February 7, 2014

Hockey East Journal: Role players delivering for BC

By Andrew Merritt

Contributions from the less-heralded Eagles, such as sophomore Brendan Silk (Wakefield, Mass.), will be key for Boston College. (Photo by Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

Brendan Silk has only scored two goals this year. Playing on a Boston College offense that’s the best in the country, with two players owning 20-plus goals and 13 in double-digit points, that’s not exactly a total to write home about.

Yet the Wakefield, Mass., native’s two goals have been big ones. The first came at Fenway Park, and opened the scoring in the Eagles’ 4-3 win over Notre Dame on Jan. 4. The second came last Friday, Jan. 21, at Providence, and once again was the first goal on the board in a BC victory, sparking a 2-0 win over the Friars.

With just a few weeks left in the season, BC has all but locked up the Hockey East regular season title, and currently holds the No. 1 spot in the PairWise Rankings that mimic the NCAA tournament selection process. It’s entirely reasonable to think that this Eagle team still has lots of hockey to play, and might even make a run for its third national title in five seasons.

If that happens, it’s almost a given that the Eagles will need big performances from their usual suspects – especially the top line of dynamo Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) in a breakout senior season, and ever-steady assist machine Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.). “Trophy season,” as coach Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.) puts it, is a time for the superstars to really shine.

But the recipe of any successful team also includes at least a pinch of contribution from role players – players like Silk, whose numbers don’t raise any eyebrows but who simply by association find themselves in big, important positions. Just as Gaudreau, Hayes and Arnold will be asked to key BC’s run to as much hardware as it can grab in the coming months, the less-heralded Eagles have a part to play as well.

What helps is that for BC, less heralded doesn’t mean less valuable.

“We never really talk about role players and top-end players. We expect them to want to be good players, to play both sides of the puck. They can make defensive plays, and they can score goals,” York said. “It’s nice to see the goals spread around a little bit, and good to see Silky get another one tonight.”

Some of those role players have already delivered. Of the 20 game-winning goals scored by BC players this year, four have come off the sticks of players with six or fewer goals to their name in 2013-14. When the Eagles won the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh with an 8-2 stomping of Penn State on Dec. 28, the rout came mostly from Destry Straight, whose hat trick doubled his goal total for the season.

If that weren’t enough, the Eagles don’t have to look too far back to find examples of unheralded players coming up big in big moments. In 2010, BC won the first of three straight Hockey East titles en route to a national championship. To take that league title at TD Garden, they got a huge performance from Matt Lombardi, a senior from Milton, Mass., who had just three goals going into the Hockey East final.

Lombardi had a hat trick in the game, including the game-winner in overtime that gave BC a 7-6 victory over Maine.

The moment arrived for Lombardi, who went from role player to prime-time player. It stands to reason that the very same opportunity may come to someone like Silk as the Eagles continue their potential banner year.

Player of the Week

Kevin Goumas, sr., New Hampshire

Goumas’ 2-3–5 weekend led a sweep of Notre Dame by the Wildcats, and included goals in both victories.

Games of the Week

Northeastern vs. Boston College, Monday, Feb. 11

League points may not be on the line, but let’s not pretend this game doesn’t matter. The Eagles are going for their fifth straight Beanpot title, which would be a first for the program, and the Huskies are trying to snap 25 years of futility in the tournament, with their best team since the 2009 squad that came up short against BU in the final.

Hockey East power rankings

  1. Boston College (20-4-3, 12-1-1 HEA) – After Friday’s win over Providence, there aren’t a lot of roadblocks left for the Eagles, though a two-game set against UMass-Lowell looms in a couple of weeks.

  2. UMass-Lowell (18-7-2, 8-4-1 HEA) – The River Hawks dispatched local rival Merrimack with relative ease in a two-game sweep, thanks in part to Connor Hellebuyck’s 33-save shutout Saturday night, and are actually on their first three-game winning streak since the end of December.

  3. Northeastern (16-8-3, 8-5-1 HEA) – The Huskies had the week off from league play, and put the extra rest to good use, walking all over Harvard Monday night in the Beanpot semifinals.

  4. New Hampshire (16-13-1, 8-6-0 HEA) – Although last weekend’s sweep of Notre Dame isn’t as impressive now as it might have seemed on paper at the start of the season, the Wildcats were in control for much of the weekend, and got strong goaltending from Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.).

  5. Providence (15-7-5, 7-6-1 HEA) – The Friars certainly gave BC its biggest test in a while, but couldn’t crack Thatcher Demko. Now, they’ve only got two wins in their last nine games, going 2-5-2 over that stretch.

  6. Vermont (13-9-3, 5-7-0 HEA) – Vermont was idle over the weekend, and the two-week break comes to an abrupt end this weekend against a UNH team that’s starting to gain some steam.

  7. Maine (12-9-3, 6-4-2 HEA) – The Black Bears hit a key stretch here, with four games over the next two weeks against eighth-place Notre Dame and last-place Merrimack. After that, Maine finishes up with two-game sets at Northeastern and against Providence, so now’s the time to scoop up some points before that season-ending gauntlet arrives.

  8. Notre Dame (15-11-1, 4-8-1 HEA) – The Irish’s up-and-down debut season in Hockey East hit another valley with last weekend’s sweep at the hands of UNH. Remaining for Notre Dame are five out of seven games against teams in the top half of the standings, so it isn’t going to get easier.

  9. UMass (7-16-4, 3-8-3 HEA) – Freshman Ray Pigozzi has shown a knack for performing in the clutch this year, scoring the tying goal in Friday’s draw with BU with just 50 seconds left and goaltender Steve Mastalerz pulled from the net. Pigozzi has also scored a game-winner and assisted on two others this season.

  10. Boston University (8-15-3, 3-8-2 HEA) – BU made the wrong kind of history Monday night at the Beanpot. The Terriers’ loss to BC means they’ll play in the tournament’s consolation game for the second straight year. It’s only the third time BU has ever played back-to-back consolation games, and the first time since 1980-81.

  11. Merrimack (7-15-3, 2-9-2 HEA) – While the Merrimack offense has been pretty tepid of late, freshman Chris LeBlanc (Winthrop, Mass.) has been heating up since his return from missing four games due to injury. Though he was held off the scoresheet Saturday night, that snapped a three-game point streak in which he had 3-1–4 totals.

Twitter: @A_Merritt
Email: amerritt@hockeyjournal.com