PHILADELPHIA -- If you're searching for the source of college hockey's biggest villain this year, look no further than a pair of games in late November. This first was in Orono, Maine, and the second, six days later, was at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill.
The common denominator was Boston College, and the two contests—both of which Eagle losses—marked BC's longest losing streak of the season. The hiccup on the Eagles' otherwise very successful year was one of the only instances of adversity Jerry York's team faced all season, and also conceived college hockey's top line.
Two periods into that second loss against Holy Cross, York decided to juggle his combinations, grouping Kevin Hayes on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold. The latter two had been skating with freshman Austin Cangelosi, while Hayes had been playing alongside freshmen Ryan Fitzgerald and Destry Straight.
And thus, "the line" was born. On Thursday, it's livelihood came to an end, while it died fighting.
Here are some simple numbers to put the body of work of Gaudreau, Hayes, and Arnold into perspective:
- In 26 games together, the line combined for 54 goals, 78 assists, and 132 points, or 5.08 points per game.
- Since the line began skating together on Dec. 6, it outscored 14 teams in the country.
- Gaudreau and Hayes finished one-two in scoring, while Arnold finished sixth.
What worked so well about this line was its combination of skill, and wide variety of talents. Gaudreau was the most lethal player in the country with the puck on his stick, whether it be attacking the net, or finding a teammate. Hayes' frame and strength (at 6-foot-4, 216 pounds) allowed him to play a power forward style, and also be good in possession. And Arnold, the line's center, was also its defensive anchor, and allowed Gaudreau especially to go full-speed ahead, and throw caution to the wind.
Boston College has the best top line in the country
The trio didn't go down in its final game watching idly. Despite falling to Union 5-4 in the national semifinal at the Frozen Four, the trio did its best to keep the Eagles national title hopes alive. Gaudreau had two goals and an assist, Hayes had two assists, and Arnold had an assist of his own. It marked the 19th game all three players recorded a point playing on the same line together this season.
"It's been a memorable experience playing with those two guys," said Gaudreau after accepting the Hobey Baker award on Friday. "Kevin Hayes is a great, great player offensively and defensively. Bill Arnold, he's been one of the better players I've ever gotten a chance to play with offensively and defensively.
"Those two guys are my great friends off the ice, and I'm excited to see how well they're going to do at the next level."
All three players are headed to the pros, as Gaudreau is foregoing his senior season by signing with the Calgary Flames, where he'll be joined by Arnold, a graduating senior. Hayes, also a senior, was drafted by the Blackhawks in the 2010 NHL Draft.
But for now, as Gaudreau and Arnold prepare to play in their first game for the Flames against the Canucks, marking the first time the two have skated without Hayes since late November, it's a perfect time to reflect on just how ludicrous the trio's production was, and if we'll ever see anything like it for quite some time.