Little Forwards Make Big Impact in BC Blowout

Barry Almeida, Steven Whitney and Johnny Gaudreau collectively don’t have a lot of room on their shoulders. However, the tiny trio made room to carry its No. 5 Boston College team to a 7-1 victory over Northeastern University at TD garden on Monday night, as each had three points.

Almeida (5-foot-8) had a goal and an assist, while his linemate Whitney (5-foot-7) scored two goals along with an assist. Gaudreau (5-foot-7) scored two goals and registered an assist in his first career Beanpot game.

“When I was younger I was always watching the BC and [Boston University] rivalry and always watching Beanpots,” Gaudreau said. “I always dreamed about playing in one. Just a chance to play in one, let alone do well in it, is an awesome experience for me. It was a lot of fun tonight.”

The Eagles opened up the scoring when Paul Carey rifled a drop pass from Gaudreau over goaltender Chris Rawlings’ glove just over five minutes into the first period. Gaudreau would soon follow that up with a goal of his own, when he took a misplayed puck from Luke Eibler and slid the puck through Rawlings’ five-hole.

The Carneys Point, N.J. native netted his second goal nearly nine minutes into the second period when he batted a rebound out of the air into the back of the net from a slapshot by Patch Alber.

Gaudreau, who had originally committed to Northeastern before switching to BC, has been a revelation thus far for the Eagles. The 150-pound freshman has used his quickness and hands to rack up 22 points in 28 games this season.

Besides Gaudreau, the pair of Almeida and Whitney had a lot of success offensively, especially on the penalty kill.

Whitney scored the game’s third goal on the penalty kill, when Almeida stole the puck at the blue line and went on a 2-on-1 with Whitney. Almeida slowed down and flicked a saucer pass over to Whitney, who sent the puck to the back of the net with a hard wrist shot.

Soon after, the duo went on another short-handed 2-on-1, this time with Whitney carrying the puck into the offensive zone. Whitney tried to return the favor to Almeida with a pass across the slot, but when defenseman Anthony Bitetto blocked the pass Whitney took the deflection and delivered a shot while standing still to the top right corner for his second short-handed goal of the night.

“We took advantage of some ice conditions that weren’t terrific after back-to-back games. It was a bouncy puck,” said BC coach Jerry York. “They were on the power play and we got two shorthanded goals. I attribute that to the ice here sometimes getting rough, and we took it to our advantage.”

Almeida was on the ice for both Whitney goals, but he too would eventually get in on the scoring when he took a rebound from Brian Dumoulin’s shot and pushed it into a wide-open net. Whitney was credited for with the secondary assist on the play.

The success of Almeida offensively has been a welcome surprise for BC this year, as the senior had never scored more than eight goals in an entire season before this season. With tonight’s goal, Almeida has 17 goals on the year.

“[Almeida] is definitely a leader for us,” Whitney said. “He is a two-way player for sure. He has been huge for us coming up with goals late in games. He has been scoring a lot of goals and giving us a jump in the game.”

Small forwards having success in the Beanpot is nothing new for the BC program. Players like Brian Gibbons, who was the 2008 Beanpot MVP, and Brian Gionta, who tallied 3 points in the semifinal in 2001, have recently showed that being under 5-foot-9 is not a problem while playing under York. Nathan Gerbe, who is only 5-foot-4, scored the overtime game-winning goal against BU in 2008, and was nominated for the Hobey Baker award later that season.

“I think we were one of the first college programs – there are a lot like us now – that recognized that smaller players, if they play with grit and are strong on their skates, can be major major factors in the game,” York said.

BC will be looking for similar efforts from its smaller forwards again next Monday, as the Eagles will be battling No. 1 BU for the Beanpot title. The Eagles have won the coveted trophy each of the past two seasons, but the Terriers have not missed out on the Beanpot title three consecutive years since 1985.

“Every Beanpot final is just as exciting. Playing BU is a little bit of a bonus,” Whitney said. “I know this year will be even more fun against BU.”

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