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Beanpot Observations: Northeastern ends BC’s quest for six-peat 02.04.15 at 12:01 am ET
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Boston College‘s quest for a Beanpot six-peat is over. Northeastern saw to that Tuesday night, as the Huskies knocked off BC, 3-2, in the semifinals.

The teams entered the third period tied 2-2, but scoring chances were scarce in the third period and the game appeared destined for overtime. That all changed with 1:34 to go. Northeastern junior defenseman Dustin Darou got the puck at the left point, waited for his teammates to set a screen and then fired a shot through traffic that gave the Huskies a 3-2 lead they wouldn’€™t relinquish. Northeastern will now face Boston University in next Monday’€™s championship game. The Huskies are looking to win their first Beanpot since 1988.

After a lackluster first period that featured a dearth of scoring chances, Northeastern struck just 21 seconds into the second with a power-play goal. Kevin Roy sent a pass to the front that Mike McMurtry couldn’€™t handle, but fortunately for the Huskies, Colton Saucerman was right behind him to snap the loose puck into a yawning net.

The Eagles tied the game four minutes later. Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald easily won a race to a loose puck and found himself on a breakaway. Clay Witt somehow denied him with a sprawling toe save, but Destry Straight was right there to bang in the rebound.

The Huskies regained the lead with another power-play goal at the 11:21 mark of the second. Mike Szmatula made a nice cross-ice pass to John Stevens at the left point, and Stevens walked in a few steps before snapping a shot blocker-side past Thatcher Demko.

The Eagles clawed back again, though. Fitzgerald ended up with another breakaway, this time while shorthanded, and this time he finished the chance as he flipped a backhander past Witt to tie the game at 2-2 with 1:31 left in the second.

Northeastern improves 11-11-4 on the season, while BC drops to 16-9-2.

Here are some other observations from the game:

Penalties, special teams were huge
The Eagles haven’€™t been a particularly undisciplined team this season (their 10.4 penalty minutes per game are middle of the pack in Hockey East), but they sure were Monday night. They took the first five penalties of the game, and Northeastern made them pay on two of its power plays. The Huskies had good possession and good movement on most of their power plays, as BC struggled to really get pressure on the puck. The Huskies got nice movement right through the slot on their first goal, and Saucerman ended up wide open in the slot. Then on Northeastern’€™s second goal, the Eagles gave Stevens way too much time and space to walk in from the point and pick his spot. The Eagles finally got a power play of their own near the end of the second, but they killed the last 1:15 of it themselves by taking a too many men penalty.

Then everything changed. Once that 4-on-4 ended, the Huskies had a 45-second power play and looked absolutely awful on it. First they gave up a shorthanded breakaway to Chris Calnan that was turned away, but then they gave up another shorthanded breakaway just 12 seconds later, and Fitzgerald finished this one to tie the game at 2-2.

Fitzgerald stepped up for BC
The Bruins’€™ 2013 fourth-round pick is starting to look like the player who had seven goals in the first eight games this season rather than the one who had just one over the two months following that. Fitzgerald had a hat trick last Saturday against UConn and then a goal and an assist Tuesday night. He used his speed to create a number of chances throughout the game, including two breakaways for himself. The Eagles don’€™t have any big-time offensive stars like they did last year, but they have guys who are capable of scoring, and Fitzgerald is certainly one of them. Him getting hot down the stretch would be a big boost for BC as it enters Jerry York‘€™s favorite time of the year — trophy season.

Beanpot Observations: BU knocks off Harvard in double overtime thriller 02.03.15 at 9:07 pm ET
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The 2015 Beanpot got off to one hell of a start. Boston University dominated most of Tuesday’€™s first semifinal, but Harvard goalie Steve Michalek made a tournament-record 63 saves to force the game to double overtime. The Terriers’€™ relentless pressure never stopped, though, and 2:18 into the second overtime they finally scored to pick up the 4-3 win and advance to Tuesday night’€™s championship game.

The winning goal came from BU’€™s top line of Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues and Danny O’€™Regan — the best line in the country, but one that had been held off the scoresheet to that point despite combining for 25 shots on goal. Rodrigues picked off a pass at the offensive blue line and then fed O’€™Regan for the game-winning tally.

