Sunday, October 9, 2011

Boston College Starts Season Strong

As badly as last season ended for Boston College, with a stunning loss to Colorado College in the 2011 NCAA West Regional, things started off exactly the opposite to begin the 2011-12 campaign. The fifth-ranked Eagles topped Michigan State, 5-2, and then battered tournament host and No. 3 North Dakota, 6-2, to claim the 2011 IceBreaker Tournament on Oct. 7-8 in Grand Forks, N.D. It's the third time ever that BC has claimed the traditional season-opening tourney, and it did so this time without the benefit of any sort of exhibition warm-up game.

Bill Arnold topped the BC scoring scroll with a goal and four assists in the two victories, while Pat Mullane tallied two goals and set up two others. Chris Kreider and Stephen Whitney had two goals and an assist apiece, with Kreider also copping tournament MVP accolades. Kreider also scored the game-winner against MSU in the third period on Friday to break a 2-2 tie, before Whitney and Barry Almeida added insurance tallies.

Eagles newcomer Johnny Gaudreau scored his first career collegiate goal in the win over UND, and also added three assists for his first four career points. BC overcame a 2-1 second-period deficit against the Fighting Sioux by scoring five unanswered goals, which came from Kreider, Gaudreau, Mullane, Arnold and Whitney.

In the other Ice Breaker games at Ralph Engelstad Arena, North Dakota edged Air Force, 4-3, on Friday night. MSU then edged Air Force, 3-2, in overtime in the consolation game on Saturday afternoon.

Parker Milner, now BC's No. 1 netminder, stopped 39 of 43 shots, while the Eagles' penalty-killing unit blanked nine of 10 man-advantage attempts. Milner also joined Kreider and Arnold on the All-Tournament Team along with BC blueliners Patch Alber and Tommy Cross. Rounding out the all-tournament lineup was Michigan State forward Lee Reimer and North Dakota winger Brock Nelson.

If there's something that BC needs to work on, it's the Eagle power play, which connected just once in eight tries in the two Ice breaker outings. North Dakota also won 35 of the 63 faceoffs contested between the two squads on Saturday, so there's room for improvement in the red circle.

Things won't get any easier for the Eagles, not with Denver coming to BC's Conte Forum on Friday, and the Eagles traveling to Hockey East rival New Hampshire on Saturday to open the conference slate. But hey, it's a long way from now to April.

Two games down, 30-plus more to go.

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