MINNEAPOLIS — Sixty-five minutes of end-to-end, high-octane hockey could not produce a winner when Boston College visited top-ranked Minnesota on Friday night, although the real winners were those watching what both benches called a highly entertaining game.
Officially the match ended in a 3-3 tie, although the fifth-ranked Eagles can claim a measure of victory by winning the postgame shootout — used for scoring purposes in the Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge —on goals by Bill Arnold and Patrick Brown. Johnny Gaudreau scored one and Michael Sit had two in regulation for the Eagles (2-1-1), who got 36 saves from goalie Thatcher Demko. The freshman also stopped four of five shots in the shootout.
Sit, one of two Minnesotans on the BC roster, had what has to be considered a successful homecoming. The other Minnesota native, freshman defenseman Ian McCoshen, made perhaps the save of the game in overtime. Gophers rookie Taylor Cammarata’s breakaway shot popped up and seemed to be fluttering toward the back of the net behind Demko before McCoshen swatted it out of the air. After a lengthy video review, the Big Ten officials ruled the puck had not crossed the goal line.
“I have just one good eye, so it’s hard for me to see if it’s not right in front of me,” joked Eagles coach Jerry York. “We give guys a belt if they make a breakaway save, and tonight we split it between Ian and Thatcher.”
The Eagles were down by a pair of goals seemingly before they had even gotten a chance to scuff up the ice in front of Minnesota’s net. The Gophers (4-0-1) scored just 30 seconds in when Demko failed to control the rebound from the first shot he faced. Exactly four minutes later Minnesota led, 2-0, via a power-play goal and the sellout crowd of nearly 10,000 at Mariucci Arena was in full throat.
They would quiet quickly, after Brown got vocal on the BC bench.
Gaudreau got the Eagles on the scoreboard by banking a shot off Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox from left of the net. Within the next 71 seconds, Sit scored twice, with Scott Savage assisting on both goals, to give the Eagles a 3-2 lead.
“Our captain, Pat Brown, called us together after they scored those two quick ones,” said Sit, who grew up 15 minutes from the arena, and had so many family members in attendance that they took a bus to the game. “We knew that they had a potent offense, but we just had to calm down and play our structure. We knew we could move the puck up quick and get to their net.”
Sit, Arnold, and Gaudreau all had excellent opportunities to widen the lead, most notably a Gaudreau blast that clanked off the right post early in the second period. Instead it was Minnesota knotting the score late in the middle stanza on a shot that Demko struggled to see through traffic.
The close game was out of the ordinary for the teams. BC spanked Minnesota, 6-1, in the 2012 Frozen Four semifinals in Tampa en route to the NCAA title. Last January in Minneapolis, the Gophers rolled to an 8-1 win — although BC was without Gaudreau, who was playing for Team USA in an international tournament.
“I wasn’t here last year, but I thought about the game last year and how we went down pretty quickly,” said Gaudreau, who led all players Friday with seven shots on goal. “I was thinking that we couldn’t let that happen again.”
The Gophers hoisted their 14th, and final, WCHA championship banner. Minnesota left the WCHA after 60-plus years with the formation of a Big Ten hockey conference this season.
Wilcox finished with 31 saves for Minnesota, which will host the Eagles again on Sunday afternoon.