BU controlled most of the first overtime and nearly won it twice in that frame. Michalek robbed Rodrigues on a beautiful pass to the front from Eichel four minutes in. Then with BU on the power play, Brayden Jaw came up with a huge block in the crease after Rodrigues hit O’€™Regan at the back door.

Harvard then nearly ended it right after killing that penalty, as they got a 3-on-1 as soon as Alex Kerfoot left the box. Matt O’€™Connor (31 saves) came up with a big glove save on Jaw, though. The Crimson had another great chance with eight minutes left in the session when Tyler Moy ended up with a breakaway. Moy fumbled the puck at the last second, though, and failed to get a shot off.

BU took a 1-0 lead with 3:10 left in the first. Brien Diffley broke up a Harvard rush in the neutral zone, leading to a BU rush the other way. Rodrigues, who had six assists against UMass on Friday night, held the puck on the right side before making a nice centering pass to a wide-open Cason Hohmann for an easy tap-in.

The Crimson tied the game just 1:15 later. Clay Anderson made an indirect pass down the left side for Jimmy Vesey, who used his speed to get deep before throwing a pass to the front that deflected off a skate and went right to the stick of linemate Kyle Criscuolo for the finish.

Harvard took a 2-1 lead 22 seconds in the second when Criscuolo collected a Matt Grzelcyk turnover and centered for Kerfoot, who was playing his first game since getting injured at the end of November. The Crimson extended the lead to 3-1 eight minutes later when Sean Malone scored from the slot on a play that should’€™ve been blown dead after BU got possession during a delayed penalty (more on that later).

The Terriers didn’€™t roll over, though. They cut the lead to one with 4:26 left in the second when Nikolas Olsson buried a rebound off a Nick Roberto shot. Then they tied it with 23 seconds left in the period when Hohmann, who had a game-high 11 shots on goal, fed Ahti Oksanen in the slot for the junior winger’€™s 17th goal of the season.

The game was just the fourth in the Beanpot’€™s 63-year history to go to double overtime. The Terriers improved to 17-4-4 on the season, while the Crimson dropped to 12-6-2. The win snapped BU’s five-game Beanpot losing streak, its longest ever in the tournament.

Here are some other observations from the game: Read the rest of this entry »

Beanpot semifinals postponed until Tuesday due to impending storm 02.01.15 at 3:41 pm ET
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The Beanpot semifinals, originally scheduled for Monday night, have been postponed until Tuesday due to an impending snow storm. The games will still be held at TD Garden at 5 and 8 p.m. Boston University takes on Harvard in the first semifinal, while Boston College and Northeastern face off in the nightcap. The championship and consolation games will still be Monday, Feb. 9.

BC beats BU, extends unbeaten streak to 8 games 01.16.15 at 11:28 pm ET
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No. 17 Boston College remained undefeated since the start of December, beating No. 2 Boston University 4-2 at Agganis Arena Friday night to improve to 6-0-2 in its last eight games. Freshman forward Alex Tuch registered two goals and an assist, while classmate Noah Hanifin had a goal and an assist. The Eagles improved to 13-7-2 on the season and 6-4-2 in Hockey East, breaking a fourth-place tie with Providence in the process. The Terriers fell to 12-4-4 overall and 7-2-2 in Hockey East and dropped out of a first-place tie with UMass-Lowell.

Here are some observations from the game:

Penalties kill BU
BU gave BC two extended 5-on-3s, and the Eagles scored on both of them. The first came during a rough-and-tumble start to the game that saw the teams combine for 11 penalties in 10 minutes. In the middle of all that, Danny O’€™Regan and A.J. Greer took penalties 29 seconds apart and Hanifin ripped a slap shot past Matt O’€™Connor for the 5-on-3 goal.

Penalty trouble struck again midway through the second when Matt Grzelcyk and Robbie Baillargeon went to the box just 10 seconds apart. Once again the Eagles capitalized, with Ryan Fitzgerald feeding an open Tuch in the slot. Penalties haven’€™t been a huge problem for the Terriers most of the season, but they have now surrendered 14 power plays in their last two games. That will obviously be something to watch moving forward, especially since their next game on Sunday is against first-place Lowell, owner of the best power play in Hockey East.

