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NCAA hockey: How will Union shut down Boston College's dominant top line?

Sean Leahy
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PHILADELPHIA — Denver tried, but all Boston College’s top line needed was 25 seconds to break through. UMass-Lowell did a better job, but still failed in containing the Eagles’ dynamic trio.

Thirteen combined points in a 6-2 win over Denver in the West Regional semifinal. Six points between the three of them against Lowell during a 4-3 victory two days later to advance to the Frozen Four. What could Union possibly do Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center to limit Boston College’s top line of Bill Arnold, Kevin Hayes and Johnny Gaudreau enough to give themselves a fighting chance?

Union put forth a stingy defense all year long, finishing fourth in the nation with 2.05 goals allowed per game. On the other side, Boston College was the only program to score over four goals for per game. Something will have to give when they meet.

Given their 192 combined points this season, Union understands that completely shutting down Arnold, Hayes and Gaudreau will likely be an unsuccessful task.

“It’s going to be about limiting the damage,” said senior defenseman Mat Bodie. “They haven’t really been kept off the scoresheet all that much all year.”

"We know they're going to get their chances," said junior defenseman Shayne Gostibehere, "but it's limiting those chances and making them not high percentage chances."

After their 6-2 loss, Denver coach Jim Montgomery said he tried to win the chess battle of line matching with Boston College’s Jerry York, but “he didn’t bite.” The Gaudreau line scored 25 seconds into their game and it knocked the Pioneers back on their heels forcing them to play catch up, even more so after falling behind 3-0 within the opening 10 minutes of the game.

For Union to limit the BC Three’s effect on the game, it’s going to take a unit by unit effort.

“It’s not simply a line matching up or D-pair matching up,” said Bodie. “[I]t’s the five guys on the ice. We work as a unit in the D-zone and it’s going to be up to everyone to chip in try and stop those guys.”

Gaudreau, the likely Hobey Baker Award winner, is the straw that stirs the drink as Montgomery said after that game. His 35 goals and 77 points led the nation. Containing his offensive ability will be a tough task for Union and as head coach Rick Bennett told ESPN Radio 104.5's Armen and Levack recently, he knows the danger of trying to do a little too much in shutting him down.

“[You] try to finish your hits on him but you can’t be too aggressive or you’ll look foolish.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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