BOSTON -- Last year, it was Jack Parker’s turn. Just like it was Jerry York's the year before.
York told Parker in 2009 that the season following a national championship was rife with potholes. And Parker saw it happen firsthand, as his 2009-10 championship Terriers rode a bumpy roller coaster all year, ultimately failing to make the NCAA field after getting bounced by Maine in the Hockey East semifinals.
Now, it’s York and No. 7 Boston College who are apparently suffering something of a NCAA title hangover. Just when it looked like the Eagles were getting ready to soar, taking a weekend sweep from offensively gifted Maine, a gang of Warriors brought them back down to earth on Friday, Merrimack handing BC a 5-2 defeat.
So how did York’s squad respond on Sunday? With a surgical 6-0 dismantling of the Vermont Catamounts to take the season series and secure a share of the Hockey East lead with BU.
“I don’t think we’re being as cohesive a unit as we need to be to be successful,” York said after his team improved to 9-5-0. “We were kind of out of sync.”
During Sunday’s matinee at Conte Forum, though, the Eagles looked every bit the championship contender preseason prognosticators predicted they would be. “I thought we had great jump,” said York. “We brought it to the net very well. We had some jam to our game tonight.”
After a relatively uneventful opening 18 minutes, BC senior alternate captain Brian Gibbons got the Eagles on the board with a nifty individual effort. Gibbons won a clean offensive-zone faceoff against Vermont’s Wahsontiio Stacey, walked in untouched on Rob Madore, deked the Vermont goalie to his knees, and deftly tucked the puck around his right pad for a 1-0 lead.
The floodgates opened in the second. Vermont’s Chris McCarthy got tagged for an interference penalty at the 57-second mark, and although the Catamounts (1-6-4) were able to kill off the man advantage, BC struck just as Vermont got back to full strength. Cam Atkinson, BC's top scorer, parked himself at the top of the crease to Madore’s right. Teammate Paul Carey, battling for the puck near the right faceoff dot, shuffled a sweet backhand feed to Atkinson, and the junior buried it for his 11th tally of the year and a 2-0 BC lead at the 2:57 mark.
The rout was on.
“That was the best team we played this year,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “Defensively, they did a great job in the neutral zone, in their zone, and they blocked a ton of shots.
“They didn’t give us an inch.”
BC expanded its lead at 10:46 on a rare offensive foray by defenseman Patch Alber. With the Vermont defense collapsing on BC’s Barry Almeida on the right wing, the junior from Springfield, Mass., flicked a pass to Alber, who broke in alone on Madore. The sophomore juked Madore, switched to his backhand and flipped the puck into the back of the net for his second career goal.
At 14:27, 11 seconds after Vermont’s Kyle Medvec was sent to the box for high sticking, Carey finished off a textbook power-play goal to put the game out of reach of the offensively challenged Catamounts. BC’s Patrick Wey, gliding into the high slot, pushed a pass into the deep right corner to Gibbons, who saw Carey slide to the doorstep to Madore’s right. Gibbons fired a cross-ice tape-to-tape pass that Carey tapped in for a 4-0 edge.
“I feel like we’re all coming together,” said Carey. “All our lines were firing.”
Jimmy Hayes stretched the margin to 5-0 shortly after jumping out of the penalty box. BC's Chris Kreider drove down the left wing and snapped a low, hard shot that Madore stopped but couldn’t corral. Hayes, steaming down the slot, pounced on the rebound and shoveled it past Madore for his sixth goal of the season.
“That’s not our hockey team, and not reflective of how we can play,” Sneddon said. “We had zero skill.”
The third period was a denouement for the Eagles, as the Catamounts never showed any sign of mounting a comeback. After Pat Mullane stretched the BC lead to 6-0 on a great bang-bang play with captain Joe Whitney, York replaced starting goaltender John Muse with third-stringer Chris Venti.
“We played very well,” said York. “We want to see that repeated.”
The Eagles will have their chance soon enough, with a home-and-home series set for next weekend with their crosstown rivals from BU.