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Sports

BC hockey team ready, eager to face Denver

Johnny Gaudreau scored against the Fighting Irish in the Hockey East tournament, but Notre Dame prevailed in the best of three series.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Johnny Gaudreau scored against the Fighting Irish in the Hockey East tournament, but Notre Dame prevailed in the best of three series.

It hasn’t been a typical season for Boston College. Sure, there have been the successes long associated with the program.

There was the 19-game unbeaten streak from Dec. 6 through Feb. 22 (17-0-2). There was junior left wing Johnny Gaudreau’s 31-game point streak, which tied Paul Kariya for the longest in Hockey East history. There was the unstoppable run by the Gaudreau, Bill Arnold, and Kevin Hayes line, which has combined for 109 points since pooling their resources beginning Dec. 6.

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But there were disappointments. After handily winning the league’s regular-season title, the Eagles faltered in the Hockey East quarterfinals and dropped two games to Notre Dame in the best-of-three series.

That left them sitting home while UMass-Lowell went on to win the postseason crown at TD Garden.

It marked the first time since 1988 that neither BC nor Boston University were in the league semifinals.

Now, after a 12-day break, BC (26-7-4) gets back to work in the NCAA Northeast Regional when it clashes with Denver (20-15-6) at Worcester’s DCU Center Saturday afternoon.

The Eagles are 1-3 in the last four outings, with all three losses to the Fighting Irish.

Although the team gets scoring from all four lines, they will need the Arnold line to play a prominent role against the Pioneers.

“They get checked every time they play an opponent,’’ said BC coach Jerry York. “They’re circled in red, that line. They’ve fought through that a lot so they’ll have to do it again this weekend.’’

Comparisons have been drawn between BC’s top line and the HEM line from 1988-90 that included Steve Heinze, David Emma and current BC assistant coach Marty McInnis.

On average, the HEM line generated 4.43 points per game. The Arnold line has surpassed that, with 4.74 points per contest.

“That is interesting because now it’s even harder to score goals,’’ said York.

Denver is riding a four-game winning streak backstopped by senior goalie Sam Brittain, who has a 2.11 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

BC is eager to get back on the ice after the long wait.

“We’ve really never had this before,’’ said BC senior Patrick Brown. “I really feel that it’s how you look at it. We want to play games, we love playing games. That’s why we’re here but our mentality is to look at it as an advantage. We’ve gotten rest that other teams don’t have. We’re going to have more energy, that’s how we’re going to look at it.’’

Brown, the Eagles’ captain, said practices leading up to Saturday have been intense and focused and he believes there won’t be any rust to scrape off when the puck drops.

“Practices have been more intense because guys aren’t tired or beat up from games,’’ said Brown. “Everyone’s firing on all cylinders and it’s pretty competitive.’’

Although Denver won the inaugural National College Hockey Conference tournament to earn an automatic bid into the NCAAs, the team was under .500 in league play (10-11-3). The Pioneers are competing in their seventh straight NCAA Tournament and 25th overall.

“They’ve got a great goaltender and really good, highly-skilled defensemen,’’ said Brown. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work and getting pucks to the net to beat them.’’

Brown said the disappointment of losing to Notre Dame is helping to fuel their inner fire heading into the matchup with Denver.

“It’s tough, they’re definitely one of our biggest rivals and you want to win every game,’’ said Brown. “It stings even more when the loss is to them but I think it just helps motivate our team. No one likes feeling like that and it makes you even more [determined].’’

Watching the Hockey East tournament at the Garden last weekend was excruciating because it was the first time the senior class wasn’t competing in it.

“I watched the games but I kind of had a sick feeling in my stomach,’’ said Brown. “I was just kind of jealous I wasn’t out there. But it was good hockey and good job for Lowell. They played great, scored a whole bunch of goals and [goaltender Connor] Hellebuyck looked outstanding.’’

Now it’s on to the next step – trying to advance to the regional final on Sunday. Brown said they are channeling all of their energy in that direction.

“We’re trying to keep it positive,’’ he said. “We’re angry about the losses but all our focus is 100 percent on Denver right now.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Elle1027.
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