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College hockey notebook

Different pieces, same results for Eagles

Freshman Brian Billett is part of a three-goaltender rotation that has been working well for BC. Freshman Brian Billett is part of a three-goaltender rotation that has been working well for BC. (File/Winslow Townson for the Globe)
By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / January 20, 2012
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The fact that Boston College is tied for first place in Hockey East with Boston University isn’t much of a surprise. The Eagles, who won the NCAA championship in 2008 and 2010, are perennial contenders in both their league and nationally.

But what is surprising is how they’re doing it.

After four years of having workhorse John Muse in goal, BC is stopping pucks by committee. Coach Jerry York has gone with three netminders: junior Parker Milner, freshman Brian Billett, and senior Chris Venti, who got his first career start at Fenway Park against Northeastern last Saturday and earned a 2-1 victory.

Defensively, the team is very solid, but scoring has been spotty. In the last six games, during which the Eagles went 2-3-1, they scored no more than two goals.

York said he knew scoring was going to be an issue heading into the season.

“We looked at [Brian] Gibbons and Joe Whitney, Cam Atkinson and Jimmy Hayes, those four accounted for so many goals last year,’’ said York. “We thought that might be an area of concern, and it certainly has. We’re going to have to really score by committee, where we have a lot of people score maybe 10 goals instead of having one 30-goal scorer.

“If Chris Kreider gets really hot at the end, he could get into the high 20s or low 30s.’’

BC is ranked No. 3 in the country heading into a pair of games at Maine, but York believes his team can develop into a much better squad.

“I still think there is a lot of area for growth,’’ said the coach. “Goaltending and offense certainly are two of the growth areas, and we’re capable of moving that up a full notch. There are a lot of other areas we haven’t really been as effective as I’d like - special teams.

“Having said that, we’re in a real pennant race in Hockey East and we’re in a good position nationally as we approach this weekend in Maine. There are plenty of games left to play.’’

York said it’s a measure of how competitive college hockey is that BC lost at UMass and beat Northeastern, but still moved up from No. 4 to No. 3 in the USCHO.com Division 1 poll.

“Like I told our kids Monday, we went 1-1 and moved up in the polls,’’ he said. “That tells you how hard it is to get [victories] in January and February and March.

“The wins are hard in October and November, too, but you have to value every win and take pride in them because they’re tough to accumulate.’’

BC is squaring off against a much tougher Maine team than the one that began the season.

In their first 11 games, the Black Bears had just three wins (3-6-2). However, in their last 11, they have gone 8-2-1. Of particular note, Maine’s power play is ranked third in the nation with a success rate of 28.2 percent.

“I’ve been really impressed watching them play,’’ said York. “They look like they’re playing a lot better. There is a team that is a major concern to us. They’re right in the mix.’’

BU picks up the slack

Equally interesting is the way BU has taken off despite losing two of its top offensive players, Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle. In the four games back since the break, the Terriers are 3-1-0, with the only loss coming at Notre Dame. In the three wins, the Terriers scored 12 goals. “Hats off to [coach Jack Parker],’’ said York. “He’s got his team really playing hard and well. Those are two premier college players that he lost and yet they’ve rebounded very smoothly from that.’’ One freshman who has been noticeable since the shaking up of the lines is right wing Evan Rodrigues, who is playing on the second line with left wing Matt Nieto and center Sahir Gill.

Angry Bulldog

Not a good weekend for Yale coach Keith Allain. The veteran bench boss was issued a written reprimand by the ECAC as a result of his conduct after an overtime loss at Clarkson Sunday. To say Allain was not happy with the officiating is the understatement of the year. In a release on the incident, the league wrote that ECAC policies “prohibit coaches, student-athletes and institutional personnel from using abusive language or inappropriate conduct toward officials before, during or after a contest whether in public or in private.’’ Clarkson went 3 for 5 on the power play in the game, including the winning goal by Sam Labrecque at 3:59 of overtime.

Silver lining

It has been a rough road for Harvard over the last six contests. The Crimson are 0-3-3 in that span and 4-6-6 overall, 3-4-4 in the ECAC. But one factor that has been lost is the strength of the Crimson’s power play, which is tops in the nation. They have converted 24 of 70 chances, a 34.3 percent success rate . . . It has been a tale of two seasons for UMass. The Minutemen have been unbeatable at the Mullins Center (7-0-3), including a 4-0 shutout of BC last Friday, but they can’t find a way to win away from home (0-7-2). They will try to keep the home streak going when they host Vermont tonight.

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

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