PITTSBURGH - Boston College sophomore defenseman Travis Jeke hadn’t played a game this season, so the 20-year-old Pittsburgh native was thrilled to take the ice at Consol Energy Center as his Eagles challenged Bowling Green in the Three Rivers Classic opener.
Jeke’s excitement went to a whole new level just moments after the opening faceoff, as his early goal helped the seventh-ranked Eagles blitz Bowling Green right from the start in a 5-0 victory Friday afternoon. Boston College will face either Robert Morris or Penn State in Saturday’s championship game.
“It’s a great feeling being back in Pittsburgh for sure,” Jeke said. “All-around as a team we played well. We got the win, that’s all that matters.”
Jeke added a late assist for a two-point day in his hometown, while last year’s Hobey Baker Award finalist Johnny Gaudreau finished with three points to power the Eagles to the dominating victory. Boston College (11-4-2) led 3-0 after one period and held Bowling Green at arm’s length in both teams’ first game at the four-year old Downtown arena.
“We did a good job staying away from what I call ‘Christmas hockey,” Boston College coach Jerry York said. “You know, that swinging around [type of game] and not competing. We got strong goaltending and some more offense from the blueline than we’re used to.”
Along with Jeke, fellow Boston College blueliners Teddy Doherty, Scott Savage and Mike Matheson got a goal apiece. Eagles junior goalie Brian Billett made 27 saves for his first career shutout. Gaudreau’s linemates Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes added two assists each, all of which came in the first period; the trio combined for nine points in the opening frame.
York, who owns the most wins in NCAA Division I history, coached against Bowling Green for the first time since leaving the Falcons two decades ago for his alma mater. He had to deal with the absences of defensemen Steven Santini and Ian McCoshen, both of whom are competing for Team USA in the ongoing World Junior Championship.
“We have some good players back there. There are guys with offensive skill who like to join the attack, but they haven’t scored a lot of goals for us.”
Boston College entered the game scoring 4.19 goals per game, the highest rate in Division I hockey. That potent attack struck quickly when Gaudreau polished off a right-wing rush with a top-shelf backhand just 1:19 after the opening faceoff, his 14th goal of the season. Gaudreau said he tries to model his game on Sidney Crosby‘s, including an affinity for the backhand shot.
A little more than a minute later, Jeke connected for his first goal from a similar spot, fooling Burke with rising shot under the crossbar. Doherty raised the Eagles’ advantage to three at 6:45 when he drove to the net from the left corner and stashed a backhand into the net with little Bowling Green resistance.
“We tried to prepare our players for Boston College, especially [Gaudreau's] line, but they took it to us from the start,” Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said. “Once we got down we struggled…it’s not a spot we’ve been in too often. Obviously it was a night where we chased the puck around for most of the game.”
The Falcons (8-9-4) were slightly better in the second period, but they fell behind by four when freshman defenseman Savage wired a wrister over Burke’s right shoulder at 12:50.
Boston College held a marked edge in puck possession for most of the afternoon, outshooting Bowling Green 38-27 and winning the shot-attempt battle 77-61. Bowling Green ended up with three power plays, but BC’s third-ranked penalty kill limited their chances, raising their extermination rate to 90.2 percent.
The Eagles enjoyed the better scoring chances and were content to let Bowling Green hold the puck on the perimeter. Billett caught a break early in the second when a quick whistle denied an apparent goal, but otherwise he was rarely challenged.
“We’ve been through this before as a program, this isn’t us now,” said Bergeron, now in his fourth year. “I was telling the guys this had better not be where we are after four years.”
Junior forward Adam Berkle added: “[Boston College] moves the puck well and they try to get you running around. They’re a physical team and they make big plays. We were excited to play…we just have to do a better job of being ready to play.”
Burke made his best save just after a BC power play expired early in the third. Gaudreau should’ve had his second goal of the game, but the sophomore netminder got his glove in front of what appeared to be an easy tap-in from the top of the crease.
Matt Pohlkamp had Bowling Green’s best chance to break the shutout with three minutes left when his right-wing wrister caught the post to the right of Billett and ricocheted away. Matheson capped the scoring in the final minute with a soaring rush-and-stuff move reminiscent of Boston College’s first three goals.
Stay tuned to City of Champions for more live coverage of the Three Rivers Classic.