By Roman J. Uschak
Two goals from Chris Kreider lifted top-seeded Boston College over Air Force, 2-0, in a tightly-contested first-round game at the 2012 NCAA Northeast Regional at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. The Eagles (30-10-1), who have now won 16 consecutive games, will face either Maine or Minnesota-Duluth Sunday night for the right to advance to the Frozen Four.
|Chris Kreider buried his 21st and 22nd goals of the season to lead BC over Air Force. (Dave Arnold Photography)|
“Air Force competed,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “They’ve proven on a national scale, they can compete with anyone.”
He was also pleased with his own team’s defensive efforts.
“If you don’t play defense, two goals are not going to win many games,” said York.
BC, which carried most of the offensive play early on, took the lead at 7:39. Kevin Hayes rounded the net left to right, and then slid the puck across to Chris Kreider for a tap-in goal, his 21st of the season. Destry Straight also assisted
Air Force (21-11-7) put on a flurry just prior to the first intermission, but couldn’t capitalize.
The Eagles began to buzz around the Falcons cage midway through the second stanza, but couldn’t solve AFA netminder Jason Torf. Johnny Gaudreau had BC’s best chance with 12:33 remaining, when he cut in close on his backhand, but couldn’t put the puck past Torf’s left pad.
The Falcons picked up their first power play with just over three minutes left in the second period, when BC’s Bill Arnold was whistled for hooking, but couldn’t get a shot on Parker Milner.
“You’ve got to be solid in all areas," said York. “I think from the goal out, we’re an excellent defensive team.”
BC couldn’t take advantage of a hooking penalty to Hobey Baker Award finalist Tim Kirby just 20 seconds into the third session, and the two teams then traded power plays before BC began to outshoot AFA significantly.
Milner made perhaps his biggest save with 3:30 left when he denied John Kruse right in front of the BC net, and then stopped Paul Weisgarber’s shot from the left circle before Weisgarber fired the rebound wide.
“They’re a tough team to play against,” said Milner. “We’ve seen what they’ve done the past couple of years in the tournament, and they’re exactly what we expected.”
BC finally made the man advantage work after Dan Weissenhofer was called for cross-checking with 1:53 remaining. The Eagles jammed the net, and Kreider got two whacks at a Patrick Wey rebound at the right post before pushing the puck over the line with 1:21 left.
“It’s a credit to our team as a whole,” said Kreider of BC’s late-season success. “The past few years, we’ve figured it out the last couple of months in the season.”
“They’ve got a heck of a hockey team,” said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore, “and in my opinion, they beat a heck of a hockey team.”
Milner finished with 20 saves for the Eagles in posting his fourth shutout, while Torf made 32 stops as BC outshot AFA, 34-20. The Eagles were 1-for-5 on the power play, while the Falcons were 0-for-2.
“All year you think about the caliber of competition, and if you don’t show up to play in Hockey East, you’re not going to win," said York. “The NCAAs ratchets that up a bit ... It’s hard to win.”