BC Pummels Maine

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Boston College’s trio of Brian Gibbons, Joe Whitney and Cam Atkinson have done everything they can over the last four days to make head coach Jerry York look brilliant.

After the Eagles hit their first major bump in the road, losing three straight games upon returning from the holiday break, York broke up his line and put the talented trio of players together.

York and the Eagles have been rewarded, as for the second straight game the line notched three goals and four assists, this time in a 6-1 rout of a red-hot Maine Black Bears squad. The win snapped Maine’s nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2).

“Don’t even go there,” laughed York when Atkinson, who scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season on Friday, was asked about the bench boss’ brilliance. “I was just playing the numbers.”

All kidding aside, Atkinson said that his line simply “knows what they have to do” each night.

“We all have speed,” said Atkinson. “We can find each other. We’re all good passers. We can all shoot the puck.”

The dangerous second line for the Eagles has twice decimated opponents this week and righted the BC ship. On Tuesday, the three combined for an identical three goal, four assist night in a 4-1 win over Providence.

“They certainly have been a big factor,” said York.

Another major factor on Friday was the play of BC’s penalty killers. Facing the best power play in the nation, the Eagles held Maine scoreless in their first five attempts including an abbreviated 5-on-3 in the opening period. BC surrendered a single goal in the seven chances Maine had with the man advantage but that that point the goal only closed the gap to 5-1.

“The PK has been excellent for us and they really have been on a good run for probably the last month of our season,” said York. “They basically are just blocking shots, [filling] passing lanes with stick that are hard to get through. And [goaltender] Johnny [Muse] is making big saves.”

The Eagles outshot the Black Bears, 11-8, in a spirited opening period. Both goaltenders faced quality shots and stood tall, but it was the Eagles’ first shot of the game that led to the period’s only goal.

A defensive miscue by the Black Bears in the neutral zone led to Matt Price and Barry Almeida skating 2-on-1. Price made a nifty pass across that froze both the defenseman and Maine goaltender Shawn Sirman (22 saves), playing in place of injured netminder Scott Darling, giving Almeida an empty net to bury the puck just 35 seconds into the game.

Unfortunately for Maine, the defensive mistake was a harbinger of things to come. Uncharacteristic of the way the team has played of late, the Black Bears had countless defensive breakdowns, allowing 39 shots to the Eagles and constantly leaving the goaltenders with little to no support.

“We were watching the puck instead of having our head on a swivel,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead of his team’s poor defensive play. “We need better team defense. We gave up 39 shots. I don’t think we’ve given up 39 shots all season.”

In the second period, Maine’s offense had some incredible looks at the goal, most notably a Gustav Nyquist shot that rang off the post at 10:42 and a one-timer on the power play from Jeff Dimmen’s stick that Muse made an incredible save to not only stop but prevent a rebound.

And while the Black Bears were being whitewashed in the offensive end, the BC offense was clicking on all cylinders, turning a 1-0 lead into a 4-0 rout through 40 minutes.

Ben Smith got BC’s first goal of the period, deflecting a Joe Whitney shot on the power play at 2:46.

Midway through the period in a span of 38 seconds BC’s hottest hand, Atkinson, turned a close game into a blow away scoring twice to give the Eagles a 4-0 lead. His first goal at 9:27 was a perfect finish to a Brian Gibbons feed from behind the net after Maine turned the puck over. Then, on the same shift, Atkinson was in the right place at the right time and buried a big rebound from a Brian Dumoulin shot at 10:05.

In the third, Maine’s Mike Banwell sandwich a power play goal that broke the shutout between goals by Joe Whitney (which spelled the end of the night for Sirman, who was replaced by Dave Wilson who made 11 saves) and Jimmy Hayes to account for the 6-1 final.

While BC won the game, it lost a major contributor on the blueline, Tommy Cross. Late in the third period, Cross injured his right knee with what is believed to be a sprained MCL. According to York he’s expected to miss 3-4 weeks.

Thankfully for the Eagles, Friday’s win concludes play for the week and they’ll return to action next Friday against arch rival Boston University.

Maine, on the other hand, must travel to Providence on Saturday looking to restart a win streak against a hot-and-cold Providence team. For Whitehead, he’s hoping for better execution from the word go from his entire team.

“We didn’t bring our best game tonight,” said Whitehead. “We were looking for excuses. We’ve had a good run and we’ve come a long way. But you’d never know that by watching us tonight.

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