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January 13, 2014

Hockey Notebook

Boston College showed just how good a hockey team they can be Friday night with a hard earned 5-2 victory over sixth-ranked Providence College. But less than 24 hours later they reminded everyone that as a dominant team, they are not quite there yet, dropping down a notch in class and performance and emerging with a 3-3 tie with Brown University, who are firmly entrenched closer to the bottom than the top of the ECAC standings.

So, Friday night got everyone thinking about reservations for the Frozen Four in Philly and Saturday got us all thinking about the tough games between now and then including Penn State, Merrimack and Vermont, who you might have thought were the patsies remaining. But, as Brown taught everyone Saturday, like Holy Cross did in November, there are no easy teams out there. Just because your team has a lot of fancy names on the roster, it takes top effort to win at any time. Now we will see if this young team has learned its lesson and can put the four-point weekends together from here on in.

A few fuzzy thoughts from the weekend:

• No matter what mental state they are in, that top line of Gaudreau, Arnold and Hayes is going to score plenty of goals. They scored four Friday night against Providence and goalie Jon Gillies, who is probably the best goalie in Hockey East, if not the entire country. It seems that Gaudreau always scores a goal that is worth talking about, like he is the only human who would put the puck in the net that way. Near the end of the third period he broke in alone on Gillies and tried to go five-hole. Gillies stopped it with his pad, but Gaudreau delayed, picked up the bobbling puck as Gillies tried to cover it and hit the five-hole on his second try. With an assist on Kevin Hayes empty netter 71 second later, Gaudreau had his 134th career point, tying him with Jerry York and Red Martin on BC's career scoring list. "I thought he passed me a long time ago," York said modestly after the game. Gaudreau took 99 games to get to 134, while York did it in 81. Gaudreau earned praise from York after the Providence game (he moved ahead of his coach after one point at Brown.) "Johnny is the type of person who has promised himself that he will improve his whole game as a player every practice, every game, every season, every year. I don't think he is done yet." It would take Gaudreau 40 more points to move into the top ten in BC history. Most of the players in from of him did it in four years. The next big names for him to pass include Brian Boyle, Joe Whitney and another of his coaches, Marty McInnis.

• But, scoring help has to come from the other three lines as well. Destry Straight, Ryan Fitzgerald and Austin Cangelosi have cooled off of late. Pat Brown had a key goal against Providence and looks to be the effective big body in front of the goal on power plays. His partner Quinn Smith seems to have forgotten the offensive promise he showed in the Beanpot last year. Chris Calnan had a key goal at Brown and his line (with Adam Gilmour and Brendan Silk) might be ready for a breakout. Gilmour is being used on the point on the power play. Goals have to start coming more regularly from these nine players. It is doubtful that Jerry York will break up his first line anytime soon, but perhaps there will still be some experimenting among the other three. Barring injury you probably won't see much more of Ian Richardson, Matt Gaudreau or Cam Spiro.

• Jerry York thought the Providence game was his team's best total effort of the year. Defenseman Michael Matheson added that he thought Friday night was the "most cohesive" effort by the defense corps this year. "This was a good solid hockey game," York said. We got solid play from all four lines."

• In eleven power plays over the weekend, BC scored three goals, a turnabout from previous weeks, when fans began suggesting that the Eagles turn down penalties, ala football. The Eagles, who have been the top scoring team in the country for much of the season, have been ranked near the bottom in power play scoring. They spent a lot of time working on the man advantage in practice last week. Notably Gaudreau spent more time out near the blueline and was looked at the set up plays for everyone else. Kevin Hayes also spent some time on the point. "We worked hard all week practicing to get bodies to the net on the power play," Pat Brown said. Jerry York added that "we were trying to get more shots on goal, rather than looking for the fancy pass."

• Providence coach Nate Leaman echoed Notre Dame's Jeff Jackson when he lamented his team's slow start against BC. We gave them way too much respect right out of the gate," he said. Boston College dominated play in the first 10 minutes.
Brian Billett was good enough for the win Friday night and Thatcher Demko was barely good enough for the tie on Saturday. It was the first game action for Demko since he beat UNH early in December. We are now approaching the time when one of these goalies has to step up and carry this team on a night like, say, Saturday at Brown.

• You know in the old days sportswriters used to give players nicknames because they often wrote from wire reports and often didn't know what a guy's real first name was. We had Babe, Shoeless Joe, The Kid, Rocket, Gump, The Iron Horse, Bronco, The Splendid Splinter, The Chief, the ol' Perfessor, Little Poison, etc. Maybe some of these BC guys need nicknames. We already have "Johnny Hockey." How about "Bull" Arnold. I think that is appropriate. I would like to start calling Isaac MacLeod "Ike." I don't think Austin is the right first name for the Cangelosi kid, so I might start calling him "Angelo." Of course, instead of Steve, I would call our freshman defenseman "The Great" Santini. Destry Straight is a good enough name as is, but I might get him a horse and a six-shooter. I know I'll think up a few more nicknames or else my name isn't Fuzzy.

There is a busy weekend coming up with BU on Friday night and Maine on Saturday, both at the Conte Forum. No matter how bad they have been playing, Boston University is always a challenge for the Eagles and will be a preview of the Beanpot opener on February 3. As for Maine, they slapped the Eagles around pretty Good, 5-1 in Orono in November. Revenge is sweet, one would hope.

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