CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Boston College defeated New Hampshire, 5-2, at Conte Forum on Friday night. The game marked Johnny Gaudreau’s first back with the Eagles since leading the United States to a gold medal in Ufa, Russia, at the World Junior Championships. Gaudreau scored a goal and assisted on a pair of Pat Mullane tallies to lead BC to victory.
Senior goaltender Parker Milner made 31 saves in the win, including 12 in the third period with UNH desperately trying to erase a four-goal deficit. The Wildcats scored the game’s first goal, when Jay Camper redirected a Matt Willows centering pass by Milner. BC scored the games next five goals to earn the win.
What I Saw
- At this point, it’s no surprise that Gaudreau is among the best players in the nation — probably the world as far as amateur players go. Comparing BC’s play on Friday with its performance last Friday against Yale illustrates the importance of Gaudreau to this BC team. A season ago, the Eagles rolled three lines that could score against anyone in the country. The lineup isn’t quite as deep as it was then, and Gaudreau’s ability to create scoring chances from almost nothing is what separate BC from other teams. On Friday, his return to the lineup was felt instantly. The Eagles weren’t at their best early on, but they managed chances every time Gaudreau was on the ice. The rest of the Eagle forwards caught up as the period progressed, and the line of Kevin Hayes, Bill Arnold and Destry Straight was especially effective. Needless to say, any team will suffer when its best player is removed from the lineup. Gaudreau is such a unique player, though, his role simply can’t be replaced.
- BC’s defensemen improved drastically from last Friday’s game against Yale. The group eliminated the turnovers that led to many of Yale’s scoring chances, instead making simple passes out of its zone and letting the gifted Eagle forwards go to work. All six BC defensemen played well on Friday, which is about six more than did last week. The Wildcats made life easy for the Eagles’ blue liners by pretty much staying as far away from Parker Milner as they could. Most of the UNH shots from the top of the circles, and BC prevented the Wildcats from creating any problems in the low slot or goal mouth.
- UNH’s gameplan seemed to test Milner from distance and crash the net. They entirely forgot the second half of that idea. Milner saw everything throughout the game, and the Wildcats rarely managed a second chance. Milner didn’t give away many rebounds, so the move likely wasn’t paying off regardless.
What I Thought
- This win was especially important for Boston College. After the embarrassing 8-1 loss to Minnesota and last week’s tie with Yale, the Eagles needed a win. Confidence is never in short supply in Chestnut Hill, but a win over New Hampshire helped the Eagles regain some of the appeal their resume lost after the disappointing results. Moreover, the healthy margin of victory likely got some of the doubters back on BC’s side. It’s inevitable, really, that BC will be there when everything is decided. Whether it’s the Beanpot, Hockey East tournament and race for a national title, BC will have its say in the way these championships are decided.
- Casey DeSmith didn’t have much of chance of the BC goals. The sophomore is still a candidate for every major goaltending award and the reason UNH is where it is in conference and on the national scene. Against UNH’s toughest competition, though, he’s struggled this season. His five goals allowed on Friday were a season high, surpassing the four he gave up at Colorado College in November. Entering the night, his 1.90 goals-against average and .934 save percentage were among the the best in the country. Both took a hit after Friday, but he’s still a critical piece for UNH this season.
- UNH needed its best offensive players to perform at a higher level on Friday. Nick Sorkin missed the lineup with a thumb injury sustained last week. He’s expected back in the lineup next weekend, but his absence was felt against BC. The rangy forward can create havoc in front of goaltenders and win battles along the walls and in the corners. UNH certainly could’ve used that on Friday. Regardless, Kevin Goumas, Grayson Downing and the other players leading the way offensively for New Hampshire simply weren’t at their best. Saturday night, the Wildcats will need more consistent and effective play to counter the high-powered BC offense and test its defense.
What They Said
“I want to address Jerry’s situation. We spoke with his wife, Bobbie, before the game. He’s resting and recovering, doing well. Keep him in your prayers. He’s going to be back in not too long.” — BC associated head coach Mike Cavanaugh
Jerry York underwent eye surgery last week to repair a detached retina. Division I’s all-time coaching wins leader handed over control of his team to Cavanaugh and assistant coach Greg Brown while recovering from his procedure. Little changed with York’s assistant in charge for the evening, but it’s certainly good to hear York is recovering well.
What They Didn’t Say
UNH coach Dick Umile was more focused on defensive breakdowns that led to much of BC’s offense on Friday night. But the Wildcats’ offensive woes seemed to be caused by a similar lack of execution offensively. Nick Sorkin missed Friday’s game and is out indefinitely with a thumb injury. Greg Burke also left the game in the second period due to injury. Umile said he will likely miss Saturday’s game with BC. Both Sorkin and Burke provide some size to the UNH offense, and they’ll struggle to test Milner again if other players don’t step into the role.
What Else You Should Know
- The teams play again Saturday at the Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H. The season series comes to a close on Sunday, Feb. 17 in Chestnut Hill.
- BC entered the game with a two-point lead on UNH for first place in Hockey East. The lead doubled after the win. UNH has one game in hand over the Eagles.
- With his three points, Gaudreau now has 12 goals and 24 assists in 15 games this season. That gives him 1.73 goals per game, which is No. 1 in the country.