BU’€™s freshmen finally look like freshmen
Arguably the biggest reason for the Terriers’€™ success this season has been the play of their freshmen. Jack Eichel has been even better than most people expected, and the team’€™s four freshman defensemen have been a strength from the get-go, with very few hiccups along the way. On Friday night, there were some hiccups. BU coach David Quinn said after the game that he thought it was the first game where his freshman D really looked like freshman D, and he pointed to gap control as one of the team’€™s biggest problems in the game. That was evident throughout, as BC had way too many easy transitions through the neutral zone and easy entries into the BU end. That passiveness led to chances on the rush for BC as well as easy offensive-zone setups. No one should be panicking about the freshman defensemen because we’€™ve seen all year what they’€™re capable of, but Friday night should provide a good teaching moment about what happens when they sit back too much.

Eichel also didn’€™t play one of his best games. While his line still had the puck a lot (according to Ryan Lambert of College Hockey News and Yahoo Sports, BU had a 64-percent Corsi with Eichel on the ice and 43.1-percent with him off the ice), they weren’€™t able to generate enough quality scoring chances. BC deserves a lot of credit for keeping them mostly on the perimeter, but Eichel and friends should be able to get to the net more against pretty much anyone. On top of that, Eichel had a miscommunication with a defenseman on a 4-on-4 that led to a BC goal and turned the puck over twice during a 6-on-5 at the end of the game while BU was looking for the tying goal. Eichel did still have an assist in the game and he’€™s still the best player in the country, but Friday night might get left off the highlight reel.

BC has depth, BU still has a question mark
As you might be able to tell by that 43.1-percent Corsi without Eichel on the ice, BC won the depth battle, at least in terms of possession. BU’€™s third line did score a goal on a nice play by Matt Lane and BC’€™s bottom two lines did not have a goal, but BC’€™s bottom six forwards outshot BU’€™s bottom six 8-4 in the game. The Eagles don’€™t have a line like Eichel’€™s (or like their own top line last year), and the two teams’€™ second lines are pretty even (especially if Baillargeon, who missed nine games with mono, can get back to how he played last year for BU), but BC has 47 points from its bottom six this season compared to 31 for BU. The Terriers still have the better offense on the season (3.40 goals per game vs. 3.09 for BC), but Friday showed how they might struggle against teams with good depth if the Eichel line doesn’€™t take over (which, by the way, they’€™re completely capable of doing). Sunday’€™s game against Lowell will provide another good depth test for BU.

BC can still make some noise
BC coach Jerry York said after the game that his team can still be “a pretty good club” this season, and he’s absolutely right. As we mentioned earlier, the Eagles are now 6-0-2 since the start of December and they’€™re looking like the team most of us expected them to be before the season. Defense and goaltending are finally looking like strengths, as the team has cut down on mistakes in its own end and Thatcher Demko has looked like the high-end goalie we know he can be rather than the mediocre one who was battling the flu and hip issues the first two months. BC is also finding enough scoring to win consistently, even if it doesn’€™t have that go-to, dominant first line.

The Eagles have scored three or more goals six times during this eight-game unbeaten streak and are now up to third in the league in scoring. They’€™ve allowed two or fewer in all eight games and Demko has a .955 save percentage over his last seven starts. It’€™s never really a good idea to write off a York-coached team, and this year’€™s BC squad could be in the midst of showing us why.

Boston College extends Steve Addazio through 2020 12.18.14 at 3:52 pm ET
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Steve Addazio

Steve Addazio

Boston College has extended the contract of head football coach Steve Addazio through 2020, the school announced Thursday. The Eagles have gone 14-11 in Addazio’s first two seasons at the helm after going 2-10 the season before he arrived.

Addazio’s name recently surfaced in connection with both the Florida and Michigan coaching searches.

