BC goalie John Muse returns to form
BOSTON -- The focus of Boston College's 6-0 win over Harvard in Monday's Beanpot opener at the TD Garden will likely be on the Eagles' offensive outburst.
And it would be hard to argue.
Six different goal scorers. Three power-play goals. And 43 shots against a pair of Harvard goaltenders.
That type of explosion isn't a total surprise from a talent-laden BC team that skates like the wind and came in averaging 3.6 goals and 31 shots a game.
What was somewhat unexpected was the play at the other end of the Eagles' ice.
Because of injuries, head coach Jerry York is really only regular shifting four defensemen. Senior Carl Sneep (1 goal, 2 assists vs. Harvard) leads the corps that also contains two freshmen (Brian Dumoulin, Philip Samuelsson) and a sophomore (Edwin Shea) -- and a pair of walk-ons (Patch Alber, Malcolm Lyles) pulling spot duty in the fifth and sixth slots.
Enter John Muse.
The junior goaltender, who backstopped BC to a national title during his freshman campaign, turned aside 33 shots to register his seventh career shutout -- and BC's first this season.
"Their speed put us back on our heels but I thought we had some great chances the last six or seven minutes of the first period and Muse came up big," Harvard coach Ted Donato said. "I thought John Muse was very solid and made some big saves when he needed to. The final score might not look like it was a giant goaltending effort but I thought he made some very big saves at key parts of the game to keep them in control."
BC led 1-0 after one period thanks to a Ben Smith power-play goal. Then the Eagles jumped out 2-0 with a goal just 18 seconds into the second period, and that seemed to wake up Harvard a bit as the Crimson registered 17 shots in the middle frame. But thanks in part to Muse, BC enjoyed a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes.
"I thought John Muse was very good in goal," York said. "He made some good saves down around the net area in loose puck situations. It's an area you try to get better at and I thought he battled a lot better tonight in those situations."
The East Falmouth, Mass., native made nine more saves in the third period to pick up the shutout. The win sends BC (14-8-2) into next Monday's Beanpot title game against Boston University, which beat Northeastern 2-1 in the other semifinal.
"I think I've been playing well lately," Muse said. "I wasn't looking for a shutout, I was looking for a win. Luckily we scored a bunch of goals because that always helps."
It also helps that Muse may be returning to his freshman form.
In that 2008 national title season, Muse played every minute for BC, going 25-11-8 with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. Last season Muse started every game again but he slipped a bit, going 18-14-5 (2.72, .904).
Then on April 30 he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair his right hip. The grueling rehabilitation put Muse's timetable to return to the ice very much in question.
"It took a while after the surgery," Muse said. "I don't think I skated for five months and I was on crutches for nine weeks. I was real sore just moving. But I had to be patient, they told me I had to be patient."
Muse made it back for the start of the season but he had to play himself back into form. After playing seven of BC's first eight games, going 3-3-1 along the way, York decided to platoon his experienced goaltender with freshman Parker Milner.
For the next 14 games, the pair alternated starts as York waited for one of them to establish himself as the horse to ride the rest of the way.
Muse has apparently earned that honor as he started in Friday's 5-2 win over Providence and then followed it up with Monday's shutout over the Crimson.
"Ever since the beginning of practice I felt good," Muse said. "I was pretty sore at the beginning, but eventually that went away. Right now I'm pretty close to 100 percent, although I don't think anyone ever plays at 100 percent because there are bumps and bruises along the way. But I'm as close to 100 percent as I'm going to get."
The biggest adjustment for Muse was getting his timing back. So he's taken extra shots in practice because he knows the more pucks he sees the quicker he'll get his game back to where it's been in the past.
"Timing is huge because it's so quick out there," Muse said. "Everybody can shoot the puck and skate so fast so it's tough to get back to that after taking five months off. Usually you practice and train all summer long so you're used to it. I think it showed in the first couple of games that I played. I wasn't as sharp as I should have been. But I think as I've played it's progressed quite a bit and right now I feel good about my game."
With Monday's win, Muse improved to 9-6-2 with a 2.47 GAA and .908 save percentage.
"I'd much rather be playing than sitting on the bench and I think I can handle that," Muse said. "I worked all summer so I could come back and play every game. I never had it in my mind that I was going to come back and split games. Hopefully I can keep this play up and carry the workload the rest of the way."
That road continues for 10 more games in the regular season -- including next Monday's Beanpot title game at the Garden -- before the Hockey East playoffs come calling.
Look for Muse to be there every stop of the way.
David Albright covers college sports for ESPN.com and can be reached at email@example.com.