CHESTNUT HILL -- It only took 16 seconds to turn the hockey game around. With the University of New Hampshire holding a 1-0 lead early in the second period, Boston College struck twice and then added another goal just over four minutes later to swing the tide and go up 3-1.
The Eagles went on to win, 4-2, and take three of the four possible points on the weekend from the Wildcats. Chris Calnan scored the game-winning goal and added an empty netter while Teddy Doherty and Austin Cangelosi also found the back of the net for the Eagles. Cangelosi added two helpers for a three point night.
It was another punchless performance from Dick Umile's squad that fell to 4-9-1 overall and 1-5-1 in Hockey East. The win guaranteed BC will go into the break at .500 in conference and .500 or better overall depending on the result of next Saturday's home tilt with the University of Michigan.
Hanifin hitting stride
Noah Hanifin wasn't the most hyped freshman entering Hockey East this season, but only because of the once in a generation talent, Jack Eichel, up the road at BU. Hanifin, a fellow product of the US National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, is also projected to go in the top five of the 2015 NHL Draft.
"He's seen a lot of ice time. He's had some incremental improvement as we've gone through the year. He's a good player to start and he's getting a little bit better in different areas," said York.
From the very beginning of the season Hanifin's skating ability, prowess with the puck on his stick and extraordinary vision were apparent, but he is starting to become a very reliable and solid defenseman in his own end. His ability to shutdown and contain opposing forwards is tremendous for a still 17 year old rookie who should be a senior in high school.
"Defensively, closing people, and playing solid in his own zone," said York of the areas Hanifin has improved the most since October. "Those are very encouraging for me to see."
Future Not So Bleak
There have been a few articles and blog posts written about the demise of the Boston College hockey team this season. Sure, the Eagles likely won't win a fifth NCAA Championship under Jerry York come April in Boston, but things are looking up at The Heights.
Freshman Zach Sanford seems to be adjusting to college hockey. He and classmate, fellow power forward Alex Tuch, will be relied upon more and more to produce offensively.
"This was [Zach Sanford's] best performance of the year tonight. He's been a good player for us, but he took it to a different level tonight. He made some outstanding hockey plays and was a critical factor in how well we played," said York.
The senior class always lived under the shadows of players like Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes, Billy Arnold and Chris Kreider, and rightfully so. This year's senior class certainly has no such elite skill with Gaudreau's early exit to the Calgary Flames. However, players like Destry Straight are showing more than in the previous three seasons. Straight, once a fairly well regarded recruit, has five goals on the season and is playing a stronger and more powerful game.
"[Straight] and a lot of our seniors are having their best years. I'm very proud of our senior class that has been on the periphery for three years, but now they're kind of go to guys for us," explained York.
When stud sophomore defenseman Steve Santini returns from his wrist surgery the Eagles will have the best top four defensemen in all of college hockey. Santini, Hanifin, Ian McCoshen and Michael Matheson are four players who already are top two round NHL Draft picks or will be in the case of Hanifin. Teddy Doherty and Scott Savage aren't shabby fifth or sixth defensemen either.
"As the season progresses, we are going to be right in the thick of things," emphasized York.
The official score sheet will say the Wildcats had 27 shots on goal, but it sured seemed like a lot less than that. The speed and transition game that Hockey East fans became so accustomed to in Durham over the past two decades is gone.
Outside of Tyler Kelleher and Matt Willows there is very little speed hopping over the boards from the UNH bench. The Wildcats lost a ton of races to loose pucks tonight against a BC team that doesn't even have the speed that Eagles teams usually display.
Both New Hampshire goals were scored on the power play. John Furgele's five-on-three tally in the first period came from good puck movement. Matt Willows' goal with 5:20 left in the second period was a gift off a Scott Savage turnover.
The three goals Umile's team gave up in a span of 4:25 in the second period showcased some of the youth and inexperience on the Wildcats' backend. Trevor van Riemsdyk, Eric Knodel and Justin Agosta all left with eligibility remaining on the table. Add the injury this season to star junior defenseman Brett Pesce, that all equals a UNH defensive corps playing without four regulars from last year's team.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.