WORCESTER - Boston College goaltender Parker Milner was cool as a cucumber after Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Air Force in the NCAA Northeast Regional semifinals at DCU Center.
The junior had just made 20 saves to earn his third career shutout and first NCAA Tournament win. But Milner said it wasn’t really about what he did so much as what his teammates did. The Eagles waged a tough defensive battle with the Falcons and Milner faced a few flurries, but nothing to really worry about until maybe the final five minutes.
“We were just trying to hold them off there,’’ said Milner, who will be back in net Sunday for the final against Minnesota-Duluth, a 5-2 winner over Maine. “It was a great hockey game and they really played great. They really started to turn it on in the last five. But I think what was really key was we really just shut them down defensively.
“All the shots they had were from outside the dots. I think it was a great team effort in the last five. It was kind of one of those games where we dominated. The play was kind of back and forth. It was a great defensive effort. The times they got in the zone, I think we did a great job of keeping them to the outside.’’
Though BC and Minnesota-Duluth will be meeting for only the second time in the postseason in Sunday’s regional final, they’ve played 15 times since 1967 with the Eagles holding a lopsided 10-4-1 advantage. The 2-2 draw came in their last game at the 2003 Icebreaker Invitational in East Lansing, Mich. Their playoff meeting for third place in the 1985 tournament in Detroit was won by UMD, 7-6, in overtime . . . Why was Maine’s second goal by Matt Mangene allowed even though his team’s net had been knocked askew by a Minnesota-Duluth player? Because the referees enforced NCAA rule 6-10-c: “If the non-offending team has an offensive opportunity and its defensive goal cage has been displaced, play shall be allowed to continue until the scoring chance is complete.’’ . . . Air Force’s 2-0 loss to BC marked the first time the Falcons had dropped an NCAA Tournament game by more than one goal. Its four previous defeats were 4-3 to Minnesota in 2007, 3-2 in overtime to Miami in 2008, 3-2 in double overtime to Vermont in 2009, and 2-1 in overtime to Yale last year . . . Four of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award were competing in the Northeast Regional - Abbott, BC defenseman Brian Dumoulin, Minnesota-Duluth forward Jack Connolly, and Air Force defenseman Tim Kirby. Only Dumoulin (by Carolina) was drafted. The four colleges have won the hockey Heisman eight times among them, with UMD claiming four (Tom Kurvers, Bill Watson, Chris Marinucci, and Junior Lessard), BC two (David Emma, Mike Mottau) and Maine two (Scott Pellerin, Paul Kariya). If Connolly doesn’t win the Hobey, he already has been voted a couple of consolation honors by his teammates: Highest Hockey IQ and Person You’d Most Want Your Own Sister to Date . . . Maine and Minnesota-Duluth had only three common opponents during the regular season. The Black Bears went 2-1 against Providence, 2-0 against Alabama-Huntsville, and 0-1-1 against North Dakota, while the Bulldogs were 1-0-1, 2-0, and 1-1.
BC coach Jerry York had tons of praise for captain Tommy Cross, who had another strong performance as the Eagles won their 16th straight. “I talk so much about his leadership, I should talk more about his quality of play,’’ said York. “But he’s been an outstanding leader for us and I appreciate that in players. But his play, I think, warrants all-league type consideration. He did not make our first- or second-team all-league but I certainly think he’s in that mix of players that is among the very best defensemen in Hockey East.’’ . . . If you want perspective, look no further than Air Force captain Paul Weisgarber. He was disappointed that the Falcons’ season came to an end, but as is the case with the men and women of the service academies, they have a higher calling. “Your senior year, you have high aspirations,’’ said Weisgarber, a native of Fargo, N.D. “You want to take the team to that next level and we couldn’t do it. In a couple of weeks, I think we’ll look back and say we’re pretty proud of our career here. Right now, it’s hard to swallow. For the most part, our competitive hockey days are over. We have obligations that are, in our opinion, a little bit more important than hockey and that is serving our country. We are proud to do that and we are ready to do that.’’ . . . BC has earned 30 wins (30-10-1) for the second straight season . . . The Eagles improved to 27-3-1 when scoring first, 19-1-0 when leading after a period, and 22-0-1 when leading after two periods.Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.