“In just two years, Steve Addazio has done an amazing job with our football program,” said BC athletic director Brad Bates. “To lead a team to 14 wins and two consecutive bowl games during what was supposed to be a rebuilding process is a great accomplishment.

“Beyond winning, he has worked tirelessly to recruit top-notch student-athletes and develop lasting relationships with former players and the entire University community. He is one of the best motivators I’ve ever been around, and his enthusiasm is infectious. We are very fortunate to have him as our coach.”

Addazio and the Eagles take on Penn State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27.

“I appreciate Fr. Leahy’s and Brad Bates’ support for our program and their confidence in me,” Addazio said. “I am also grateful to our student-athletes and our staff for their dedication and hard work. Boston College is a great, Jesuit Catholic education in a world-class city that competes in big-time college football and I am honored and humbled to be in this position. We have a lot more work to do, but I believe we are building the foundation for a great football program.”

Hockey East first half power rankings: 3 clear tiers 12.08.14 at 8:38 pm ET
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There are no more Hockey East conference games before winter break (several teams still have a non-conference game or two to go), so now seems like a good time to do some power rankings and see where everyone stands as the first half of the season comes to a close. As things stand right now, there are three pretty clear tiers in the conference, with three teams gaining some separation at the top, four teams in the middle trying to fight their way into that group, and five teams making a mess of things at the bottom.

1. Boston University (10-3-2, 7-1-2 HEA)
After losing two of three non-conference games during Thanksgiving week, the Terriers bounced back by taking three of four points from Merrimack. BU’€™s top line, which had been held off the scoresheet in the previous two games, went off in Saturday’€™s 4-2 win, as Danny O’€™Regan had three goals and an assist and Jack Eichel had four assists. The Terriers are a very good team — probably even better than expected so far thanks to Eichel being the best player in the country and their four freshman defensemen being impact players from the start — and they can go pretty far without changing much, but they could be even better if they start to get some more depth scoring to help with those rare games when the Eichel line doesn’€™t score. The returns of Robbie Baillargeon and Nikolas Olsson over the next month or so should help, but until then, the Eichel line will be enough to win a lot of games. BU leads Hockey East with 33.93 shots on goal per game and Matt O’€™Connor is second in the league with a .938 save percentage.

2. UMass-Lowell (10-3-3, 7-0-2 HEA)
The River Hawks’€™ recent non-conference results haven’€™t been great (split with Penn State, loss to Harvard), but they continue to roll in Hockey East play, most recently beating UConn 6-4 on Wednesday and Maine 3-2 in overtime on Saturday. The River Hawks don’€™t have anyone averaging a point per game, but they still lead the league in scoring thanks to 13 players averaging half a point per game or more, more than anyone else in the conference. Their team shooting percentage has come down to 13.5 percent, but that still leads the country and is still probably unsustainable. The good news is that they’€™re getting more shots on goal — 33 or more in four of their last five games — which should help limit the effects of regression. Lowell continues to get just average goaltending (Kevin Boyle has a .914 save percentage, while Jeff Smith is at .901), which isn’€™t ideal for a team that expects to compete for titles.

3. Vermont (11-3-1, 7-3-1 HEA)
The Catamounts continue to be a really solid all-around team. They’€™re second in Hockey East in scoring, first in team defense, tied for first in power play, first in penalty kill, third in shots on goal and first in shots on goal against. They’€™re getting good goaltending from Brody Hoffman (.924 save percentage in 10 appearances) and Mike Santaguida (.953 in six). Like Lowell, Vermont is scoring with depth. Mario Puskarich and Mike Paliotta are averaging a point per game, with Paliotta leading all Hockey East defensemen in the category, and nine others are averaging half a point per game. The Catamounts have won four in a row and they haven’€™t allowed more than three goals in a game all season. All that said, they’€™re looking up at Lowell and BU in the standings. They’€™re just one point behind those two, but they’€™ve played one more conference game than BU and two more than Lowell. Read the rest of this entry »

Takeaways from a great, weird week of college hockey: Harvard is the real deal 11.30.14 at 9:27 pm ET
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If you like college hockey, hopefully you were able to get out to one of the many appealing games in the area over the last week. From Tuesday through Saturday, there were five games within an hour of Boston between teams currently ranked in the top 20 in the national polls. Boston University hosted Harvard and Colgate, UMass-Lowell also hosted Harvard, Boston College hosted Minnesota, and then Providence hosted BC.

