If you look down the Boston College hockey roster, scoring is not only balanced but prolific. Ten players have at least 20 points and six have more than 30. No other team in Hockey East has as many 30-plus point scorers. Boston University, Maine, and UMass-Lowell have four each, New Hampshire and UMass have three, Vermont has one, and Providence, Merrimack, and Northeastern have none.
The Eagles’ top scorer heading into Friday afternoon’s semifinal against Providence at TD Garden is junior Chris Kreider with 38 points.
In many seasons, BC has banked its success on stars, whether it be a goaltender such as John Muse or a forward such as Brian Gionta or Nathan Gerbe.
The 2011-12 campaign has featured many strong players fulfilling their roles, and it has led BC to a 27-10-1 record and the top ranking in the nation. Coach Jerry York said his philosophy is one shared by Celtics bench boss Doc Rivers, who addressed the Eagles prior to their quarterfinal series against UMass.
“He said, ‘No one player is bigger than the team,’ ’’ said York. “He said the Big Three [Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce] didn’t get there by accident. They really, really work at their game. He talked about hard work and how hard it is to win on a continual basis. He called it a Celtic thing. We feel we have something that’s just called a BC thing with the traditions here, the hard work from the players, the atmosphere in our locker room, the culture we have. We feel very proud of this particular team. They work very hard, they stick together as a team.’’
One of the turning points came in late January when the Eagles were swept by Maine at Alfond Arena.
“That bus ride back from Orono, that was difficult for us,’’ said York. “The kids kind of just persevered through it.’’
Since that weekend, BC has racked up 13 straight victories.
One reason has been junior netminder Parker Milner, who was pivotal in the UMass series, particularly in Game 1, and another is the fact the Eagles are well-rounded.
“We filled a lot of holes this year,’’ said York, referring to voids left by Cam Atkinson, Jimmy Hayes, Joe Whitney, and Brian Gibbons. “We lost an awful lot of goals there so we weren’t quite sure where they were going to come from, but we’ve had some players really step up. I think we’ve got players certainly capable of becoming household names in college hockey.’’
D is the key
Providence (14-19-4) was the No. 7 seed in the quarterfinals, but shocked UMass-Lowell in the third and deciding game. Prior to that 1-0 win, the Friars were 1-5-2 in their previous eight.
First-year coach Nate Leaman credited his team’s defense with turning around the Friars’ fortunes.
“We didn’t give up a lot of odd-man rushes to Lowell and I think that was a big part of our success,’’ he said. “We didn’t put our [defense] in tough situations. I thought our [defense] did a real nice job of winning battles low, not only winning battles but getting the puck moving after they won the battles to alleviate in our zone, and I think those will be two big keys in the BC game as well.’’
Another key will be senior netminder Alex Beaudry, who is Providence’s all-time saves (3,128) and games (116) leader.
Maine (22-12-3) brings the three top scorers in Hockey East into Friday night’s semifinal against BU (23-13-1). Spencer Abbott and Brian Flynn, both seniors, and junior Joey Diamond have combined for a whopping 149 points. Maine battled Merrimack to three games in the quarterfinals before closing out the Warriors. Maine coach Tim Whitehead said the difficulty of playing Merrimack will help the Black Bears against the Terriers.
“It was a real hard-fought series, and credit to Merrimack for really pushing us to the edge,’’ said Whitehead. “Merrimack really forced us to raise the bar and to elevate our game to a higher level.’’
Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan enters with a 2.51 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.