January 6, 2014

BC trio makes its mark in Fenway encore

By Andrew Merritt

From left, Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.), Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) and Johnny Gaudreau made a huge impact for Boston College in their second trip to Fenway Park, leading the Eagles to a 4-3 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. (Photo by Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

BOSTON – The 2010 Frozen Fenway game between Boston College and Boston University was bittersweet for Bill Arnold.

At the time, Arnold was playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program, and attending high school in Ann Arbor, Mich. But the Needham, Mass., native’s heart was back home as he watched Boston College play Boston University in the first college hockey game ever played at Fenway Park.

“Growing up, they never had anything like this, so it never even crossed your mind that it’s something that could happen,” said Arnold, who one year later would be a freshman at Boston College. “I watched it the year before I got here, and I was like, ‘shucks, I really would’ve loved to do that.’”

But it turned out the once-in-a-lifetime game between BC and BU on Jan. 8, 2010 was anything but. An argument could be made that the center of the explosion of outdoor hockey in the last half-decade is at the corner of Yawkey Way and Brookline Avenue, where Fenway has hosted 10 college games (with eight more planned this year), plus the 2010 Winter Classic between the Bruins and Philadelphia and a bevy of high school and prep contests.

In other words, Arnold would get his chance. On Saturday, Jan. 4, BC played its third game at Fenway in four years, beating Notre Dame 4-3. It was the second win on Fenway ice in as many tries for Arnold, as well as linemate Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) and Johnny Gaudreau, who were also part of the Eagle team that beat Northeastern 2-1 in 2012.

This year’s Fenway frolic was a little different for the trio, and not just because it was against the Irish, an old rival who are new conference foes after Notre Dame’s move to Hockey East this season.

Arnold, Hayes and Gaudreau might have played in the win over Northeastern, but they didn’t leave any meaningful mark on the scoresheet. All three went without a point in the game, which was won on goals by now-departed Eagles Pat Mullane (Wallingford, Conn.) and Chris Kreider (Boxford, Mass.).

Arnold and Hayes were sophomores that season, and Gaudreau a promising, but still young, freshman. This year, all three are leaders for BC, and they showed why in the victory over Notre Dame. After Brendan Silk (Wakefield, Mass.) opened the scoring early in the first period Saturday night, the Gaudreau-Arnold-Hayes line combined for three goals and four assists to pace the Eagles to their dramatic victory.

Gaudreau had the game-winner for the Eagles, coming on a setup by Hayes, whose blocked shot in the defensive zone set up a rush that culminated with the senior drawing an Irish defenseman to him to clear space for Gaudreau. The Carneys Point, N.J., native took Hayes’ crossing pass, and just 52 seconds after Bryan Rust had tied the game for the Irish, Gaudreau buried a puck past Notre Dame’s Steven Summerhays to give BC the winning one-goal edge with 11:39 to go.

Arnold picked up a secondary assist on the play, and earlier set up Gaudreau for the second BC goal, winning a faceoff and slipping a blind pass to Gaudreau, who walked into the slot and ripped a shot past Summerhays for a 2-0 BC lead.

After Notre Dame tied it with a late one from Mario Lucia in the first period and a power play goal from T.J. Tynan just 23 seconds into the second, Arnold gave the Eagles a lead again early in the third, this time scoring shorthanded off a hard-earned assist from Hayes with 15:22 to go.

Rust’s equalizer came a few minutes later. Then Gaudreau scored his game-winner, and each member of the line had a multiple-point game.

Although Gaudreau and Arnold have been playing together for most of the year, Hayes was centering other forward lines until BC’s Dec. 6, 2013, game against UNH. That’s when coach Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.) and his staff decided to slot Hayes on the wing with Gaudreau and Arnold, and since then, the trio has been on fire.

In the five games since Hayes joined his new linemates, the three have combined for 10 goals and 27 points, as well as 34 shots on goal. Arnold and Hayes are each plus-10 in the five games (all victories), and Gaudreau is plus-11.

“Coach put me, Bill and Kevin together, and I think that was pretty exciting for all three of us,” Gaudreau said. “We never got the chance to play together, and I think that kind of sparked all three of us. Ever since coach put us together, we’ve been doing really well together, we’ve been getting a lot of scoring chances, and it’s been a lot of fun this last stretch, playing with these guys.”

The line was already red hot heading into Saturday’s game at Fenway, and it was pretty much unstoppable once the trio stepped onto Boston’s beloved ballfield. That meant a starring role for Hayes and Arnold on a stage they both know well from years of attending Red Sox games. In a place accustomed to big hits from the boys of summer, the locals were BC’s boys of winter, making a much more indelible impression in their second game on Yawkey Way.

Yet even after providing a big piece of the fireworks for BC on Saturday night, Hayes stuck to the team-first mentality that has been a hallmark of York’s teams.

“Points are cool, but that’s not what BC’s all about,” he said. “We’ve got guys like Johnny Gaudreau who can get a million points if he wants. Points aren’t what we look for here. We look for the W, and the two points in the league standings. It’s nice to get them, but it’s not what’s on people’s minds on this team.”

Still, now Hayes and Arnold’s memories of playing in the home of their beloved Red Sox contain more than just the sights and sounds of a special night at Fenway. Before, they could only say they were there. Now, they can say they played one of the best games of their careers.

It’s easy to get distracted in such a setting, but Saturday’s game wasn’t just one for the history books, it was one for the record books as well, with two key Hockey East points on the line. So the Eagles tried to stick to the task at hand, but that can be awfully hard when you’re a local kid, sitting in the middle of the region’s most cherished sports cathedral.

“Yeah, the one thing I remember is you had to turn around on the bench to see the replays on the big scoreboard there,” Arnold said. “And you see a glimpse of the Green Monster and everyone on top of there, and it’s like, ‘wow, they’re up there watching us.’ It’s a pretty cool experience.”

Thanks to his play on Saturday night, Arnold – and his linemates – had plenty of reasons to turn around and look at the scoreboard, and at Fenway’s famous wall – a familiar sight, seen from the best seats Arnold and Hayes have ever had.

Twitter: @A_Merritt

Email: amerritt@hockeyjournal.com