The 7770 fans in attendance all received an early Christmas present as Maine and Boston College skated to a 2-2 tie in an absolute gem of a hockey game that featured no winner and no loser, but just about everything else.
The story in the game was the play of the other first-year goaltender for Maine, Frank Doyle. With Jimmy Howard, recently announced as the Hockey East Rookie and Goaltender of the Month and just named the Commissioners’ Choice Rookie of the Month for November, taking a night off, Doyle brought his own impressive 3-0-1 record, 1.59 goals against average and 0.935 save percentage into Kelley Rink to face the offensively-minded Eagles. Doyle didn’t disappoint, allowing just two goals on 41 shots to the No. 4 team in the nation.
“It was important for [Doyle] to play in this game and to step to the plate,” said Tim Whitehead, Maine coach. “He hasn’t played a lot, because he was injured when we came down to play Northeastern. This was a tough challenge for him, and he handled it really well. We’ve got two goalies, and that’s what we wanted to know.”
“We knew they had two good goaltenders,” said BC coach Jerry York. “A lot of the literature talks about Jimmy Howard, but if you look at the stats, they win with either goaltender.”
Matching Doyle in quality of saves, if not quantity, was BC netminder Tim Kelleher. Kelleher finished with 22 saves, many of the spectacular variety.
“I thought Kelleher was very sharp. He made some key saves, he stopped a couple of breakaways,” Whitehead commented.
One of those breakaways was of the heart-stopping variety, with roughly two minutes left in the overtime session. Maine’s Tom Reimann sped out alone with the puck, and Kelleher got just enough of the puck to slow it down so it crossed the goal line after Reimann had knocked the net loose crashing into it.
“Timmy felt a little bit upset last night with his play. He thought he let in a soft goal. But he came back tonight and looked sharper,” said York.
The excitement wasn’t finished in the overtime with that play. With just seconds remaining in the game, Eagle Ryan Shannon fired a shot from the left of the crease that clanged off the left post and through the crease.
“To win a championship, this is the type of team you have to go through. You can see how close we were, one goal over the two game series separate us,” said York. “I saw some playoff intensity hockey out there.”
To no one’s surprise, the game was a low-scoring, defensive affair. The teams traded chances early, but the score was only 1-1 after two periods. Unlike last night’s contest, BC scored first, getting on the board just six and a half minutes into the game.
With BC keeping Maine bottled up in their own zone while getting off several shots, the Eagles’ top line of Ben and Pat Eaves, paired with freshman Chris Collins, took several shots in close proximity to the net, with the shots alternately being blocked by defensemen and saved by Doyle, before Pat Eaves managed to knock the puck under Doyle and into the goal.
In the second period, Maine got the equalizer when Doyle stopped a BC bid, and Reimann sent the puck to the forward blue line to a waiting Colin Shields, who broke in alone behind the BC defense. Shields skated in slipped the puck past Kelleher.
With 14:50 left in the third, a scary moment occurred when freshman sensation Pat Eaves lay absolutely motionless on the ice for several minutes. Eventually, he skated off the ice assisted by his teammates. He was diagnosed with a neck injury, and taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital as a precaution.
The game looked destined to go to overtime deadlocked at one, until, after a save, Tim Kelleher got the puck ahead to Ben Eaves, who skated it up into the Maine zone before dishing off to Chris Collins. Doyle, looking for the shot from Eaves, was slightly out of position for the Collins’ goal.
“He’s been insturmental to our early season success,” said York, about Collins. “He’s a gritty player, and has been a good addition to our team.”
The equalizer for Maine came on a complicated play. In the waning moments of a Maine power play, one of the BC players closed his hand on the puck, which drew a delayed penalty call from official John Gravellese. At almost the same time, the penalty expired and Forrest returned to the ice, while Maine goalie Doyle left the ice for the six-on-five man-advantage.
A bouncing puck was one-timed by Prestin Ryan, which bounced off a BC defenseman and the rebound was grabbed by Martin Kariya, who’s shot was stopped by Kelleher but finally knocked in by Chris Heisten to knot the score at two.
Both teams take a break from conference play for the remainder of 2002. Boston College (9-2-2, 6-1-1 Hockey East) travels to Harvard on Wednesday in its last game before the Christmas break. Maine (11-1-2, 5-0-1) is off until next Friday, December 13, when the Black Bears host Iona, before playing Harvard in Portland on Sunday.