The Boston College Eagles narrowly averted what would have been a three-game losing streak last Saturday night at Yale. Trailing 2–1 late, the Eagles got a short-handed goal from Barry Almeida with 2:19 to play. Then, a player who is perhaps having the best year of what has already been a successful hockey career at the Heights scored the game-winner with just 39 seconds remaining.
Chris Kreider, tied for the most overall points among Hockey East players (10 goals, eight assists, 18 points), scored on a designed faceoff play in front of the Yale net, using his large frame to slide the deciding goal past Yale’s Jeff Malcolm and turn what would’ve been another tough loss into BC’s most exciting win of the season.
“Sometimes hockey changes so quickly,” said BC coach Jerry York.
That statement can be true not just for Saturday’s game but also for its hero. In the past two years, Kreider has seen his season change on a dime — both times for the positive — as the calendar changed for the new year.
If you compare statistics in Kreider’s freshman and sophomore seasons, you’ll see a distinct difference in months October through December and January through April each year.
As a freshman, Kreider had two goals and three assists before the new year (finished with 15 goals and 23 points). Last year was a tiny bit more balanced, as Kreider had five goals and six assists (finished with 11 goals and 24 points).
Both seasons, Kreider spent the holiday break playing for Team USA at the World Junior Championship. In each tournament, Kreider was a standout player for the Americans, which won the gold medal two years ago and the bronze last year.
York said that playing among his peers helped the 6-foot-3 forward.
“From my vantage point, we get young players — 18– and 19-year-old players like Chris was his freshman and sophomore years — they’re playing [in college] against players who are 22, 23 and, in some cases, 24,” said York. “The age process is difficult for [the younger] players.”
“So when he got to the World Juniors, it was his age bracket and he’s going against 18– and 19-year-old players. He’s able to do some things there that, even though they’re the best players in the world, they’re still his age.
“It’s hard to be a great player when you’re 18 against seasoned 23– and 24-year-old hockey players.”
York said the confidence that Kreider earned each season was critical to his second-half success both years. That success, though, nearly led the oversized forward to head to the NHL, where he is property of the New York Rangers.
Instead, Kreider decided to work further toward his college degree and, in doing so, has become one of the most dominant players in Hockey East.
“He was trying to do what he felt was best for him when he combined the academic goals of getting a college degree with his aspirations of being an NHL player,” said York. “He looked at both situations and one more year of college hockey where he could become a more dominant player while getting a year closer to a degree, that was something he was very well aware of.”
The dominance has been obvious throughout Kreider’s junior season. To the naked eye, he possesses a second speed that most players don’t have and his large frame and strength has been extremely beneficial in front of the net for the Eagles, as it was on Saturday.
For York, though, strength and speed are important, but it’s one of the “intangibles” of the college hockey game that has paid dividends.
“What most has evolved is his maturity,” said York. “He’s blessed with great size and strength. Now he’s put everything together: his maturity and how he handles the whole 60 minutes of the game, his hockey IQ, everything is taking great strides over the last few years and it’s most evident this year.”