WORCESTER – Boston College has shown teams all season it can win several ways. Want to run and gun? No problem. Want to have a goaltending duel? Bring it on. Want to play a stingy, tight defensive contest? Happy to oblige.
Last night, the Eagles employed the latter strategy to defeat Air Force, 2-0 in the NCAA Northeast Regional semifinals at the DCU Center.
BC (30-10-1) advances to Sunday’s final against Maine or Minnesota-Duluth, which squared off in the nightcap here. BC won its seventh straight NCAA Tournament game at the DCU Center and improved to 9-1 in the arena since the 2000-01 season.
Junior left wing Chris Kreider, who had been snake-bitten with one goal in the previous 10 outings, had both tallies for the Eagles, giving him 22 for the season.
“Today’s game was just a hard, tough out for us,’’ said BC coach Jerry York, whose team has won 16 in a row. “I thought our team played very, very well. I feel very excited about moving on from this game. Last year at this time, we had an outstanding hockey team, a group of seniors who had won two national championships who were trying to get that third one.
“It was a tough, hard loss for us in St. Louis [to Colorado College]. To come back this year and kind of shake that away a little bit, you’ve got to have amnesia to coach and to play in these type of big games. I thought our team responded very, very well.’’
Kreider’s first goal came at 7:39 of the opening period. Sophomore center Kevin Hayes made a terrific wraparound feed that found Kreider on the doorstep. He beat Jason Torf (32 saves) to make it 1-0.
Air Force (21-11-7) had some terrific chances in the opening minutes of the second period.
At 2:39, junior left wing Kyle De Laurell skated down the left side of the slot and backhanded a tricky shot on junior goalie Parker Milner (20 saves), who made the stop on the way to his third career shutout.
Senior left wing Barry Almeida drew a controversial penalty in the third that led to Kreider’s second goal. At 18:07, Air Force captain Paul Weisgarber came in high on Almeida and was penalized for cross-checking.
Just 32 seconds later, Kreider cashed in on his own rebound, putting the game out of reach.
Kreider said his linemates - Hayes and freshman Destry Straight - were the keys to his goals, particularly the first one.
“Both Kevin and Destry had unbelievable games,’’ said Kreider. “They were both moving their feet. Kevin, we have discussed in the locker room, has kind of come alive the second half of the season, he’s learning to use his big frame. Destry, although only a freshman, has gained a large amount of confidence. It was a really good play by those two. I think my linemates definitely played unbelievable.’’
Air Force coach Frank Serratore declined to discuss Weisgarber’s penalty, saying he couldn’t, but when BC scored on the man advantage, Serratore clapped his hands and gave the thumps up to the officials in sarcastic fashion.
After the game, Serratore praised his team, which won the Atlantic Hockey championship.
“I feel like I’m Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day,’ ’’ said Serratore, whose team has been in the NCAA Regionals five of the last six seasons but reached the final only once. “Here we are again. That’s a heck of a hockey team, Boston College, but in my opinion, I think they beat a heck of a hockey team.
“Our game plan was to get to that third period with the score close and we were right where we wanted to be. The bottom line is, we couldn’t score, we didn’t find a way to score a goal. We didn’t get a bounce and we needed a bounce. I’m real proud of our guys. We were right there.’’
It was Air Force’s first shutout loss of the season, and the Falcons fell to 0-6-0 against BC.Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.