CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- In a season finale without playoff implications, the No. 1 Boston College Eagles and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish met in the latest skirmish of their long-running Holy War, with only bragging rights, and perhaps postseason momentum, at stake.
The Irish (20-12-2; 9-9-2 Hockey East) played spoilers on BC's senior night, submitting a superb defensive effort to skate away with a 2-1 win on Vince Hinostroza's overtime strike before a sellout crowd at Conte Forum. Notre Dame's victory snapped the Eagles' 19-game unbeaten streak, leaving the club three shy of the school record set in 1949-50.
"I doubt seriously that we impacted their confidence very much," Irish coach Jeff Jackson said with a wry grin. "It's just the way we have to play. Against any opponent, but especially against a team of that caliber, if we're real smart, play in control and do a good job with the puck, that's a big part [of] not allowing them to play their transition game."
The loss will give Jerry York's Eagles (25-5-4; 16-2-2 HE) something extra to think about over the next two weeks while they await their quarterfinal matchup. "That was a college hockey game that really featured defensive plays," York said. "I thought both teams were outstanding without the puck, limiting chances."
"Our team played well against a very good team," York said. "I thought the Irish played very well tonight."
Having wrapped up their 13th league title (in 30 Hockey East seasons) on Feb. 16, the Eagles already knew they had a bye for next weekend. York joked that he'll have to reach out to BC football coach Steve Addazio for bowl preparation suggestions to handle the 14-day layoff.
"Hockey players like to play games," said York, adding the Eagles and the other top four seeds might be at a disadvantage by having to wait until March 14 before their next game. "It's not great for all of us to sit out two weeks. We'll have to adapt to it."
A low-scoring affair was expected Saturday, with Notre Dame senior Steven Summerhays coming off three straight shutouts, all against Hockey East competition, and BC freshman Thatcher Demko coming into the game sporting the nation's best goals-against average at 1.74. The teams ran true to form over the first 20 minutes, which ended in a scoreless draw.
The Irish, however, struck early in the second, when Kevin Lind converted a slick feed from Jeff Costello, rifling it over Demko's glove at the 32-second mark. "I thought the goal they scored, hitting the trailing defenseman, that was a real good offensive play," York said. Meanwhile, Summerhays (19 saves) continued to keep the door to the ND net slammed shut, stopping all 11 BC shots over the first two periods, including a terrific right-toe save on Ryan Fitzgerald at 5:15.
Johnny Gaudreau nearly pulled the Eagles even at 15:20, but his in-tight power-play bid clanked off the left post. The miss sprung a 3-on-1 Irish rush, but Gaudreau, sprinting back, bothered Bryan Rust just enough to help Demko (19 saves) thwart the backhand bid.
At the 91-second mark of the third, Gaudreau, the nation's leading scorer, worked his magic again. Taking a pass from Michael Matheson, the junior from New Jersey split two Irish before squeezing off a shot that eluded Summerhays, slipping between his body and left arm. It was Gaudreau's 30th goal of the season and extended his point streak to 29 games. The goal also ended Summerhays' shutout streak just shy of 232 minutes.
"The thing I admire about [Gaudreau] is he's got all the skills and all the tools, the skating. He's got all that and the instincts for the game," Jackson said. "But I like his edge, his competitiveness. He's not the biggest cat in the world, but I tell you what, he plays big. So you add that with his skill set and his instincts -- it's a pretty dangerous combination."
The goaltenders made sure the game went to overtime with a couple of sparkling stops, including Demko's flashing a pad to deny Hinostroza at 15:28 and Summerhays' stuffing BC's Michael Matheson minutes later.
At 1:56 of the extra session, ND's Sam Herr flicked a shot from the left point into a pile of players in front of Demko. The puck appeared to glance off Hinostroza's hip and fluttered slowly over Demko's outstretched blocker before falling into the BC net, giving the Irish the 2-1 overtime win.
"It was tough to get chances," York said. "Sometimes, defense is rewarded. Both teams played pretty good, hard defense."
"They're a good club. It doesn't look to me like a sixth-place team," York said of the Hockey East newcomers. "You give them their injured players back -- they were out four, five players for a long time -- that's a pretty good hockey team. They're certainly going to be a real factor in this Lamoriello Trophy chase."