After Boston College was pummeled by Notre Dame Friday night at Conte Forum, coach Jerry York said his only objective was to push the series to Sunday.
Junior left wing Johnny Gaudreau had two goals and two assists to lead the Eagles to a 4-2 victory, forcing the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series to a third game at Conte Forum.
Gaudreau extended his point streak to 31 games, tied with Paul Kariya (for Maine, in the 1992-93 season) for the longest in Hockey East history. Gaudreau has 29 goals and 32 assists during the streak and overall has 32 goals and 37 assists, for a nation-best 69 points.
Gaudreau and linemates Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes combined for 9 points in the game.
“Coming off the 7-2 beating, I thought we responded very, very well,’’ said York. “I thought our work ethic was better. I thought our battles were better and we got a big push out of Billy Arnold’s line. Johnny in particular was really on top of his game tonight.’’
BC’s prospects didn’t look very optimistic when Notre Dame (22-13-2) scored just 39 seconds into the action. Senior right wing Bryan Rust beat Eagles freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko (19 saves) from the top of the right circle.
But BC (26-6-4) remained focused and ratcheted up its physical game as well as its forecheck.
Senior captain Patrick Brown tied it at 10:28. Arnold delivered a long pass to Gaudreau, who raced up the left side. Gaudreau, deep in the left circle, fired the puck to Brown (fresh from the penalty box) at the top of the crease, and Brown beat senior netminder Steven Summerhays (33 saves).
“We just came out a lot harder in this game,’’ said Gaudreau. “The guys knew it was a do-or-die game. We didn’t want to send out our seniors with a loss in their last game at Conte so I think that was a little motivation, too.’’
The Eagles took the lead on Gaudreau’s first tally, during a five-on-three advantage. BC worked the puck around the horn and Gaudreau buried his shot from just outside the right post at 17:39.
Hayes gave BC some breathing room when he made it a 3-1 game at 5:58 of the third.
Freshman defenseman Steve Savage, positioned high in the slot, tried to dish a pass to Hayes but fanned. He kept the puck, however, and on his second try found Hayes in the left circle. Hayes beat Summerhays for his 23d goal of the season.
Gaudreau made it a three-goal cushion at 7:29. He skated the puck down the left side, cut to the net, and slid a backhander through Summerhays’s pads.
The Irish cut the deficit to two at 16:18 when freshman Vince Hinostroza beat Demko during a power play, but they would get no closer.
“BC’s top line played like the best line in college hockey,’’ said Irish coach Jeff Jackson. “Our power play [1 for 6] really hurt us. I thought it actually gave them momentum. Give them their due. A big part of it was who was on the ice killing penalties, too. It was pretty much those top-line guys. We have to make some changes; the biggest one is what we decide to do with our power play.’’
Sunday’s winner moves on the Hockey East semifinals on Friday at TD Garden. BC is headed to the NCAA regionals regardless of whether it adds the conference tournament title to the regular-season crown. If the Eagles lose Sunday, it will mark the first time since 1988 that neither BC nor Boston University reached the semis.
“I think we’ve got to just keep playing the way we are right now,’’ said Gaudreau. “We established a great forecheck throughout the whole game. I think that’s what got us a few of those goals.
“We’ve got to keep pressuring their [defense]. I think we were making smarter plays throughout all three zones. We were making smart plays in the offensive zone, which led to goals, so we have to make sure we continue that tomorrow.’’