Irish Hockey Conquers #2 Boston College, Advances to Hockey East Semifinals

Senior Irish defenseman Stephen Johns played a critical role in winning the 3-game series. - Matt Dewkett (mrd-photos.com)

On St. Patrick's Day Weekend, Notre Dame once again played the role of John McClane to Boston College's Hans Gruber.

I don't know what it is about this team. Maybe it's the "Holy War" backdrop of two Irish Catholic teams going at it. Or maybe it's some residual anger over BC's title-preventing upset of the Irish football team in 1993. Whatever it is, it's transformed Coach Jeff Jackson's Fighting Irish hockey squad into the only group that the otherwise-invincible Boston College team doesn't want to see on their schedule. Only two short weeks after Notre Dame snapped then-#1 BC's national-best 19-game winning streak, the Irish Icers ousted the Eagles from the Hockey East tournament by winning the best-of-three series 2-games-to-1.

This upset-oriented attitude--which is endearing to us and aggravating to everyone else--made me think of some other famous parallels to this BC-ND rivalry. If you'll allow me a little creative license, here's last weekend's series re-imagined as a scene in Die Hard:

[BC Coach] Jerry York: [on the phone] I thought I told all of you, I don't want any more losses until...
[ND goalie] Steven Summerhays: [cutting in] Ooooh, I'm very sorry, Coach. I didn't get that message. Maybe you should've put it on your Jumbotron. I figured since I've stonewalled Gaudreau and Arnold and his friend here, you and Hayes and Demko might be a little lonely, so I wanted to give you a call.
York: That's very...kind of you. I assume you are our mysterious party-crasher? You are most troublesome, for a mediocre goaltender.
Summerhays: Eeeh! Sorry Coach, wrong guess. Would you like to go for best-of-three, where the scores can really change?
York: Who are you, then?
Summerhays: Just a fly in the ointment, Coach. The salt in the Gatorade. The ice chips in the face.
York: You have me at a loss. You know my name...but who are you? Just another Domer who saw too many uplifting sports movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he's Jimmy Craig? Jonathan Quick? Ryan Miller?
Summerhays: I was always kinda partial to Jordan Pearce, actually. I really liked those golden helmets.
York: Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Goalie?
Summerhays: [pause] Happy St. Patrick's Day, Coach.

Okay, so maybe that phone conversation didn't happen. But the games themselves did indeed happen, and they were glorious. Let's recap the series, shall we? [Special thanks to Evan Sporer and the gang over at SBN College Hockey for covering the Irish during Hockey East action! Also, all credit for footage used in my GIFs goes to the good folks at Hockey East TV.]

Game 1: Notre Dame 7, Boston College 2

So here come the Irish--the last (and only) conference opponent to beat BC at Chestnut Hill this year. But surely that was a fluke, right? BC would put an end to this silly charade and regain their winning form, right? Well...the Eagles came out and drew first blood on a power play, but then Irish defenseman Stephen Johns kicked off his phenomenal series by scoring the first of seven unanswered goals for the Irish:

From that point, the game turned into a laugher. Irish senior goaltender Steven "I Wish It Was" Summerhays was challenged 24 times and stopped all but two of the BC shots. Johns and RW Peter Schneider each decided it would be a good night to score two goals and an assist, and the other goals came courtesy of Bryan Rust, Mario Lucia, and Thomas DiPauli. DiPauli's goal, the 6th on the night for ND, was scored when he channeled his inner Pavel Datsyuk and willed his way around a hapless BC defenseman before tucking it past freshman goalie Thatcher Demko:

For some historical perspective on how incredibly huge this win was, it was the first time BC had lost a single game in the quarterfinals since 2004. That's ten years, for you math-averse readers.


Game 2: Boston College 4, Notre Dame 2

When Bryan Rust scored 39 seconds into Game 2 for the Irish, it looked like it would be an ugly repeat of the previous night's trouncing of BC. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Boston College realized that their backs were against the wall, and they played like it. And when two Irish Catholic teams are in desperation mode, what does that mean? All together, class: penalties. Yes, these two fine institutions combined for seven minor penalties in the first period alone; this ultimately sunk the Irish when the Eagles scored on a 5-on-4 and a 5-on-3 to take a 2-1 lead.

The star of the night for Boston College was its Hobey Baker Award finalist Johnny Gaudreau, who took command of the game by scoring two goals to go with two assists; his ludicrous 31-game point streak tied the Hockey East record that was set by some dude named "Paul Kariya" in 1992. Despite Vince "Vinny" Hinostroza tallying a late goal for the Irish, as well as Steven Summerhays making 33 saves in net, in the end it was simply not enough to prevent the Eagles from securing yet another win on their home ice.


Game 3: Notre Dame 4, Boston College 2

Remember when I mentioned how BC's Johnny Gaudreau had that record-tying 31-game point streak going? Well, that little streak came to an end on Sunday night when Mr. Gaudreau was shut out by Mr. Summerhays and his 30 saves. Obviously, that wouldn't have mattered if Steven's teammates didn't put the puck in the other net, so it was fitting that another Stephen on the team duplicated his Game 1 feat by going end-to-end (not quite as fast as depicted) and making the score...even Stephen. hahaha hey wait come back we still have a recap to finish

Early in the second period, ND took a 2-1 lead courtesy of Bryan Rust banking it in off of Sam "More Perfect Than Diaco's" Herr. However, several minutes later, the Fighting Irish lived up to their nickname a little too well and allowed BC to knot the game at 2-2 with a two-man-advantage. Now, you're gonna hear some chirping from Eagles fans about what happened shortly thereafter: basically, there was a point-blank shot that hit a BC player, who instantly rammed (most likely incidentally, not maliciously) into both Summerhays and the net, knocking both of them backwards (sorry, no footage was found). One ref called "goal", but the others conferred and determined that one of the officials was in the process of calling goaltender interference on the BC player, so the goal did not count. Cue (partially-justified) rage from Chestnut Hill-ians.

In any case, the second period continued to tick away with the teams tied at 2 apiece...until, with less than 10 seconds left in the period [Ed. note: If you just mentally shouted "THAAAANK YOOOOOU!!!", have a cookie], Bryan Rust and friends decided to one-up Stephen Johns' first-period goal by doing an end-to-end rush where literally every Irish skater touched the puck in an 8-second segment. @FDM gif me hockey tic-tac-toe:

As Evan Sporer mentioned in his excellent recap, the Eagles poured on the pressure with a 14-5 shot margin in the third period, but Summerhays did his best impersonation of a brick wall and stopped everything blasted his way. With less than two minutes left, the Irish caught the Eagles in a 2-on-1 that ended with Jeff "El Capitan" Costello deftly tapping Steven "Who Needs A Silly 'ph' Anyways" Fogarty's cross-ice pass through Demko's pads for the final goal of the evening.


What's next?

Your Fighting Irish hockey team will be heading to the Hockey East semifinals on Friday night to face UMass Lowell, who beat ND in both games they played against each other this year. As the conference #2 seed, UMass Lowell narrowly scraped by upset-minded #7 seed Vermont in three games. If ND wins on Friday night, they will advance to the Hockey East Championship on Saturday night to play the winner of the Providence-New Hampshire game. These three games will all take place at the Boston Bruins' TD Garden.

If everything works out, we hope to have an opponent preview coming your way on Thursday, aided once again by Evan Sporer (because seriously, there's a lot we don't know about UMass Lowell). Until then, stay warm, and Go Irish!

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