I was fortunate enough to get to four of those five games, with BC-Providence being the only one I missed. Here are some takeaways from the week:

Harvard is the real deal

The Crimson beat BU 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday and then beat Lowell 4-2 on Saturday. They’€™re now 7-1-2 on the season, and they have road wins over BC, BU and Lowell. This start isn’€™t a fluke. The Crimson have a lot of talent, and for once that talent is actually translating to a successful on-ice product, something that hasn’€™t always happened in the past at Harvard.

The Crimson’€™s top line of Predators draft pick Jimmy Vesey, Devils pick Alex Kerfoot and junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo has to be considered the second-best line in the country right now, and they’€™re not all that far behind BU’€™s Ahti Oksanen-Jack Eichel-Danny O’€™Regan line. Harvard’€™s top trio is averaging 1.70 goals, 4.20 points and 9.30 shots on goal per game, compared to 1.91 goals, 3.93 points and 12.69 shots for the Eichel line. Vesey, Kerfoot and Criscuolo all rank in the top 10 nationally in points per game.

There’€™s more to Harvard than just the top line, though. Senior Patrick McNally (Canucks draft pick) is first nationally among defensemen with 1.30 points per game. Senior goalie Steve Michalek (Wild draft pick) is third in the country with a .947 save percentage. Brian Hart (Lightning draft pick) and Luke Esposito have chipped in four and three goals, respectively, from the second line, and third-line center Tyler Moy has four goals as well. Read the rest of this entry »

BU’s Jack Eichel on College Puckcast: ‘We want to compete for a national championship’ 11.12.14 at 11:01 pm ET
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Boston University star freshman Jack Eichel joined WEEI’s College Puckcast on Wednesday to talk about the fast start for both himself and his team. To hear the full interview, as well as a discussion with Ryan Lambert of Yahoo! Sports and College Hockey News, visit the WEEI Podcast Center.

A year after going 10-21-4 and finishing ninth in Hockey East, the Terriers are off to a 5-1-1 start this year and are currently ranked third in the country. Eichel isn’t surprised by the team’s turnaround, and he said they expect a lot from themselves moving forward.

“I think we have high expectations for ourselves,” Eichel said. “I don’€™t think we’re satisfied at all yet. I think we have a lot more to prove. I think every game we play, we’re proving something to not only the league, but to the country. We want to prove that BU’s back and we’re ready to go. We want to compete for a national championship.”

Eichel, a North Chelmsford native who is expected to be one of the top two picks in next summer’s NHL draft, has been a big reason for BU’s early success. Through seven games, he leads Hockey East in points (13), assists (8), points per game (1.86), plus/minus (+13) and shots on goal per game (5.57).

Eichel said that so far he hasn’t been too surprised by anything at this level.

“I think this is pretty much what I expected,” he said. “I had a little bit of a taste of it last year, playing with the [U.S.] under-18 team. We played a handful of Division I teams, so I got a little bit of a taste of it last season. It is what it is to be expected. There’s a lot of hitting and a lot of big, strong players. That’s kind of one of the reasons that I really wanted to go to college, was to play against the bigger, older, stronger competition and challenge myself on a nightly basis.” Read the rest of this entry »

What we learned: BU scores 4 in third to beat BC 11.08.14 at 12:40 am ET
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The first meeting of the season between Boston University and Boston College always provides something of a measuring stick for the two rivals. Friday night’€™s game at Conte Forum confirmed that BU and BC are pretty even right now, but in the end it was the Terriers who came away with a 5-3 win.

