BOSTON -- Thatcher Demko came to Chesnut Hill as a 17-year-old. The highly touted goalie—expected to be a first round NHL draft pick come June—didn't see much time though in goal for the Eagles, only starting six of the first 20 games of the season.
It would appear now, though, Demko is the guy for Jerry York and BC.
In a tight Beanpot semifinal on Monday night, the freshman goaltender continued to build on his recent impressive stretch, stopping 24 shots en route to a 3-1 Eagles win.
"It's a huge situation," Demko said afterward. "It's my first Beanpot, and there's so much hype around the event.
"Coming in, it didn't take me too much to get into it, and I was excited a couple of weeks ago, so I've been looking forward to it."
Demko has played Boston College's last five games, winning them all, while allowing six goals in that stretch, with a .955 goals against.
"He's been a good goaltender for a lot of years, so I don't think it's a surprise he can handle something like this and play well," said York of Demko. "Thatcher, as I watch him, he's getting more confident.
"He handles the puck now, and he reminds me an awful lot of Cory Schneider at the same age."
The first period would end with the Eagles still clinging to a 1-0 lead, but BC wouldn't wait long in the middle frame to double its advantage. Only 80 seconds into the second, Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes, and Bill Arnold would combine on a tic-tac-toe play that ended with Hayes firing the puck past a prone Matt O'Connor to push the score to 2-0.
"Kevin's line with Billy and Johnny... they created an awful lot of offense, and won almost every shift they were out on the ice," York said.
Boston University would push back though, and held a 14-9 advantage in shots in the game's middle 20 minutes. However, Demko stood tall, answering every shot, and holding the Terriers scoreless on three power play opportunities.
"Both goaltenders played exceptionally well," York said. "Both big kids, take up a lot of net, and stopped—from my vantage point—certain goal at both ends.
"The goalies were a major, major factor tonight."
Boston University would finally break through in the third. With Demko controlling the puck behind the net, his clearing attempt was knocked down midair by the forechcking Danny O'Regan. The sophomore forward swooped around the net, before finding his linemate Robbie Baillargeon, who beat Demko to the glove side to make it a one goal game.
With 13:17 to play though, it would be as close as BU would get.
Demko continued his strong play, stopping eight shots in the third period, but none bigger than one of his last. The freshman would put an exclamation point on his performance with a late, lead-preserving save. With an extra attacker out for the Terriers, Demko was able to get a piece of a Kevin Duane redirect and parry the puck away from the crease.
"Their center-drive guy got a stick on it, and it was a pretty in-close in deflection," Demko said. "I just tried to get a shoulder or elbow on it, and I think I ended up getting it with my jersey or something."
With the puck in the corner, it eventually ended up back at the Terriers' blue line, before Arnold regained possession, and hit Gaudreau for an empty net goal and an insurance marker.
"It was right wide by a couple of inches there, and then Johnny went down and put it into the open net," Demko said.
While the Eagles blew out their rival Terriers early in the season, the two teams played a close 6-4 game at Conte Forum in mid-January. Monday night's game was much closer to the latter, as the Comm Ave. rivals traded checks and goals in a close contest.
"We tell our players an awful lot that pressure is good for you," York said. "It makes you get up in the morning, it makes you work harder, it makes you more alert.
"We welcome pressure. We have a good team, we know that, and now we're expected to play very, very well, and win some trophies."
To claim its next accolade, Boston College will have to take down Hockey East rival Northeastern, the same team it met in last year's final, and a team is has seen in three of the last four Beanpot championships.
"Jim has done a terrific job with his club; he's got some really special players," York said. "They're getting excellent goaltending from Clay Witt, so it's no surprise they've won so many games this year."
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