It was billed as the Frozen Fenway version of the Holy War. No. 14 Notre Dame rolled into town to face No. 6 Boston College for the first time as Hockey East rivals.
The fact that it was an outdoor game in a storied ballpark just added to the atmosphere.
In the end, though, the Eagles outlasted the Fighting Irish, 4-3. It was the fifth victory in a row for BC, which improved to 13-4-2 overall and 7-1-1 in the conference.
Hockey East hasn’t been very kind to Notre Dame. The Irish dropped to 10-8-1 overall and 3-5-1 in league play.
“It got so cold the other night that the ice got brittle,’’ said BC coach Jerry York, who praised the grounds crew for their hard work. “Except for a couple of spots, it was certainly playable. There weren’t a lot of shots on goal. It was good defense.
“The third period was certainly a key to the game for us. We got the lead early, they bounced back and tied it and then Johnny Gaudreau had a really nice goal to win the game for us.
“I feel really good about the way our team played. Because of the setting, it’s a big stage here and we played a real quality opponent so there are lot of good things to think about as we try to warm up.’’
The Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead, putting the Irish on their heels. Sophomore right wing Brendan Silk got his team started with his first goal of the season.
Sophomore defenseman Michael Matheson put the puck on net and freshman center Adam Gilmour got a stick on it in front, but it was Silk who rapped it home at 4:54.
With the teams skating four a side, Gaudreau potted his first of two goals when he took a pass from senior center Bill Arnold and beat senior goaltender Steven Summerhays (17 saves) from the slot at 8:54. Gaudreau extended his point-scoring streak to 14 games, with 27 points in that span.
Notre Dame cut the deficit in half at 15:20 of the first. Junior defenseman Robbie Russo delivered a backhand pass to sophomore left wing Mario Lucia, who snapped a shot to the far side past junior netminder Brian Billett (20 saves).
The Eagles lost junior left wing Michael Sit with seven-10ths of a second left in the period. Sit was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding.
The Irish made them pay early in the second. Senior center T.J. Tynan cashed in on the power play just 23 seconds in, making it 2-2. Senior right wing Bryan Rust made a fine saucer pass from the left circle, and Tynan slid the puck past Billett.
BC retook the lead at 4:38 of the third with Arnold taking a pass from senior right wing Kevin Hayes and roofing a shot from the slot.
Notre Dame responded with the tying goal at 7:29, with Rust beating Billett from the right circle into the far left corner.
But Gaudreau answered the bell yet again.
Hayes started the winning play, taking advantage of a blocked shot at the other end by transitioning the puck down the ice. He slid a pass over to Gaudreau, who guided it on his backhand through the pads of Summerhays at 8:21 to make it 4-3.
And that is the way it remained. The Fighting Irish tried for the equalizer with Summerhays at the bench for the final 22 seconds but couldn’t finish despite a wild final seconds with Billett under siege.
Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson partially attributed his team’s slow start to the fact the team was playing its first game since Dec. 7.
“We played better, I thought, as the game progressed,’’ said Jackson. “I think that was a direct result of being off for five weeks. Hopefully it’s out of our system and we can get onto a roll here in the second half. Yesterday was the first time we actually practiced with our entire team since the first weekend of the season [because of a rash of injuries]. That’s not an excuse but it is a reality when you’re playing without five of your best players for an extended period of time. It catches up to you.
“We’ve got to get everything in order. It’s almost like a fresh start for us to have everybody available and see what we can do.’’