Saturday, March 24, 2012
BC edges Air Force, advances to final
By Brion O'Connor
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Sweet 16. In the NCAA's opening round of the Northeast Regional, it was the top-seeded Boston College Eagles who came up smelling like roses, netting their 16th straight victory with a hard-fought 2-0 win over the Air Force Falcons at the DCU Center.
Boston College's Patch Alber, right, battles Air Force's Tony Thomas for the puck.
To advance, the No. 1 Eagles (30-10-1) had to do something no other Air Force opponent has done this season, and that was shutting out the 16th-ranked Falcons (21-11-7). But the game wasn't decided until a late Chris Kreider power-play strike, his second of the game, as the Falcons proved they were no slouches in the defensive zone.
"We didn't give them a lot of Grade A chances, and we didn't give them a lot of second shots," said Falcons coach Frank Serratore. "We executed our game plan. We knew we weren't going to beat BC 7-6, or 6-5, or 5-4. If we're going to beat them, it was going to be 1-0, or 2-1.
"We put ourselves in a position to win a 2-1 game. We just didn't convert the goal," said Serratore. "We needed a low-scoring game. We got that. We got into that third period right where we wanted to be, and it just didn't happen. Give our kids credit for doing what we needed to do to put ourselves in that position, and give BC all the credit in the world for doing what champions do. They found a way to win."
In a tightly played match that was hard-hitting but clean, the Falcons employed a tight-checking scheme and were able to constantly thwart BC's vaunted offense. But the Eagles proved they could win a low-scoring match, taking care of business in their own end.
BC goalie Parker Milner (20 saves) kept the Falcons at bay, making several game-saving stops to propel the Eagles into the Northeast Regional final game on Sunday. There, Boston College will take on either Maine, in a rematch of the Hockey East championship game played last Saturday, or Minnesota-Duluth, in a match pitting the past two national champions.
The Eagles used their superior speed to take the play to the Falcons from the start, showing an extra gear against their Atlantic Hockey foe. That difference was evident on BC's first goal, when Kevin Hayes got a step on his defender behind the Air Force net, and curled a picture-perfect wraparound feed to linemate Kreider. The New York Rangers draft pick tapped the puck past Falcons goaltender Jason Torf at 7:39 for the goal that would stand as the game-winner.
For long stretches of the game, BC enjoyed a distinct territorial advantage, but the Falcons kept hanging around, implementing a bend-but-don't-break defense while answering with several quality bids of their own. Air Force played disciplined defense, with active sticks that constantly flustered BC's passing attack. And when the Eagles did get a shot, Torf (32 saves) stood his ground.
The game turned at 18:07 of the third, when the Falcons’ Dan Weissenhofer was whistled off for a borderline crosschecking call, which prevented Air Force from pulling Torf for the extra attacker. Just 32 seconds later, Kreider picked up his own rebound by the right edge of the crease and tucked it behind Torf for the insurance marker, sending the Eagles to the regional final on Sunday.