CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The Boston College Eagles are the nation’s top-ranked team and they showed why on Friday night.
The Eagles took a 2-0 lead on Chris Kreider’s shorthanded goal and Kevin Hayes’ power-play goal 1:53 apart in the first period and they never looked back en route to a comfortable 5-1 victory over the University of Maine Black Bears at Conte Forum.
The Eagles completely dominated all aspects of the game and extended their unbeatean streak against Maine at Conte Forum to nine games (8-0-1). Maine hasn’t won at Conte Forum since collecting a 2-1 win on Oct. 28, 2000.
BC is now 8-1 overall, 6-0 in Hockey East. Maine fell to 3-3-1 and 3-2, respectively.
Maine will take on New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., on Saturday night while BC visits UMass.
Billy Arnold’s goal 28 seconds into the second period lengthened the lead to 3-0 before Jon Swavely gave Maine a lifeline one minute later.
But the momentum was short-lived as Steven Whitney answered 48 seconds later.
That ended the night for Maine sophomore goalie Dan Sullivan, who was replaced by Martin Ouellette after making eight saves on 12 shots.
Barry Almeida made it 5-1 at the 10:14 mark.
“BC was clearly the better team in all three positions,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
“There are no excuses. They defeated us soundly.”
BC’s superior talent, speed and strength was noticeable.
“They played great. They took it to us,” said Maine senior defenseman and co-captain Will O’Neill.
“Our defense stepped up tonight as did our goaltender (Parker Milner),” said BC junior left wing Chris Kreider, who had two assists to go with his goal.
He also said BC did a much better job protecting the front of its net than it had in previous games. Maine had very few second shots or odd-man rushes.
Kreider and linemates Arnold (one goal, one assist) and Hayes (1 goal) were matched up against Maine’s top line of Brian Flynn between Spencer Abbott and Joey Diamond. They had nine shots on goal to six by the Flynn line and they were a combined plus-five in plus-minus while the Flynn line was minus-six.
Players earn a plus-one if they are on the ice when their team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus-one if their team surrenders one.
The Arnold line members were 36 pounds heavier, per man, than the Flynn-line players and did an excellent job protecting the puck.
Kreider opened the scoring by converting a breakaway.
Abbott was spun around by Kreider and had the puck roll off his stick to Patch Alber, who spotted Kreider behind the Maine defense.
Kreider had plenty of time to pick his spot and he wristed the puck through Sullivan’s pads.
“I tripped (Abbott). It was a lucky non-call,” said Kreider. “I expected them to call it. I tried to make a stick check but never got the puck.”
Just 1:19 later, Maine co-captain Will O’Neill was assessed a minor penalty for elbowing and Hayes capitalized.
Kreider used his long reach to break a promising scoring chance for Maine and carried the puck out of the zone.
He eventually got the puck to Billy Arnold and his centering pass hit a skate in front. Maine’s Nick Pryor took a swing at the puck but his clear-out wound up on Hayes’ stick in front and he swept it in the short side.
Arnold made it 3-0 courtesy of a Sullivan miscue.
The Maine goalie mishandled the puck behind his net and Kreider fed it out to Arnold in the slot and he deposited it into the vacated net.
Swavely scored his first goal a minute later when he finished off a pretty passing sequence.
Klas Leidermark skated on to the puck down the left side and faked a shot before sliding it across to Swavely, who simply had to direct it into the empty net.
But Whitney and Almeida cemented the win.
Whitney was set up by Pat Mullane and Johnny Gaudreau in the right circle and snapped the puck into the short side corner from 20 feet out.
“That goal was the back-breaker,” said Whitehead.
Almeida scored thanks to some terrific work by Whitney, who kept the puck in at the right point and eventually fed Almeida in the left circle.
Almeida partially fanned on his shot but it trickled in the short side.
“We played a solid game defensively,” said BC coach Jerry York. “And Parker’s rebound control was excellent.
“This is a great rivalry and our guys really get up to play Maine,” added York who praised the performance turned in by the Arnold line.
Milner finished with 20 saves. Ouellette made 14 on 15 shots in an impressive relief appearance.
Whitehead said his freshman line of Stu Higgins between Connor Leen and John Parker was his best line.