Brian Billett was a highly regarded recruit when he came to Boston College from the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs organization, but finding playing time his first two seasons in college didn't come easily.
Probably more accurately stated, playing time was very rare for the Brunswick, Maine native. He started eight games as a freshman with adequate numbers, but ended up on the bench for the majority of the season, and had to watch as Parker Milner and the rest of the team won the 2012 NCAA Championship.
As a sophomore Billett started just one game, a 3-1 home loss to the University of Maine. Having the senior Milner in front of him coupled with some concussion issues meant the once promising recruit would see just over 75 minutes of action in his second collegiate season.
"Last year we never really had a chance to play him with Parker. When we wanted to play him he had a concussion and missed a full month of the season," said Boston College head coach Jerry York. "Looking back I probably should have played him more, but Parker was just so dominant," he added.
This year Billett is the elder statesmen in the crease for the Eagles, but he still has had to earn his playing time with the arrival of freshman sensation Thatcher Demko. For the first eight games the two split the goaltending duties, but Demko suffered a hamstring injury which gave Billett an opening to prove to the coaching staff that there was a reason he was so highly recruited.
Billett's numbers through the first three games were ordinary to say the least, but since his start at Northeastern on November 2 his play his improved dramatically. Starting with that 4-3 overtime victory over the Huskies the former North Yarmouth Academy goaltender is 4-0-1 with a 1.46 goals against average and a .952 save percentage.
"He's playing strong. He looks big in the net. He's a big kid and he's playing his angles well. His glove hand is improving an awful lot. He's made some really good strides."
Billett has gone from a goaltender with below average statistics to one that can be counted on to help preserve wins for one of the top teams in the country. That was the case on Wednesday night as BC defeated Harvard, 5-1.
"Our goaltender [Billett] was the difference in the game. He really played well. Billett had a major factor in the outcome of the game tonight. He was one of the key reasons we won the game tonight," said York after the game.
As well as Billett has played he will still have to split time and earn his minutes with his rookie colleague. In fact York indicated in the post game that the staff was leaning towards starting the freshman in Orono on Saturday when the Eagles pay a visit to the Alfond to play Maine.
"We have to get Thatcher back in. We're hoping he can play on Saturday at Maine, but we're not positive yet. He practiced this morning and took a few shots so the hamstring is getting better."
Demko, a San Diego, Calif. native, is a product of the US National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., and is considered to be one of the top North American goaltending prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Boston College is now 8-2-2 after its win over Harvard on Wednesday night at Bright Hockey Center. The talent and skill level of the Eagles team is just extraordinary, and BC can now count on having two strong and reliable options between the pipes.
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Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.