April 6, 2012

Eagles' work not done yet

By Diana Nearhos

When Boston College strolled out of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, they left their bags behind. They would be back. 

Chris Kreider (19) celebrates his second period goal with teammate Destry Straight. (Dave Arnold Photography)

The Eagles’ 6-1 win over Minnesota in the second game of the Frozen Four won them the right to leave their bags in the locker room and come back the next day for practice.

Minnesota, however, trudged out with their heavy bags on their backs.

“We always talk to our team about how the very best practice is the one between the semifinal game and the national championship game,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “We have a lot of practices during the year. But that's a special one.”

A stretch of about five minutes spanning the end of the second period and start of the third made the difference for the Eagles and got them to that practice.

BC scored two goals in the course of two minutes to make a two-goal game into a four-goal one, making the move to bury the Golden Gophers.

“When it went from two to four in a two-minute period, that was the game,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia.

With 2:15 left in the period, freshman Destry Straight approached the right side of the net, drawing Patterson and the defender to him, then passed to Chris Kreider, who was slightly behind him and coming from the other side. Kreider tucked the puck in the net, expanding the lead to three goals.

It took just two minutes for BC to add another goal. With just 16 seconds left in the frame, assistant captain Paul Carey made it a four-goal game. Freshman Johnny Gaudreau was hauled down as he reached the net and slid a pass through the crease in the direction of his linemates. Pat Mullane tipped the puck to Carey, who flipped it into the empty net.

Minnesota finally scored 1:26 into the third period and threatened to take over the energy BC had just gained.

Minnesota forward Jake Hansen scored on a centering pass from linemate Erik Haula, breaking goaltender Parker Milner’s tournament shutout. Even still, the Eagles refused to give up any momentum.

Gaudreau set Carey up once again, this time from his favorite spot behind the net. The freshman gathered the puck and took a moment to survey the ice in front of him. He fed a pass to Carey, about ten feet in front of the net, and the assistant captain sent a wrister over Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson’s shoulder.

“The energy was really changing there,” BC head coach Jerry York said of the few seconds between the goals. “We had a bounce-back goal by Paul and that was a key key goal for us.”

BC is a very team-oriented group. Every player will say more about the pass that set up his goal than the shot he took. That teamwork was on display last night; each goal was preceded by a great pass.

“We play with a lot of intelligence,” York said. “Just like a good basketball team, you want to hit the open man for a shot. I think we have the capability of doing that.”

The Eagles’ first two goals in particular could be put in a textbook.

Six minutes into the game, assistant captain Barry Almeida found himself and his linemate Steve Whitney on the wrong side of a two-on-three. Almeida had the puck and there were three defenders between him and Whitney. He outskated one defender, while Whitney beat the other two. Almeida then sent a pass threw traffic for Whitney to send past Patterson.

At the same mark of the second period, it was Whitney who supplied the pass. Whitney sent a pass to Kevin Hayes from the right point. The puck landed on Hayes’s stick and the sophomore lifted it over Patterson’s right shoulder.

Milner continued his stellar tournament. Though he allowed his first goal of NCAA play, he stopped a total of 30 shots and kept the Eagles in the lead as Minnesota threatened.

With 49 seconds left in the opening frame, the Gophers almost tied it up. Nick Bjugstad drew Milner to the left side of the net and then fired a pass to Taylor Matso, who was open to the netminder’s left. Milner dove across the net to make the glove save.

Again at the end of the second period, Minnesota put together a strong offensive series. Milner grabbed a Hansen shot from point-blank range, setting up the turn of momentum and BC’s two goals in the final two minutes of the frame.

“It feels awfully good to have practice tomorrow,” York said.