BC Eagles ride Gaudreau’s 6-point night to win over Denver

By Richard Murray

Johnny Gaudreau - Boston College

Photo: Boston College forward and Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau (#13) celebrates the first of three goals and six points in the Eagles’ 6-2 win over Denver to open the NCAA Tournament (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

After having his 31-game point streak snapped two weekends ago against Notre Dame, Johnny Gaudreau ignited once again, leading Boston College past the University of Denver, 6-2, in the NCAA Northeast Regional semifinal.

Believe it or not, Gaudreau never recorded a hat trick before tagging Denver goalie Sam Brittain for three goals while also dishing out three assists. His six points is tied for second most all-time during an NCAA Tournament game. Ironically, it was the first time Gaudreau scored a hat trick since he played for current Denver coach Jim Montgomery in the USHL.

“We focused on the little things today, Gaudreau said. “It showed how we cracked down at practice.”

The Eagles top-line of Gaudreau, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes torched Denver, figuring in every BC goal and totaling 13 points.  Arnold finished with a goal and two assists while Hayes scored twice and dished out two assists of his own.

“We could play them a lot more because of the TV timeouts,” BC coach Jerry York said of his top offensive trio. “It’s always nice to have balanced scoring, but six (goals) is enough to win most hockey games. We want to have a good offense. If it happens to come from three players, it comes from three players.”

BC goalie Thatcher Demko stopped 18 of 20 shots, picking up his first NCAA Tournament victory. Trevor Moore beat Demko late in the second while Evan Janssen scored with only 13.4 seconds remaining and the game no longer in doubt.

“Thatcher was very strong in goal,” York said. “He didn’t play up to his standards during the last series (against Notre Dame). It was really important for his confidence to get a good game in goal. He’s still 18 years old and this is a big step from where he played last year.”

It only took Gaudreau 25 seconds to open the floodgates as he beat Brittain in the opening moments of the game. It was a boost the Eagles needed after a long layover and being upset by Notre Dame in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament.

“(The goal) was huge,” said Gaudreau. “Coach (York) said Denver is a great team. We wanted to show up in the first period. With nine freshman in the lineup, we wanted to make a statement.”

“The first shift was our worst nightmare,” Montgomery said.

Kevin Hayes followed five minutes later, dangling through the Denver zone and defense before using a nifty forehand deke to beat Brittain.

Just before the 10-minute mark of the first, Gaudreau did what he does best, which is fly. ‘Johnny Hockey’ beat the defense to the outside and then beat Brittain to the back post, slipping in a wraparound.

“It was good to get one of those because it had been a while,” Gaudreau said.

The second period was not much different as the Eagles continued to soar. The entire Eagles first line found the twine as Kevin Hayes started the period rifling a quick release wrister top shelf.

It was only fitting that Gaudreau scored a flashy goal to complete his first collegiate hat trick. BC defenseman Michael Matheson drove to the goal and Gaudreau pounced on the rebound, grabbing the puck behind the goal and firing it off Brittain into the goal.

Arnold capped the Eagles offensive burst late in the second. The Needham, MA native had a two-on-one with linemate Kevin Hayes, and Hayes dished Arnold a tape-to-tape pass. Arnold didn’t miss, labeling the puck to the twine.

Follow Rich Murray on Twitter via @Richie_Murray