The Eagles held leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, but the Terriers kept coming back. With 7:45 left in the third, freshman sensation Jack Eichel tied the game with a redirect of Brandon Hickey’€™s shot from the point. Two minutes later, senior forward Evan Rodrigues scored his second goal of the game and gave BU a 4-3 lead on a wraparound attempt that ricocheted off a BC skate and in. Nikolas Olsson tacked on an empty netter in the final minute. BU improved to 5-1-0 with the win, while BC dropped to 4-4-0.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

BC is going to be fine

Even though the Eagles have now lost three in a row, there is no reason to panic. The first of those three losses was an overtime contest on the road against a very good Denver team. No biggie. The second was a major upset at the hands of UConn in the Huskies’€™ first ever Hockey East home game. It’€™s a bad result, and it’€™s a game they absolutely should’€™ve won. But they weren’€™t horrific. They outshot UConn 35-22 (and 26-9 over the final two periods), but they ran into a hot goalie in Rob Nichols and just couldn’€™t finish. Upsets happen all the time in college hockey, and this time it happened to BC.

That brings us to Friday night. Losing three in a row and losing on your home ice against your archrival doesn’€™t feel good. But again, the Eagles didn’€™t play all that poorly, and BU is a very good team. They controlled stretches of play, they generated some sustained offense, and they were outshooting BU 22-14 through two periods. The third period and power plays were problems. They got outscored 4-1 in the third (3-1 if you take out the empty netter) and they went 0-for-4 on the power play. Those two areas definitely need to be better than they were Friday night, but they’€™re not enough to abandon ship. The Eagles have very good defensemen, a very good goalie and enough talent up front to beat anyone they play. Read the rest of this entry »

Hockey East Power Rankings: BU on top after first month 11.03.14 at 8:26 pm ET
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With the calendar flipping to November, now is a good time to take a look at how Hockey East is shaping up. Before we get to the rankings, consider this your reminder that Boston University and Boston College play this Friday night at 8 p.m., and it’€™s probably going to be a good one. If you’€™re not going, you can watch on NBCSN or listen on WEEI 850 AM.

1. Boston University (4-1-0, 2-1-0 HEA)
The Terriers got a bit of a wakeup call Saturday against Providence, as they were caught on their heels early on and ultimately couldn’€™t overcome a 2-0 deficit despite outshooting the Friars 18-6 in the third. Still, the Terriers have been the most impressive team in Hockey East so far. Their excellent freshman class has provided a noticeable talent upgrade at both ends of the ice, led of course by Jack Eichel. The potential No. 1 pick in next year’€™s NHL draft has a five-game point streak to start his college career, and he leads Hockey East in points per game (1.80) and shots on goal per game (6.20). After getting outshot by nearly 10 shots per game last year, the Terriers have outshot opponents by eight shots per game so far this year. Junior goalie Matt O’€™Connor has a .958 save percentage in four starts.

2. Boston College (4-2-0, 1-1-0 HEA)
The Eagles rebounded from a tough opening night at Lowell to win four in a row before having that streak snapped with an overtime loss on the road against a good Denver team on Saturday. Sophomore goalie Thatcher Demko has a .945 save percentage since giving up four goals on opening night, confirming what we all suspected — that everything is fine and opening night was just a blip on the radar. His strong play will continue to be important as the Eagles get used to life without defenseman Steve Santini, who is out until at least January after undergoing wrist surgery. Bruins draft pick Ryan Fitzgerald has embraced his move into the role of first-line center after playing wing last year, as he has five goals in six games and has won 51.6 percent of his faceoffs.

3. UMass-Lowell (5-1-1, 3-0-0 HEA)
The River Hawks are off to their best start of the Norm Bazin era, most recently sweeping UNH over the weekend. The sophomore trio of Evan Campbell, Chris Maniccia (who had a hat trick Saturday) and Joe Gambardella has provided a great 1-2-3 punch at center, as all three are averaging at least a point per game and winning at least 53.7 percent of their faceoffs. The River Hawks lead Hockey East in scoring with 4.29 goals per game, but don’€™t expect that pace to continue. They’€™ve scored on 18.3 percent of their shots on goal, which is not sustainable (the best shooting teams in the country usually finish between 11 and 13 percent). Goaltending remains a bit of a question mark, although freshman Jeff Smith has a .946 save percentage in his two starts and junior Kevin Boyle posted a 33-save shutout on Friday. Read the rest of this entry »

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