It may seem like its six months too late, but a hard-fought road victory for No. 12 Notre Dame tasted like sweet revenge over second ranked Boston College Friday night.
The game was a rematch of last yearâ€™s national title game, won by the Eagles, 4-1. But on Friday the tables were turned and the Irish handed Boston College its second loss of the season, 4-1, riding the momentum of timely goal scoring and solid special teams play.
The story of the night for the Irish was the play of its penalty kill. Boston College entered the game with the nationâ€™s best power play efficiency, but Notre Dame shut down the Eagles, killing ten power plays and allowing just four shots to BC with the man advantage.
â€œTheir power play is phenomenal, we did a lot of work on them this week,â€ said Notre Dame forward Christian Hanson, who scored a power play goal of his own for the Irish. â€œI think we worked on the penalty kill every single day â€¦ any time they get the puck in the zone theyâ€™re going to be deadly, so we emphasized that tonight.â€
The efficiency for the Irish was keeping the puck to the outside. Blessed with big, study defensemen, Notre Dame kept just enough pressure on the Eagles forwards to shut down keep the puck from the slot and areas around the net when BC has been deadly this season.
â€œWe couldnâ€™t over commit [defensively] because when you do over commit theyâ€™re able theyâ€™re able to bypass you and outnumber you low,â€ said Christian. â€œWe were able to kind of pack it in. Let them keep the puck on the perimeter make them make passes on the perimeter and it worked.â€
The other key was Notre Dameâ€™s ability to match BC blow for blow — and then some — on the scoreboard. After the Irish grabbed a 1-0 lead, BC finally answered after an offensive flurry in the second, but rather than allow the raucous crowd intimidate them, Notre Dame answered back with a Christian goal on the power play just 67 seconds later.
â€œI talk a lot about the importance about not just scoring on the power play but the timing of scoring on the power play, â€œsaid Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. â€œThat was a huge example of scoring a power play goal that really helped us stem the momentum that they had from scoring. Thatâ€™s something weâ€™ve had problems with, being able to respond.â€
BC came out guns a blazinâ€™ to open the game, peppering the Notre Dame net in the early minutes. But one defensive mistake led to the Irish getting on the scoreboard.
Garrett Regan caught Eagles defender Carl Sneep flat-footed at the defensive blueline, dashed around him on the right wing side and walked in alone on BC goaltender John Muse (19 saves) and fired a shot over the glove at 4:40 for the 1-0 lead.
Both teams would have ample chances before the period ended, most of BCâ€™s coming with the man advantage. The Eagles, though, were unable to capitalize on five power plays in the frame.
Notre Dame looked to have extended the lead with 4:20 remaining when Calle Ridderwallâ€™s shot beat Muse cleanly. The puck hit the inside of the post prompting the goal judge to turn on the goal light. But video replay confirmed that the puck never crossed the line and the Irish settled for a one-goal lead heading to the second.
In the second, the Eagles once again came out with pressure, throwing everything and anything at Pearce. The pressure became so much that Jackson called his timeout at 5:27. That did little to help as 14 seconds later Brock Bradford got the Eagles on the board burying a drop pass from Benn Ferriero sending the sellout crowd of 7,886 into hysteria.
But unlike last yearâ€™s title tilt, Notre Dame had an answer almost immediately. After a slashing penalty to Sneep at 6:31, Hanson buried a rebound between Museâ€™s legs at 6:48 for the 2-1 lead.
The Irish kept the pressure on and extended the lead with a little bit of puck luck at 10:04. Billy Maday fired a shot that caught Muse off his angle. The puck hit the right post but as it caromed towards the slot, Kyle Kucharskiâ€™s skate moved forward and kicked the puck into the empty net for a 3-1 Irish lead through two.
In the third, the Irish were content to play a more defensive style and force the Eagles to consistently go the length of the ice. When called upon both the defense and Pearce answered and when Kevin Deeth buried a shorthanded goal into an empty net with 2:11 remaining the outcome was sealed.
Though there wasnâ€™t a national championship trophy to hand out after the game, the victory still is one that Jackson and his team appreciate.
â€œEvery team gets up for each other when theyâ€™re a ranked team,â€ said Jackson. â€œFor us to play that type of a game, itâ€™s so fun coaching that type of game.â€