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Frozen four notebook

Atkinson helped to hold the line

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / April 9, 2010

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DETROIT — He is only a sophomore, but the Boston College hockey team knows what it has in right wing Cam Atkinson: a wealth of offensive talent.

Atkinson is the Eagles’ leading scorer with 51 points in 41 games. Before his one-goal effort last night in BC’s 7-1 rout of Miami, Atkinson had racked up three hat tricks in 10 games — including one in the Northeast Regional final against Yale — and 15 points.

Atkinson is part of BC’s most productive line along with a pair of juniors, left wing Joe Whitney (42 points) and center Brian Gibbons (48). The unit combined for two goals and four assists last night.

Coach Jerry York put the trio together after BC’s game at Fenway Park Jan. 8, and the combination immediately paid dividends with 7 points in their first game, a 4-1 win over Providence.

Whitney said one of the keys has been the dynamic play of Atkinson.

“He brings a lot of things,’’ said Whitney. “He brings a ton of speed on the outside. Every time I’m coming up the ice, I look wide and see if he’s open because he can beat a guy wide and score. Also, he’s got a laser for a shot.

“Any time you can find a soft spot in the offensive zone to score, that’s huge for us. He’s just a good teammate and a great linemate. He’s always positive and always trying to help you out and support you.’’

Atkinson said putting the three together felt like something that was meant to be.

“We were excited,’’ he said. “I think the team was excited, too, because I think they knew they were going to eventually put Brian and I together. We clicked right away. The first game we played, the first shift, we got a goal. The second shift, we got another goal, so it was meant to be.’’

There was one span of four games in the postseason when the line contributed just a single goal. York threatened to break them up but relented when the three promised to snap out of it.

“It seemed like the end of the world,’’ said Atkinson. “Everyone was like, ‘You guys didn’t score in four games.’ That’s what it felt like for us. We had a meeting before the [regional final against Yale] with Coach York, just trying to get back on track. I think we were a little too tense, we needed to loosen up a little bit.’’

They combined for 10 points in that contest.

“We were so used to contributing and being in the box score,’’ said Atkinson. “But we sat down and smiled a little bit and we just wanted to have fun again. We were so used to scoring, so used to putting points up.

“One game would go by and we wouldn’t get a point, that’s fine. Some of us were used to that, but two, three, and four games, we didn’t know what we were doing wrong. We felt like we were playing well, we just weren’t getting the right bounces.’’

Inspirational Muse
From Feb. 21 through March 12, BC junior goalie John Muse sat on the bench for five of six games while freshman Parker Milner carried the load. But on March 13, for BC’s second victory over UMass in the Hockey East quarterfinals, Muse took the reins, and he has won six straight. Muse understood what was going on.

“Parker was playing great,’’ said Muse. “When you have a hot goalie, you don’t change it up. Luckily I got a chance; I’ve run with it.

“As for the Yale game [in which he gave up seven goals], they scored a bunch of goals, but a win’s a win. That’s all we’re looking for.’’

Muse underwent hip surgery last April, and after a long recovery, it made all the difference.

“It was a good thing,’’ he said. “I played with pain for a little while, and since I’ve come back, I haven’t had any pain. It took awhile, but it was a good time off.’’

Muse, who had 17 saves against Miami, improved to 7-0 in NCAA Tournament play during his three seasons at BC. He said he didn’t feel any additional pressure to stop pucks after giving up seven goals to Yale in the NCAA Northeast Regional final two weeks ago.

“In the Yale game, they had some great offensive players and they were scoring goals that were crazy goals,’’ he said. “But tonight, I think we played a very solid defensive game. I didn’t see many Grade A chances. There were a lot of blocked shots and when they did get the puck in our end, our defense and forwards did a great job of breaking it out quickly so they didn’t have too much sustained pressure.’’

Familiar path
Carl Sneep has played the role of mentor this season, being the only senior on defense for BC. Although these Eagles are younger than the team that won the national title in 2008, Sneep doesn’t see a huge difference.

“Actually, it’s kind of surprising how very similar it feels,’’ said Sneep, part of a senior class that recorded its 100th victory last night.

“We won the Beanpot, we won the Hockey East championship, and the [NCAA Northeast Regional] was in Worcester as well. It was very similar in that manner. We had a great stretch run at the end of this year as well. It feels for me personally a little different because I was a sophomore and I was a younger guy.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.