WORCESTER, Mass. - Boston College continues to mine a rich vein in this working-class city, as the top-seeded Eagles got a first-rate performance from their first line and clobbered the Pioneers of Denver 6-2 in the opening game of the NCAA Northeast Regional.
The third-ranked Eagles (27-7-4) have now won nine straight postseason contests at the DCU Center since 2005 (11-1 overall), and hope to make it 10 straight Sunday when they face the winner of the UMass Lowell-Minnesota State Mankato nightcap. All of BC's four title runs since 2001 have originated in Worcester. More important for this year's squad, the Eagles showed little rust from their two-week layoff after getting bounced from the Hockey East playoffs on March 16.
In the first postseason clash between these two traditional collegiate powers since 1973, the result emphasized a well-established belief regarding the country's most potent offense: If you're going to beat the Eagles, you need to contain BC's top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold. The high-flying linemates accounted for all of BC's six goals, and 13 of the Eagles' 17 points. The game was effectively over by the end of the first period, with the Eagles registering as many goals (3) as the 17th-ranked Pioneers (20-16-6) had shots.
In a classic confrontation between student and teacher, BC's Gaudreau, the odds-on favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award, got the best of his former USHL coach Jim Montgomery, Denver's bench boss. Just 25 seconds into the contest, Gaudreau found a seam behind the Pioneers' defense, took a brilliant behind-the-back, no-look pass from Hayes and roofed the puck over DU goalie Sam Brittain's right shoulder for his 33rd on the season and a 1-0 BC lead.
Montgomery, Gaudreau's coach during his tenure with the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints, had almost predicted the goal the night before. "You don't want to be running at them defensively, because they'll make you look stupid. You've got to mark your men well.
"I know, coaching Johnny ... his anticipation of when to transition from defense to offense is going to happen. He doesn't end up on breakaways like he does by a fluke. His timing is impeccable," said Montgomery. "I've been trying to show our players that when you realize a turnover has happened, he's already two strides ahead of you and behind you."
BC's second goal showcased Hayes' brute strength and patience. Starting deep in the left corner, the senior from Dorchester, Mass., skated in a large circle, waltzing through the entire Denver defense along the way. The final move was a crisp deke on Brittain, who bit, and Hayes switched the puck to his forehand before jamming it home.
Gaudreau stretched the lead to 3-0 with his second of the game before the midway point of the first period. Collecting the puck at center ice, Gaudreau burst down the left side, leaving DU's David Makowski in his wake. The junior then sliced behind the DU net, and before Brittain could recover, tucked the puck neatly inside the right post for his 34th of the season.
The trend continued in the second, when Hayes got his second. Gaudreau's pass from the corner glanced off Arnold to Hayes, who took it in stride and fired a dart into the top right corner at 5:29. Gaudreau then completed his hat trick at 8:13.
Brittain made a dandy right pad save on defenseman Michael Matheson as he slashed across the crease, but Gaudreau was Johnny on the spot. The junior from New Jersey pounced on the rebound, and fired a shot from behind the goal line that caromed off a prone Brittain and into the DU net for a 5-0 BC lead.
At 15:35, Arnold got into the act, beating his man down the ice and converting a perfectly weighted pass from Hayes to put the game completely out of reach, 6-0.
The Pioneers got a goal back in the final minute of the middle frame when Trevor Moore snuck a backhander past BC's Thatcher Demko while the freshman netminder was distracted by his defenseman Ian McCoshen and DU's Ty Loney tangled in the crease.
However, Montgomery all but sent up the white flag to start the third, pulling his senior netminder for freshman Evan Crowley. The Pioneers, playing to the final whistle, cut the final margin to four with only 13.4 seconds remaining, when the puck deflected off DU's Evan Janssen and past Demko. But it would be the last goal of Denver's season.
Sunday, it will be another team's turn to try to stop Gaudreau and his BC Eagles.