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In Cross, BC gets new hero

Eagles’ defenseman quick to pass the credit after goal

By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / February 8, 2011

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It was hard to get Tommy Cross to describe the winning goal in much detail even though he scored it, which made him the hero for Boston College after a 3-2 overtime win over Boston University last night in the first round of the Beanpot.

Cross, a junior defenseman from Simsbury, Conn., slipped in the winner at 3:17 of overtime, a power-play wrist shot from the blue line that got through a screen to beat Kieran Millan. Cross collected the puck off the right sideboards high in the BU zone, skated backward a few steps along the blue line, and let loose a wrist shot that skipped past Millan.

But when Cross was asked about the goal, he pointed out only the roles his teammates played.

“We just talked a lot about getting pucks to the net,’’ Cross said. “It was a great play by our center — Jimmy [Hayes] won a great faceoff and snapped it right back. I think the wingers came in and helped push it back. I just took a step to the middle, our guys went to the net and got a great screen. I just kind of got it by the first wave of guys and down to the net and it found its way in.’’

Cross even gave credit to teammate Steve Whitney, who drew the penalty by BU’s Ryan Ruikka, a cross-check, that set up the man-advantage.

Cross might not have been the game’s likely shooting star — it was just his fourth goal of the season on a team packed with offensive talent — but he was a typical Beanpot star.

As BU coach Jack Parker noted, “[In the Beanpot,] sometimes somebody stands out that hasn’t done that during the year.’’

Parker wasn’t talking about Cross, but the description fit. “It feels really good, for our team — we wanted to win so bad,’’ said Cross. “Just to put the puck in the net with such a great screen, it was awesome.’’

Cross might have said just to play the whole game was awesome. The 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pound defenseman, selected by the Bruins in the second round (35th overall) of the 2007 NHL draft, has been plagued by injuries to both knees. He missed 12 games his freshman year, four more his sophomore year, and then sprained his left knee Oct. 30 against Merrimack and missed 11 more. He returned to the ice Dec. 30.

“Just to see the smiles on everyone’s faces, how badly we wanted to win, and how we worked, it was definitely a good finish,’’ said Cross.

Cross admitted there are more prolific scorers on his team, but allowed himself a grin when he said, “I think I’m a sniper, too.

“Sometimes in big games, you never know who’s going to get the goal,’’ he added. “But so much went into that goal like I said, the faceoff and the screen, the shot was just kind of the cherry on top. There was so much that led up to it.’’

But BC goalie John Muse was willing to give Cross the credit.

“It’s awesome,’’ said Muse. “It couldn’t happen to a better kid.’’

Cross got the opportunity to be the hero because the Eagles killed off two penalties late in the third period. Kevin Hayes drew a cross-checking call at 15:01, and just as the BC penalty killers finished it off, Philip Samuelsson was called for the same infraction at 17:00.

“The penalty kill was huge tonight,’’ said Cross. “The guys that kill penalties for us were so courageous and they work so hard; they block shots and they give clears. Without those guys we could have been down two or three goals quickly, and then in the third period, we wouldn’t have had overtime. That was definitely the turning point, to get those kills.’’

BU outshot BC, 15-8, in the third period, but Muse refused to give up the tying goal. As BC associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh, speaking for Jerry York, who lost his voice to laryngitis, pointed out, “You cannot win the Beanpot losing a game. You don’t get a second chance. It adds to the excitement and the intensity of the game.’’