending was bad, the defensemen were careless and PC’s forwards failed to connect on passes or put rebounds home. PC is essentially guaranteed a playoff spot at this point, but it’ll be a quick two-game sweep if they don’t improve on these most basic elements of their game.
What They Didn’t Say
For the second consecutive week, Leaman was not very specific in terms of the injury status for both Tim Schaller and Mark Adams. The pair missed the weekend with BC after suffering injuries last weekend against Northeastern. Schaller’s is unknown, while Adams was diagnosed with a concussion. Leaman did say that the players will be evaluated before the regular season-ending series with UMass Lowell.
What Else You Should Know
- The win was the 100th for BC’s senior class, which is made up of Almeida, Cross, Paul Carey and Edwin Shea.
- BC ends its regular season with a pair of games against 10th-place Vermont next weekend, both at Conte Forum.
- Providence’s regular season ends with a home-and-home against Lowell, beginning next Friday in Providence.