Few teams can shut down the scoring prowess of Chris Collins, the size and skill of 6-foot-7-inch, 240-pound center Brian Boyle, or the grinding abilities of Stephen Gionta.
So, for good reason, there's no surprise that Boston College's No. 1 line enters tonight's first-round Beanpot game against Northeastern as the hottest trio in Hockey East. In the Eagles' last six games, the CBS line has combined for 34 points. Last Friday, Collins added to his league-leading total when he netted his 21st goal, which gave the senior left wing his 100th career point (50 goals, 50 assists). On Jan. 28, Boyle, the 2003 first-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings, netted all four goals, including the overtime winner, in a 4-3 victory over UMass-Lowell.
But while the threesome has matched the early-season dominance established by New Hampshire's top trio of Jacob Micflikier, Daniel Winnik, and Brett Hemingway, the Eagles are currently facing the same problem that has plagued the Wildcats throughout the year: unbalanced scoring.
The Eagles have scored 19 goals in their last six games, but only three of those strikes have come from forwards other than the top three. Dan Bertram and Benn Ferriero scored in a 5-0 win over Merrimack Jan. 14, while Andrew Orpik netted a goal in BC's 4-3 loss to Boston University Jan. 27. BC is 4-2 during the six-game run, dropping its last game Friday when UMass goalie Jon Quick stopped 46 shots in a 3-2 Minuteman win at the Mullins Center, the Eagles' first loss in Amherst since 1995. Collins and Boyle were the scorers for BC.
After the game, BC coach Jerry York noted that his club needs production from the three other lines to be successful. In their three previous meetings with the Huskies this year, Bertram, Ferriero, and freshman Brock Bradford have combined for four of BC's 10 goals.
The Crimson had seven power plays in their 2-1 overtime win over last-place Brown on Friday at Meehan Auditorium, including a two-man advantage in the third period and a five-minute major in the second when Antonin Roux was tossed for hitting from behind. But the Crimson failed to score on each attempt, causing defenseman Dylan Reese, who mans the point, to look skyward in frustration after his third-period one-timer was smothered by Brown goaltender Adam D'Alba.
Harvard has scored one power-play goal in its last 22 opportunities, a statistic that the Crimson are hoping will turn around against BU tonight.
''It has looked better," said Harvard coach Ted Donato. ''We'll score soon. Early on, we got a lot of real pretty goals where we passed the puck into the net. We have to put pucks to the net in any way and get some ugly goals."
Despite going scoreless on the power play Friday, the Crimson had 15 shots during their seven opportunities.
''We have to keep getting more pucks to the net," said forward Dan Murphy, who scored the overtime winner. ''Sooner or later, one's going to go through."
Cramping their style
According to BU coach Jack Parker, top-line winger John Laliberte will most likely not play in tonight's match against Harvard. Laliberte (7-14--21) suffered a sprained left knee against Merrimack Jan. 20 and has missed the last four games. Eric Thomassian has been skating in Laliberte's spot on the right wing.
Laliberte, however, isn't the only hurting top-line player. Last week, No. 1 left wing David Van der Gulik, who has played in only 10 games this season because of a groin injury, sat out portions of practice.
''It's good enough to play," Van der Gulik said Wednesday. ''I have to be conscious of not overdoing it. I'm doing pretty light workouts. I've just got to be smart about it. I don't want to overdo it on the ice or in practice."
Van der Gulik, who expects to have surgery after the season, had what Parker thought was his best game as a Terrier in BU's 4-2 win over BC last month. Last season, when Van der Gulik was playing through the same injury, he sat out much of practice and underwent injections before several games.
''I told him any time it gets funny, get off the ice," Parker said. ''The anvil could drop one day."
The power of the 'Pot
Chalk up Northeastern freshman Ryan Ginand as one of the many participants in tonight's tournament to select his school because of the opportunity to play in the Beanpot. Ginand, the Huskies' leading goal-scorer, considered UMass, New Hampshire, Merrimack, and Brown, but the Milford native committed to Northeastern between his sophomore and junior years in high school. ''I expected to be a .500 or above team, but right now we're struggling," Ginand said. ''Hopefully, Beanpot will be the time to turn everything around." . . . Northeastern assistant captain Brian Swiniarski, who played under former coach Bruce Crowder for three seasons, noted some differences between his old boss and Greg Cronin. ''We'd show up whenever we got here. Now it's a mandatory thing, where we all get here at an exact time," said Swiniarski, who noted how practices are shorter but more intense under Cronin . . . Last week, Parker said one of the biggest surprises about the Crimson has been the play of netminder John Daigneau, the No. 2 goalie on Harvard's depth chart the last three seasons behind Dov Grumet-Morris. Against Brown, Daigneau stopped 21 shots, including a shorthanded breakaway in the second period. ''He's playing awesome," said Harvard forward Ryan Maki. ''You can't say enough about him. He's kept us in a lot of games, especially when the scoring hasn't been where it needs to be."