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Providence stuns BU to capture first NCAA hockey title

Somewhere in the pile of celebrating Friars was goalie Jon Gillies, who made 49 saves and helped bring Providence College its first NCAA hockey championship.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff
Providence 4
BU 3

The turning point of Saturday night's game at TD Garden came with 8:36 remaining in regulation. Providence junior defenseman Tom Parisi lofted a high dump in from center ice that flew through the air toward Boston University junior goaltender Matt O'Connor.

As O'Connor followed the puck, it struck the heel of his catching glove, and it appeared he had it under control. Instead, his glove dropped toward the ice and with it, the puck, which rolled between his legs.

O'Connor tried to recover but knocked the puck into his own net which turned a 3-2 Terriers' lead into a 3-3 tie.

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The fluky play was a gut-punch to BU and sucked the air out of the red and white cheering section.

The Friars, on the other hand, gained energy, momentum, and determination, which is the hallmark of their coach, Nate Leaman.

At 13:43, junior left wing Kevin Rooney won a faceoff in the right circle in the BU zone and PC junior right wing Brandon Tanev chased it into the slot, where he beat O'Connor (39 saves) on a forehander to put the Friars ahead, 4-3. They hunkered down the rest of the way to earn their first NCAA championship. It was just the Friars' second appearance in the title game, their first since losing to RPI 30 years ago.

"We beat a terrific opponent tonight," said Leaman. "I think that is what makes it a little bit sweeter. They were terrific for a lot of that first and second period and we were kind of hanging in there and [goaltender Jon Gillies] held us in there. We got a heck of a bounce [on the third goal] and I think that got our bench alive a little bit and coach [Steve] Miller drew up a heck of a faceoff play coming out of that TV timeout and guys executed well on it. They were kicking our butts on faceoffs a lot early in the game and I thought the third period, I thought we did our best on faceoffs. And we held on."

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For BU, it was a bitter defeat for a team that appeared to have everything going for it, including the top forward in the nation in freshman center Jack Eichel. For the entire postseason, second-year coach David Quinn said his team was not going to be denied. But on this night at TD Garden, the last hockey game of the season here, his team was denied by an upstart squad from the Ocean State.

If there is one person who knew what O'Connor was going through, it was Gillies.

"From a goaltending standpoint, you feel for Matt a lot," he said. "I know him personally, he is a wonderful guy and he is a wonderful goalie. He has been fantastic throughout this whole tournament to get them here. We've all had one of those and you feel for him. It energized our bench a lot."

PC gained its first energy at 9:25 of the opening period when BU's young defensive corps was caught running around in its own end. After junior center Noel Acciari hit the post, sophomore defenseman Anthony Florentino fired home the rebound from the right point that beat O'Connor to the far side of the net.

But the Terriers rallied to the fastest back-to-back goals in Frozen Four history to take a 2-1 lead. The first came at 12:50 on a bad-angle shot by junior right wing Ahti Oksanen that snuck inside the left post. Four seconds later, with the teams taking the draw at center ice, Eichel won the faceoff and his linemate, Danny O'Regan, beat Gillies (49 saves) on a backhand shot from the slot at 12:54. That beat the previous record set by Michigan in 1948 by one second.

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The Friars pulled even at 4:29 of the second on a goal by center Mark Jankowski to make it 2-2.

Senior center Cason Hohmann gave the Terriers back the lead at 11:36. Hohmann started the play that led to the tally when he beat senior center Ross Mauermann on a draw in the left circle in the Friars' end.

One element of the game Quinn didn't like about his team's play in the early going was that the players weren't getting enough net-front presence in the attacking zone. The Terriers shored that up, however. After Hohmann won the faceoff, he immediately sprinted to the front of the net.

Oksanen put a shot on net that Gillies turned back, but Hohmann was there for the rebound and it was 3-2.

The Terriers survived an onslaught with 3:40 to play only to have disaster strike them and the Friars strike gold.

"I've been very lucky in life," said Quinn. "I've been coaching for 20 years and I've never enjoyed coaching a team more than the one we had this year. There is not much I can say to make say to make our guys feel any better right now but it has been an incredible year."

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Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at nancy.marrapese-burrell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Elle1027.