Fitzgerald’s two goals pace Boston College past Denver

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DENVER — On a Halloween night where two nationally-ranked teams seemed to fear being tricked more than treated, the first period featured more icing calls than combined shots for both teams as the period was tight checking and measured by few scoring opportunities.

In the end, Boston College coach Jerry York earned his 500th win at the school as the Eagles escaped with a 2-1 win over Denver.

The Pioneers outshot the Eagles 5-4 and held the visitors without a shot on two power play opportunities in the first period. Denver saw three shots and a couple of quality chances on their sole power play of the period, including a nice passing play to Quentin Shore at the bottom of the left circle that was swallowed up by a sliding Thatcher Demko for the Eagles.

It didn’t take long for the home team to get on the scoreboard in the second period. Following an aggressive cycle play, Joey LaLeggia pinched down from the point and circled behind the goal before making a perfect pass to his defensive partner, Nolan Zajac, who one-timed the pass from the slot over Demko’s blocker to the far side for a 1-0 Pioneers’ lead just 28 seconds into the second period.

Just over three minutes later, it was Zajac again with a chance on a power play with Austin Cangelosi in the box for hooking, but Demko made a terrific glove save on the blast to the near post.

With Shore in the box for his second minor penalty on the night, BC took advantage with a pretty passing play to set up Ryan Fitzgerald at the top of the crease who beat Evan Cowley low inside the post and the game was tied at one apiece. Cangelosi and Destry Straight picked up assists on Fitzgerald’s fourth goal in the team’s first five games.

Midway through the period, the Pioneers ended up with a 5-on-3 for 36 seconds, but could not beat Demko and the tightly packed BC penalty killers. Demko, despite losing his stick twice in the sequence, came up with two big saves of rebounds at the post to preserve the tie.

Cowley got his chance to shine with just over seven minutes remaining in the period when a long lead pass to Alex Tuch that sent the BC forward in on an breakaway that Cowley read perfectly in stopping the deke attempt with his left pad at the far post.

An exchange of minor penalties at the end of the period yielded little in the way of quality chances and shots for the period favored Denver 10-8. Overall through two periods, Denver had a slight advantage in shots by a 15-12 margin.

Early momentum in the third period swung the visitors’ way following a great right pad save by Demko on a Pioneer shot from the slot. The Eagles created several quality scoring chances, including Tuch’s shot from the slot on a 2-on-1 stopped by Cowley and Fitzgerald’s high wrist shot that rang off the near post just four minutes into the period.

Another penalty to Shore gave the Eagles their fifth power-play chance of the game, but Cowley made two key saves and the 1-1 stalemate continued.

BC continued to apply pressure and force Cowley into several more saves before Zach Sanford took a minor for BC at the 13:05 mark of the period and Denver went on their sixth power play of the night,

At 15:18, immediately following the end of his minor penalty, Sanford made up for his time in the box by knocking down the defensive zone clearing attempt and catching up with the puck deep in the Pioneer zone. After circling behind the goal, Sanford fired a pass across the top of the crease to a streaking Fitzgerald, who beat Cowley on a bang-bang play at the far post. Noah Hanifin picked up the other assist on the initial clear from BC’s zone and the Eagles had a 2-1 lead.

Following a BC time-out with two minutes remaining, Denver pulled Cowley for the extra attacker looking to score the equalizer. With 48 seconds remaining, BC’s Ian McCoshen and Denver’s Daniel Doremus each picked up minor penalties for roughing and the teams were now skating 5-on-4 with the empty net for Denver.

Demko came up with two critical saves robbing LaLeggia at the far post with under 10 seconds remaining and flashed his right pad to stop a puck at the near post as the horn expired.