Boston College has two of the Flames’ more intriguing prospects on its roster, and in Johnny Gaudreau in particular, probably one of its two or three best.
Through the first three games of the season, Gaudreau was also BC’s best player, compiling 2-3-5 in that time, good for second on the team, behind his own linemate. That line, as I think I mentioned last week, scored seven of BC’s 10 goals in those three games, so you can see just how important Gaudreau has become to the team’s offense.
Game 1 – You Can Only Hope to Contain Johnny G
I expected to see more of the same on Friday night when I traveled to Lowell to see the top-ranked Eagles take on the No. 11 UMass Lowell River Hawks (full disclosure: That’s my alma mater), and got something considerably different. While Lowell has struggled for offense this season, that’s obviously not BC’s problem, and the assumption was that both teams would be able to shut the other down at least somewhat effectively. As it turned out, that was all too true. The game ended 1-0 to the visitors, which didn’t seem particularly fair given that they were outshot 38-20.
Lowell, as you might expect, focused most of its attentions on shutting down the Gaudreau line and was more or less effective in doing so, sending out Chad Ruhwedel — arguably the best two-way defenseman in the league — and Jake Suter, son of Gary and prodigious blocker of shots, to play against BC’s top scorers as often as was possible. Gaudreau would show the occasional flashes of brilliance that have quickly become his trademark, but Lowell’s tight defense held him more or less to the perimeter and seemed content to let him skillfully dance around people as long as he was doing it far from the center of the ice. Where he particularly succeeded for the vast majority of the game was in making guys miss, but when the other team’s best line only puts four shots on goal total (including just one by Gaudreau), then Lowell had to be happy with that.
Of course, one of those four shots was the only one that went in, and that was classic playmaking by the Eagles’ sophomore sensation. On a breakout just 3:17 into the final period, when the game was obviously still scoreless, BC’s leading scorer Pat Mullane got the puck down the left wing and fed to Gaudreau in slipstream, who delayed for a split second. I don’t know how he saw Steven Whitney streaking into the slot, but the pass was right on his tape, and the shot beat Doug Carr, one of the best goaltenders in the country, high blocker.
I say I don’t know how he saw it, and that’s all well and good, but Whitney said basically the same thing. Except given that he plays with the guy, maybe he’s just come to expect that every pass will end up looking fantastic.
"Johnny Gaudreau just has eyes on the back of his head," Whitney told reporters after the game. "He saw me coming late and gave it to me and there was a screen in the front of the goalie."
Gaudreau was also out a little bit on the penalty kill, which went 4-for-4 against a pretty skilled Lowell team, but saw no power play time because the River Hawks didn’t commit any infractions. Arnold, who you’d be right to call the best two-way forward in the conference, was far more in evidence on the PK, but as with all but one of his other games, he was held off the scoresheet.
Game 2 – Bill Arnold Makes a Mark
The same could not be said for Sunday’s return engagement at Boston College, where the Eagles’ offense rained goals on Carr and won 6-3. Arnold and linemate Kevin Hayes were the stars, scoring three of BC’s goals between them, and both of Hayes’ came on the power play. Arnold opened the scoring just over four minutes into the game.
Any questions critics might have had about BC’s scoring depth were likely answered in this one, given that five different guys got on the scoresheet (including Gaudreau, who also finished plus-2). From a BC perspective, there was a lot more to like about this game, because it dictated the play, rather than letting Lowell do it and being lucky to escape with two points, as they were Friday. From a Lowell perspective, when you’re letting BC dictate anything to you in their own building, you’re lucky to only give up six most nights.
"We have two lines now that are going to have to be really scoring for us and I think Billy [Arnold’s] line stepped up for us tonight," coach Jerry York said.
It’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to experience, Arnold and Gaudreau still have a ways to go. They’ve both won a national title, but they’re still pretty young where college hockey is concerned, and while they don’t often look it, will obviously need more work. Playing under York will go a long way to making them pro-ready, and both have some skills that are already on that level. While point production is the one thing everyone will point to as being indicative of whether they’re succeeding at this level, rounding out their games will be the most important thing going forward. Especially because it once again looks like they’ll be scoring for fun all winter.