WORCESTER — When Boston College lost two out of three games to Notre Dame in the Hockey East quarterfinals, the team was forced to take a recess for nearly two weeks as it waited to see who the opponent would be in the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles did a slow burn, angry that they lost, and spent the forced break recommitting to all of the things they had done that contributed to their league-best regular-season record, which included a 19-game unbeaten streak (17-0-2).
They were determined that someone was going to pay, and that someone turned out to be Denver.
Junior left wing Johnny Gaudreau earned his first career hat trick and added three assists (his 6 points tied for second most in an an NCAA regional game), senior right wing Kevin Hayes potted two goals and two assists, and senior center Bill Arnold chipped in a goal and two assists on the way to BC’s dominating 6-2 victory over the Pioneers at the DCU Center on Saturday.
BC was left waiting for the result of the night’s second game between UMass-Lowell and Minnesota State-Mankato, the winner of which will play the Eagles Sunday at 5 p.m. The winner of that game advances to the Frozen Four April 10-12 in Philadelphia.
The Eagles got three goals in the opening period, including Gaudreau’s first one just 25 seconds into the action, and cruised from there.
Denver’s first shot didn’t even come until 12:43 of the period.
“We knew in order to have success today we would have had to play perfect hockey,’’ said Denver coach Jim Montgomery, who coached Gaudreau in the USHL in Dubuque. “Unfortunately, Boston College played perfect hockey. Their top line was phenomenal tonight. They made high-end plays and there is a reason those guys will end up playing at a higher level and making a lot of money.’’
The Pioneers (20-16-6) were swimming against the tide the entire afternoon.
At 1-0, Hayes demonstrated what his determination looks like. He started by winning a battle in the left corner, dangled his way out to the front of the net, and fired it in at 5:30.
“The first shift was our worst nightmare,’’ said Montgomery. “I thought we regrouped actually pretty well there. I give [BC coach Jerry York] credit. I thought he was matching up their top line against our top line.
“The second goal, I put out our third line and he went with his guns. They won the draw and Kevin Hayes made an unbelievable [shot]. He looked like Frank Mahovlich on that goal. It was unbelievable skill that was displayed. Give Jerry York credit. I tried to influence who he put out on the ice and he didn’t bite.’’
Gaudreau’s second tally came courtesy of a Denver turnover at the other end of the ice. Gaudreau raced up the ice on a breakaway, drove through the left circle, barreled behind the net, and beat senior netminder Sam Brittain (20 saves) on a wraparound at the far post at 9:34.
Denver looked shellshocked and the Eagles looked unstoppable.Hayes potted another one at 5:29 of the second and Gaudreau completed his hat trick at 8:13.
Arnold scored at 15:35, giving the line all six of the Eagles’ goals and adding seven assists. Denver’s goals came at 19:08 of the second by Trevor Moore and by Evan Janssen at 19:47 of the third.
For the Eagles, it was the next step in what they hope will be a run to the 2014 Frozen Four in Philadelphia, which will give them another break of more than a week.
“It’s been an interesting last month for us,’’ said York. “We’ve played four games in 34 days [partly because of the Hockey East first-round bye], which at this stage, you go stir crazy, you want to get out and play games. It was almost like another training camp.’’
Finally, the Eagles have put the Notre Dame disappointment behind them and substituted it with the goal of the regional trophy.
“It was rough losing to Notre Dame,’’ said Hayes. “Not being able to play in the Garden kind of hit everyone hard. The coaches did a great job the last two weeks with practice, getting the guys ready, but the motivation is we have nine freshmen and we kind of want to show ’em how it’s done. I think they got a pretty good taste of what it’s like and how hard they have to play and hopefully [Sunday], same thing.’’