A real wingding
High-flying Eagles outscore Yale and reach Frozen Four
WORCESTER — Much has been made of Boston College’s superior offensive depth. But heading into last night’s Northeast Regional final at the DCU Center, the No. 1 seed’s high-flying line of Joe Whitney, Brian Gibbons, and Cam Atkinson had been uncharacteristically dormant since scoring three goals and four assists in the first game of the Hockey East quarterfinals against UMass.
They didn’t have a point in three of the next four games, including Saturday’s regional semifinal victory over Alaska-Fairbanks. But yesterday against No. 3 seed Yale, the trio racked up six goals and four assists, including a hat trick by Atkinson to knock out the Bulldogs, 9-7, and advance to the Frozen Four for the third time in four years and ninth in the last 13. The Eagles will play Miami, which beat Michigan, 3-2, in double overtime in last night’s Midwest Regional final. The 16 goals set an NCAA Tournament regional record and tied the third-most in an NCAA tourney game. It was the most tallies since Michigan Tech beat St. Lawrence, 13-3, in the national semifinals in 1960.
BC (27-10-3) never trailed as Yale (21-10-3) faced deficits of 3-1, 6-2, and 9-4, and fought until the final buzzer.
Atkinson and his linemates met before the game to talk about how to get back on track.
“I think we were just gripping the stick a little too tight the last four games,’’ said Atkinson. “I think we were just trying to do it all by [ourselves]. We sat down and talked about what we needed to do and what we needed to work on. We just played our game. Everyone executed, Brian Gibbons, Joe Whitney. They made everything happen. They generated all the offense and I was just in the right place at the right time.’’
Senior center Mark Arcobello had a hat trick and three assists, leading Yale’s potent attack. Bulldogs coach Keith Allain used three goaltenders, each of whom gave up at least two goals.
BC started strong, with Gibbons scoring at 5:21 of the first period during a four-on-four. Atkinson dished a lead pass to Gibbons, who raced up the left side and beat goalie Ryan Rondeau (18 saves) from the left circle. At 13:32, the Bulldogs pulled even when sophomore left wing Brian O’Neill cashed in a rebound of a shot by Arcobello.
BC went back on top on a goal that had everyone in the building scratching their heads. With the Eagles shorthanded, defenseman Carl Sneep, who was inside his own blue line, chopped at the puck to clear it. It went off the stick of O’Neill, popped into the air, and sailed all the way down the ice, skidding off Rondeau and into the net at 16:34.
In the second period, the Eagles appeared to take command when they poured three more goals on Rondeau and one on senior Billy Blase (eight saves) to go ahead, 6-2.
Whitney took a centering pass from freshman center Pat Mullane and got three whacks at it before putting it into the net from just outside the right post at 2:23 to make it 3-1.
Yale fought back to within one at 4:46 during a power play. Freshman right wing Andrew Miller centered a pass to Arcobello, who beat John Muse (32 saves) and it was 3-2.
But BC responded right away when Atkinson intercepted a clearing attempt in the Bulldogs’ zone, walked in from the right circle, and scored at 4:57. It was Atkinson again at 10:29, turning a Gibbons centering pass into the Eagles’ fifth goal.
Whitney’s slapper from high in the left circle at 14:46 gave BC a four-goal cushion at 6-2, but Yale refused to quit. Arcobello tallied his second of the night at 17:10, and the Bulldogs added another on the power play, Denny Kearney beating Muse at 18:27.
Atkinson completed the hat trick at 4:16 of the third when he broke in alone on Blase, who was then replaced by freshman Jeff Malcolm (four saves). He didn’t fare any better than his teammates.
Sophomore right wing Jimmy Hayes boosted the Eagles’ lead to 9-4 with a pair of goals 23 seconds apart, setting a record for the fastest consecutive goals by the same player in a regional game and fifth fastest in NCAA Tournament history. But the next three belonged to Yale. Arcobello made it 9-5 on the power play at 13:32, O’Neill pulled the Bulldogs within three at 15:55, and Broc Little potted Yale’s seventh at 18:38 with Malcolm pulled for an extra attacker.
It was a dizzying night for both teams, and a devastating one for Yale.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our guys,’’ said Allain. “There were numerous occasions during the course of the game where they could’ve thrown in the towel [and didn’t].’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.