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BC is force to be reckoned with

BOSTON -- Watch out, New Hampshire. Watch out, Maine.

Watch out, Miami and Denver and Wisconsin too.

With a hard-fought 4-3 win over Boston University in the Beanpot title game Monday, Boston College asserted itself as a team to be taken seriously both in the Hockey East standings and in the NCAA title chase. The Eagles entered play Monday tied for fifth in U.S. College Hockey Online's PairWise Rankings, the best available simulation of the selection criteria for the postseason, and they now look poised to make a run in the final month of the season.

The way the Eagles are scoring goals these days, they're a threat to beat just about anybody. They've won four straight games and six of their past eight, but it's the way their offense is lighting up opposing goaltenders that raises eyebrows. In between routing Harvard by a 6-0 score in a Beanpot semifinal and scoring four goals in the Beanpot title game Monday, the Eagles scored seven goals against a pretty decent defensive team in Massachusetts.

"They look fast, move the puck well and play at a high tempo," said former BC forward Nathan Gerbe, who plays for the Buffalo Sabres' AHL affiliate in Portland, Maine, and was at TD Garden to watch his alma mater. "That's what you've got to do all year. The year we won the national championship was very similar: We had a fast-paced team, a team that liked to go on the offense. This is a very similar team here."

Gerbe's Boston College team won the NCAA title two seasons ago with a scoring attack that led Hockey East with 3.64 goals per game. The Eagles lead Hockey East in scoring again this season, averaging 3.81 goals per game with four weeks to go in the regular season. Only Yale (4.04 goals per game) and Wisconsin (3.85) are scoring at a better clip than the Eagles.

"They're one of the best offensive teams in the nation," BU coach Jack Parker said. "They're a team that can explode on you. I thought once they made it 4-1 they might make it 7-1, to be honest with you."

So complete was the effort that the only Boston College line without a goal to its credit was its top line of Cam Atkinson, Brian Gibbons and Joe Whitney -- though Atkinson and Gibbons each recorded an assist on Steven Whitney's power-play goal.

Atkinson made perhaps the key play in the game, somehow shoveling a pass behind his back even as he tumbled to the ice. The puck wound up on the stick of Whitney and from there into the back of the net for the goal that tied the game.

Sharpshooting defenseman Carl Sneep gave the Eagles a lead with his eighth goal of the season, tucking a slap shot inside the far post. Chris Kreider scored a beautiful goal, sliding the puck between the legs of BU defenseman Max Nicastro before shoveling a backhanded shot inside the far post. Barry Almeida then finished the scoring early in the third period, drilling a shot into the top corner of the net past the glove of BU goaltender Kieran Millan.

"We've gone after games right from the start," said forward Ben Smith, who was credited with an assist on Almeida's goal. "We've started well and, from those starts, we've had confidence throughout the games. That's been really important, especially with scoring goals. We've scored a lot of goals early -- not tonight, but at UMass and against Harvard, we scored the first goal, and that's always important."

The Eagles now have scored at least four goals in seven of their past eight games and are averaging 4.6 goals per game since losing to BU at Fenway Park in early January. The Atkinson-Gibbons-Whitney line has asserted itself as perhaps the best in Hockey East, but the trio isn't doing all the scoring by itself. Four different players have at least 10 goals for the Eagles, but six more have at least five.

"I don't think you ever can say we're going to win championships with just Gibbons' line playing well," BC coach Jerry York said.

Boston College might just win championships, though, with the way all four of its lines are playing.

Brian MacPherson is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. His e-mail address is brianrmacpherson@gmail.com.