TAMPA—Boston College made it look easy. It wasn’t, but that’s what great teams do. And now, the Eagles are headed to the National Championship.
BC shut down the Minnesota Gophers in the Frozen Four semifinal round, 6-1, on Thursday night, thanks to another clutch performance from goalie Parker Milner and a key final three minutes of the second period.
“It feels awfully good to have practice tomorrow,” said head coach Jerry York. “We’re very excited about the possibility of winning a National Championship. It’s something we look forward to from the start of the year, and it’s going to be right there in front of us.”
Milner racked up 30 saves in the victory, but he made one late in the second period that seemed to change the momentum of the game. In the latter half of the frame, Minnesota was dominating puck control, and Jake Hansen nearly capitalized with 2:40 remaining. Instead, Milner made the point-blank save, turning away yet another Gopher shot.
Twenty-five seconds later, the Eagles took the energy from Milner’s save and turned it into their third goal of the game. Destry Straight gained control of the puck after a Minnesota turnover in the neutral zone. After he skated past the blue line, Straight zoned in on the goal and patiently waited before he sent a perfect pass to Chris Kreider, who was a few feet behind him. Kreider took the puck and one-timed it top-shelf to put his team up 3-0.
Then, with 17 seconds left in the frame, BC made sure it went into the locker room with all the momentum. Johnny Gaudreau flew down the slot, and while a Minnesota defender dragged him down, he was able to pass the puck to Pat Mullane while his full body was on the ice. Mullane quickly tipped it over to Paul Carey, who was by himself with a wide open net and tucked home the score for the 4-0 lead.
“I kind of got hauled down from behind, and I was just trying to throw it back towards the front of the net and, luckily, it went through a couple of defensemen’s legs and hit Paul Carey back door,” Gaudreau said.
At the start of the third, Minnesota came out and made sure it did not go down without a fight, as Hansen scored 1:26 into the period.
The Gophers’ momentum wouldn’t last for long though, as the Gaudreau-Carey connection was highlighted again just 22 seconds later. Gaudreau had the puck behind the net and sent a beautiful pass to Carey out front, who flung it right over Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson’s right shoulder. That made it 5-1 BC, and all but won the game for the Eagles.
“Paul Carey, it’s so easy to find him, the way he uses his voice,” Gaudreau said. “He’s always open somewhere, the way he positions himself.”
“I didn’t think we’d score six,” Carey said. “I didn’t really set a number. We just thought we’d come out on top. I thought that our puck management is what led to that. And guys just kept fighting all night. Minnesota kept coming at us, but we just kept pushing.”
York noticed the change that Carey’s snipe made on his team’s play, as it put Minnesota in a tough spot down four goals again.
“The goal that made it [5-1] in the third period, I thought all of a sudden the energy level was changing, we had to bounce back right after that, I think it was by Paul, and that was a key, key goal,” York added.
The Eagles added to their lead late in the game with a score coming off the stick of Brian Dumoulin. While the defenseman spent most of the game shutting down the Gopher offense, he took advantage of a rifled shot from the point, deflecting it off a Minnesota skate and finding the net.
Every time it seemed like the Gophers were about to come back in the game, Milner was there to make a clutch save and secure the win for the Eagles.
“I don’t think you can be a top-end team unless you’ve got a remarkable goaltender,” York said. “I think that’s so essential to being the type of club we’d like to be. And Parker, he’s become [Corey] Schneider, [John] Muse, [Scott] Clemmensen. His March and April have just been outstanding. Look at his stats and save percentage. He’s going to be ranked right up with those players.”
The BC defense helped Milner out, keeping pucks to the outside so that the Gophers were unable to get off many grade-A chances. When they did, though, Milner bailed them out.
“I thought we did a good job of keeping things to the outside for the most part. And when they did penetrate and get inside us, Parker was there to make some big saves,” said senior defenseman Tommy Cross. “Our defense is working to keeping the outside, but we’re certainly not perfect. When they get inside, Parker has been huge.”
“I think the difference is looking at this game in particular, aside from a few chances in the first, I don’t think they got very much, at least from my perspective,” Milner said. “If I give up a rebound, it’s right to the corner. The shots are from the outside.”
The Eagles’ first goal came off their signature speed and perfect passing six minutes into the opening frame. After Dumoulin shut down a 2-on-1 chance for the Gophers, Bill Arnold got the puck and passed it up to Barry Almeida. The senior captain fired a puck on Patterson, as Steven Whitney used his lightning speed to crash the net and send home the one-timer.
The second goal came in the middle period. After BC won a faceoff, Cross controlled the puck at the top of the zone and sent a pass over to Whitney. The junior skated forward a few feet, then slid the puck over to a cutting Kevin Hayes, who rocketed a wrister into the back of the net.
After a hard-fought win, BC will be taking part in the most special practice of the year on Friday.
“We always talk to our team about the very best practice is the one between the semifinal game and the national championship game,” York said. “That’s a special one. And Ferris and ourselves are both going to get a chance to have that very best practice you can.”