December 7, 2012

Hockey East Journal: Big games bring out the best in Arnold

By Andrew Merritt

It can be hard to distinguish one’s self in the Boston College offense. Year after year, the Eagle attack reloads and seems to always have at least a few conference scoring leaders in its ranks. 

Bill Arnold enters this weekend's action ranked fourth among BC skaters with 13 points in 13 games. (Dave Arnold Photography)

Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.) has always been in the mix for the Eagles offensively, but he’s never been the guy. He’s never been the first name that comes to mind when talking about BC’s high-octane forwards. As a freshman he was 10th on the team with 20 points, and last year as a sophomore he posted 17-19—36 totals to finish sixth among BC’s scorers. This year, he’s fourth with six goals and seven assists.

What Arnold has had is a penchant for scoring in the games that matter most. In the 2011 Beanpot championship game, he scored a key tying goal midway through the third period, setting up BC’s electrifying 7-6 win over Northeastern. The next year, he did one better, scoring the game-winner in overtime to give BC its second straight Beanpot title. He’s got three points (two goals) in four career Beanpot games, and in 11 games against rival BU, he’s collected seven goals and four assists.

About two months after last year’s Beanpot, he also had a point in each of the final three games of the season. Those all happened to be in the NCAA tournament, including an assist in the 4-1 win over Ferris State in the national championship game.

“He’s just getting better and better. He was a big part of the championship game his freshman year, and last year,” coach Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.) said. “He’s been a real key, key guy for us. I think he’s a little more comfortable, the more experience you have the better you get at these type of games.”

There’s a lot of history on the line for the Eagles this year, and the first opportunity for the team to make some additions to the record books came Saturday night, Dec. 1, when they hosted BU with a chance to give York (Watertown, Mass.) a share of the all-time coaching victories record. It was a big game, one of many the Eagles are sure to play in this year, and Arnold delivered, scoring two goals in the second period as the Eagles pulled away for a 5-2 victory.

Arnold didn’t make much of his latest big-game heroics, following the ethos of a team that traditionally produces big-time scorers with small-time egos.

“We talk about it a lot, that the biggest game is the next game,” Arnold said. “We just try to come out and work hard every game.”

Of course, for the defending national, Hockey East and Beanpot champions, the next game usually is a big game, even if it isn’t against a rival like BU, or a team with national renown like Notre Dame, against whom Arnold assisted on Johnny Gaudreau’s empty-net goal on Nov. 9. When the Eagles take the ice, whoever they play has a chance to pick up a big scalp, and that means every night could turn into a spotlight game.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, or what their record is, every team we play is going to bring their best effort,” Arnold said.

The Eagles’ next game is certainly worthy of attention, as Friday’s visit to Providence could be York’s record-breaking win. It seems reasonable to expect that Arnold might have something to say about how that big game turns out.

Player of the Week

Brody Hoffman, fr., Vermont

Hoffman made 67 stops on 70 shots over two games at Maine last weekend, leading the Catamounts to a win and tie that pushed them into a tie for fifth place in the league standings. Hoffman got tagged with four goals on 17 shots in a loss to Dartmouth Wednesday, but we’ll give him a pass for the non-conference defeat.

Game of the Week

Boston College at Providence, Friday, 7 p.m.

BC coach Jerry York gets his first crack at becoming the all-time winningest coach in college hockey, but the Friars will be loath to let the Eagles celebrate a milestone for their mentor on the Schneider Arena ice – especially with three teams sitting just one point behind them in the standings.

Power Rankings

  1. Boston College (11-2-0, 9-2-0 HEA) – The Eagles split their home-and-home series with BU, which meant Jerry York could only tie Ron Mason’s career wins record Saturday night at the Heights, but that he did.

  2. New Hampshire (11-2-2, 8-2-1 HEA) – UNH was briefly in the odd position of being No. 1 in the nation but No. 2 in Hockey East after a sweep of UMass-Lowell, combined with BC’s split weekend. A loss Thursday night to BU, however, will likely knock the Wildcats out of the nation’s top spot on Monday, and is enough to keep them right where they’ve been for weeks in our power rankings.

  3. Boston University (9-5-0, 7-4-0 HEA) – The Terriers made it clear that they didn’t want a BC celebration on their home ice, outplaying the Eagles for much of Friday’s 4-2 win, and even if they couldn’t keep up the next night, Thursday’s win over UNH gave them two victories in six days over the nation’s No. 1.

  4. Providence (7-6-1, 5-4-0 HEA) – The Friars won in overtime for the first time in almost a year Friday, with Tim Schaller’s (Merrimack, N.H.) game-winner giving them their first OT victory since Dec. 2, 2011. It also gave them their first consecutive victories on the road since Nov. 12-13, 2010.

  5. Merrimack (4-6-2, 3-3-1 HEA) – The Warriors are done with league play until January after splitting last weekend with Providence, and on Friday they’ll look to end a four-game home losing streak with a game against Harvard.

  6. Northeastern (5-8-1, 3-7-1 HEA) – It was one step forward, one step back for the Huskies, who split their weekend series with UMass. On the plus side, Friday’s win in Amherst marked their first road victory since January, snapping a seven-game losing streak.

  7. UMass (5-6-2, 4-6-1 HEA) – The split with Northeastern kept the Minutemen right where they were, tied for fifth place with Merrimack. But Saturday’s win was an emphatic one, the six goals being UMass’ highest output of the year.

  8. Vermont (3-8-3, 3-5-3 HEA) – The Catamounts went 1-1-1 over the last week, but made sure the win and tie mattered, earning three points against Maine to pull into a tie for fifth place in Hockey East.

  9. UMass-Lowell (4-7-1, 2-6-1 HEA) – The River Hawks dropped two to UNH last weekend, marking their fifth and sixth losses this year against ranked opponents. The road gets a little easier – but only a little – on Saturday with a home game against unranked Northeastern, and then a Monday night clash at Harvard.

  10. Maine (2-10-2, 1-6-2 HEA) – The Black Bears are actually a respectable 1-1-2 over their last four games, picking up all four of their Hockey East points over that span.

Andrew Merritt can be reached at MerrittNEHJ@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @A_Merritt.