CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Boston College defeated Notre Dame, 3-1, at Conte Forum Friday night. Second-period goals from Pat Mullane and Johnny Gaudreau carried the Eagles before an empty-night marker Gaudreau sealed the win in the third. Notre Dame freshman Thomas Di Pauli scored his second of the season at 7 minutes, 10 seconds of the third period to bring the Fighting Irish back into the game.
BC goaltender Parker Milner and Notre Dame’s Steven Summerhays performed well in the game. Neither team managed a great deal of shots, but quality scoring chances were plentiful for both sides.
What I Saw
- The skill of Gaudreau and Mullane gave BC the win on Friday night. The linemates’ second-period goals came on odd-man rushes – Mullane’s a breakaway and Gaudreau’s a 2-on-1 – and ended with nifty moves to beat Summerhays. For the most part, the teams played even hockey. Chances came and went, but BC capitalized on its opportunities. Mullane scored the Eagles’ first goals at 4:41 of the second period, winning a faceoff in the UND zone and immediately heading up ice. BC defenseman Patrick Wey hit the streaking Mullane, who walked in on Summerhays and fine space in the five-hole for the goal. Gaudreau, meanwhile, walked in with Steven Whitney, and beat Summerhays with a wrist shot to the near-side top corner.
- The battles between Gaudreau and Notre Dame defenseman Stephen Johns set the tone for the rest of the game. Gaudreau, the Eagles slight and dynamic winger, skated at Johns, UND’s hulking No. 1 defensemen, throughout the game, relying on his speed to create space. Meanwhile, Johns used his size to keep Gaudreau from working too effectively at different points. Gaudreau’s goal came with Johns on the bench, and some careless neutral-zone play from the Irish led to the odd-man rush for BC. Despite the UND loss and goals from both Gaudreau and Mullane, Johns played well for Notre Dame, leading a quality defensive unit against one of the most explosive teams in the country.
- BC’s energy line made life hard for the Fighting Irish throughout the game. Wingers Quinn Smith and Danny Linell, along with center Michael Sit, aren’t as skilled as their top six teammates. They aren’t flashy, and they won’t be all-Americans or all-conference, but the group has quickly become a prototypical BC energy and checking line. BC coach Jerry York always seems to find players to suit this role brilliantly. Whether it’s Matt Price or Matt Lombardi from years past, or Smith and Linell now, the Eagles always seem to have a group of hard-working intelligent forwards to complement their scoring lines. On Friday, Smith and Linell were their usual effective selves, fore-checking aggressively and blocking shots for the Eagles.
What I Thought
- Summerhays deserved a better result. BC played well, and it’s difficult to take this win from them. Still, Summerhays made some fantastic saves throughout the game and provided the confident force in goal a team needs to defeat BC. Ultimately, some mental and physical mistakes led to the rushes that created the BC goals. But when Summerhays received even a little support from his teammates, he made saves without problem. Teams with players in the mold of Mullane and Gaudreau are always going to create chances and test goaltenders. Making it even harder for netminders with careless mistakes is going to lead to losses. Summerhays played well enough to head back to South Bend with a big non-conference win.
- Gaudreau ended the night with five shots on goal. Mullane finished with three, and Whitney had three of his own. But it seems like the remaining BC fowards are playing tentatively, which is, frankly, strange for this team. Now, the Eagles’ offense isn’t as deep as it was a season ago. Gone are Chris Kreider, Barry Almeida and Paul Carey, and no freshmen have stepped in and provided instant offense the way Gaudreau did a season ago and other players have in years past. But BC’s second line of Bill Arnold, Kevin Hayes and Destry Straight ended the game with just two shots between them. That isn’t good enough, and it could’ve cost BC the game on Friday. All three of those players can score in bunches at this level, and they need to take some shots to get that offense.
- The atmosphere at Conte Forum on Friday was something special. Obviously, there is an existing rivalry between BC and Notre Dame that dates back decades. Saturday’s meeting of the universities’ football teams at Alumni Stadium, which neighbors Conte Forum, certainly played a role, as the BC student body seemed more hyped than usual. Still, the BC student section isn’t known for particularly boisterous atmospheres given the success of its program. Replicating this type of noise against Massachusetts or Merrimack may be difficult, but you’d have to think these BC students enjoyed themselves on Friday. Why not do it more frequently?
What They Said
“Johnny (Gaudreau) played outstanding. He was hard to control tonight, and he drew a lot of penalties because he had the puck,” – BC coach Jerry York
It’s a simple statement from York, but it really explained the difference between winning and losing for BC on Friday night. Aside from his goal, Gaudreau drew three penalties due to assertive play that suggests the 5-foot-nothing winger has outgrown any tentative parts of his game. He isn’t scared to skate right at the biggest and best defensemen in college hockey, knowing his hands, speed and raw hockey IQ will always keep him in control. His ability to skate away from players and effortlessly create chances has made him impossible for even the best to defend. On Friday, his goal wasn’t even the most impressive part of his game. When he is on the ice, he is control of the play at all times.
What They Didn’t Say
Secondary to the result and the atmosphere, not much was said about the number of penalties taken by both sides. BC sent Notre Dame to the power play six times and ND gave BC five of its own. Effective penalty killing and occasionally brilliant goaltending prevented any goals from these chances. Still, sending talented teams to the man advantage that often isn’t a good look for teams trying to win championships. Now, Gaudreau’s sheer brilliance resulted in three of the power plays for BC, but the Irish defensemen need to avoid giving him the type of space that leads to those problems. Conversely, the Eagles may have been bailed out by timing, as a Notre Dame 5 on 3 was interrupted by the end of the first period, and the Irish had a few quality looks on power play.
What Else You Should Know
- York picked up his 920th-career victory on Friday, moving him within four of Ron Mason as the all-time winningest coach in Division I history.
- The Eagles are back in action on Sunday afternoon, when they travel down Commonwealth Avenue for the first meeting of the season with rival Boston University. Friday’s win over Notre Dame came in BC’s first non-conference game of the season. Next Friday, BC hosts Dartmouth of the ECAC.
- Notre Dame travels to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a pair with CCHA foe Michigan on Thursday and Friday next week. The Fighting Irish host North Dakota for a pair the following weekend.
- Notre Dame freshman Mario Lucia may be in the lineup for one of the two games against Michigan depending how he feels in practice next week. Lucia suffered a broken leg in Minnesota Wild development camp over the summer.