Not five minutes into the second period of Saturday’s national championship game, Boston College held a 2-1 lead despite tenacious pressure from Ferris State. The decisive factor in the game, to that point, was the play of goaltender Parker Milner, who made a handful of stellar stops to preserve the Eagles’ edge.
If you had told anybody watching the game that Ferris State would earn four straight power plays from that point forward, they likely would’ve presumed a significantly enhanced goal total for the hard-battling Bulldogs.
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“I can’t even think of any shots I faced on the penalty kill tonight,” Milner said after the game.
The Eagles went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill Saturday night, closing out the season with 47 successful kills out of their last 48 power plays relinquished. They surrendered one power-play goal in their final 14 games: a second-period equalizer by Massachusetts’ Joel Hanley on March 10.
“They’re so aggressive and they’re so quick, it’s kind of a twofold problem for you,” Bulldogs coach Bob Daniels said. “Because of their speed, they regroup very, very quickly. They don’t give you much time to set up. The other issue you have with them is at any turnover, they’re looking to score a goal. So even though you’re on the power play, you’ve got to have your head up, too, so you’re almost back on your heels when you’re on the power play.”
“One of the interesting things is, during that middle stretch, we were scoring loads of short-handed goals. I don’t know if we’ve had one over this stretch,” mused BC assistant coach Mike Cavanaugh, who runs the penalty kill.
And it’s true. The Eagles scored a nation-leading 11 shorties this season (tied with Colgate), but didn’t tally a single one since the Beanpot championship — in which BC allowed Boston University to score twice on six power plays.
Cavanaugh credits Milner for his unit’s exceptionality, which helped it rise to third in the nation with a 88.5 percent success rate.
“Goaltending: The goaltender should always be your best penalty-killer,” he said. “But we really buy into being an aggressive penalty kill, and our philosophy is we’re going to make the other team make four or five good passes to beat us. If they can do that, we’ll tip our hats to them. But I think we have the players that are really quick, they make other teams jumpy, I think they take them out of the systems that they want to do, that make them successful. In the end, we’ve got a lot of good players, and we’ve got a terrific goaltender.”
And while Cavanaugh gets a lot of credit for his machinations and manipulations with the killers, he himself defers to coach Jerry York for even giving him the opportunity.
“It makes you feel good as an assistant coach to have that kind of autonomy over the unit,” he said. “It’s a credit to Jerry that he feels that comfortable and secure that he lets us do that.”
With gaudy numbers like this, it’s not just York who feels secure when the arm goes up.