BOSTON – After two straight losses to open the season series between the two clubs, the No. 2/3 Boston College Eagles proved their stance in the Hockey East and national picture with a commanding 6-1 victory over archrival No. 13 Boston University on Saturday evening at Agganis Arena.
“We were very, very solid in all three zones,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “I thought [goaltender Brian Billett] played exceptionally. I thought our defensive core up to our forwards, I felt very well about the way we played.”
The victory was the lone triumph of the season for the Eagles in the three-game, regular-season series against their rivals from the other end of the Green Line and avoids being swept for the first time since 1994-95 in a season series against the Terriers.
“I thought last night was an indicator that we had kind of meshed as a club even more as the year went on,” York added. “It is not very often that you walk away with 42 saves from one goaltender and ten for another and you lose a game. Even though it was a tough loss for us, I kept on looking at the game, the film and saying we had so many chances to score…”
The squads could potentially meet for a fourth time in the second round of the annual Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden on Feb. 13, 2012, but no other meetings are firmly set on the schedule now.
It was a fast start for the Eagles as they mustered three of the first five shots on goal and used scrappy play in front of the net to result in their first goal of the contest as well as their first lead over BU on the season at any point during the games.
Freshman Quinn Smith forced a turnover at the opposing blue line, skated into the offensive zone and fired a shot on net that was saved by BU goaltender Kieran Millan. The puck was found loose in the crease where fellow rookie Danny Linell poked in a rebound on an open right side of the cage for the score at 5:51.
On the goal, both Linell and Smith collected their first points as collegiate players as a very crazy trend continued for BU’s defense, which ranks a respectable fifth in Hockey East on the season.
The Terriers have now given up 29 goals in conference play this season and an astounding 14 of them were the scorer’s first-collegiate tally.
With 1:04 left in the opening stanza, junior Ryan Ruikka was credited with the primary assist on a goal by senior Corey Trivino.
Ruikka took a shot from the point that ricocheted off the end-boards to Trivino and he centered the puck into the net off the skate of BC freshman goaltender Brian Billett for his tenth score of the season.
After one period, BC held a 14-10 advantage in shots on goal and 27-15 in total chances.
The Eagles offense came back to life in the second period, scoring four goals to take a commanding four-goal lead into the intermission. Before tonight’s game, the Eagles had scored four times in a period two other times on the season, coming at North Dakota and UMass-Lowell in October.
BC re-gained its lead at 2-1 when senior Tommy Cross fired a beautiful backhanded shot past Millan at the 1:50 mark off an assist from junior Steven Whitney.
“It just lifted the whole bench,” said BC’s venerable bench boss. “I thought we were on our way to a special night and it turned out that way.
At 13:53, the Eagles made it a two-goal game when junior Chris Kreider scored his team-best 12th goal of the season, snapping the puck off the post and beating Millan glove side on a rush down ice past the Terrier defense.
Eagle junior defender Brian Dumoulin fired an initial shot on goal to set up Johnny Gaudreau’s seventh score of the season at 15:55. Millan could not control the rebound in front of the net and the New Jersey native lifted the rebound up and over the netminder for the goal.
At 18:24, Millan was beat on a clean wrist shot by Bill Arnold from the right circle in the offensive zone.
In the period, the Terriers recorded the majority of the chances with a 35-13 advantage in shots attempted and 22-8 on goal.
BC scored the first and only goal of the period yet again in the third as Paul Carey fired a snap shot high on Millan’s right shoulder at the 3:48 mark. The primary assist was credited to Dumoulin as the BU defense broke down on what became Carey’s fourth of the season.
Billett finished the contest with 40 saves as he earned his second-career victory in as many starts after finishing last Saturday’s contest at Yale also victorious. Millan made 17 saves over the first 40 minutes, while Grant Rollheiser made eight stops and surrendered just a single goal in the third period.
“Millan was on the top, top of his game,” York added. “I have seen some great games from him over the four years…and he was just terrific.”
When asked about making his first start in Hockey East on one of the biggest stages of BC’s season, Billett said that it was “unimaginable.”
“Obviously, it is a very big honor to start your collegiate career here at Agganis Arena going up against our biggest rivals,” the freshman from Biddeford, Maine said. “Coming into the game, I was just relaxed as usual and I felt comfortable we were going to get a win.”
The Terriers finished the third period with a 22-14 advantage in total chances and a 72-54 edge for the game on the whole. Shots on goal in the period were tied at nine for both teams.
The Eagles return to action on Tuesday night for a midweek contest against Providence College at Kelley Rink. The Terriers hit the road on Thursday for a date at New Hampshire’s Whittemore Center.