TAMPA - Boston College coach Jerry York has always been candid about his team’s goals. At the start of the season, the Eagles want to do more than excel. They want trophies.
Saturday night, the team earned the grandest prize of all - a national championship - with a 4-1 victory over upstart Ferris State in front of 18,818 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. BC has captured three NCAA Frozen Four titles in the last five seasons.
Junior goaltender Parker Milner (27 saves) was again stellar in net as he led the Eagles to their 19th straight win, the most consecutive triumphs in a season in school history.
Milner, the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player, didn’t do it alone though.
Freshman left wing Johnny Gaudreau, who had been buttoned up throughout the game by the Bulldogs’ tenacious defense, made the play of the game with 3:02 remaining and the Eagles clinging to a 2-1 lead.
Although he knew the team’s philosophy was to get the puck in deep and go from there, Gaudreau saw an opportunity and decided to go with his gut.
He blew by junior left wing Kyle Bonis and then followed it up with a toe drag on star defenseman Brett Wysopal before roofing a backhander under the crossbar. Goaltender Taylor Nelson never had a chance.
“I was thinking, it’s a 2-1 game with four minutes left, let’s just get the puck in deep and get a line change,’’ said Gaudreau.
“I just kind of went with my gut feeling thinking, let’s go for it, let’s try to score a goal here. Luckily, the defenseman pinched a little and I got a little toe drag around him and backhanded it into the net.’’
After Steven Whitney’s empty-net goal with 1:03 left sealed it and the team adjourned to the locker room, Boston College captain Tommy Cross joked to Gaudreau that he should “get it in deep next time.’’
“They were joking around with me about how we stress no turnovers on our blue line, but it was such a big game, and I thought, ‘Why not go for it?’ I don’t know what happened. I just went for it,’’ Gaudreau said.
Indeed he did.
Boston College started going for it back in January, when the Eagles dropped back-to-back games at Maine and had to endure a long, depressing bus ride home.
They took stock of who they were, adjusted their attitude and their goals, and never looked back. If you’d have told the Eagles they wouldn’t lose again, none of them would’ve believed it.
“I’m speechless,’’ said junior defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who had a monster game. “This is something we’ve worked for the whole season. The ups and downs, all the time we’ve been on the road, all the time we’ve played at home. For it to all pay off, it’s just tremendous.’’
The Bulldogs made BC earn it. Both teams fought hard throughout the game, but particularly the first two periods.
Whitney got BC on the board at 3:18 of the opening period, but Ferris State answered on Garrett Thompson’s tally at 5:19.
BC retook the lead for good at 10:33 during a power play when Dumoulin fired a wrister toward the net from the left point, and right wing Paul Carey deflected it past Nelson to make it 2-1.
BC had trouble with penalties in the middle period, allowing the Bulldogs three power plays, but the Eagles’ tenacious penalty killing allowed a total of three shots.
BC managed the puck exceptionally well in the third, and appeared in control although the lead was only one goal.
Then Gaudreau saw his chance to break the Bulldogs’ will and took it. The goal had everyone in the arena and on the BC bench mesmerized.
“It was huge,’’ said defenseman Patrick Wey. “I think it really finished them off.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.