By Andy Merritt
PROVIDENCE – It’s a long road to the top, and the way back down tends to be a whole lot shorter.
Boston College, the defending NCAA champion, saw that in vivid detail Saturday night, falling 5-1 to a Union College squad that outdid the reigning kings of college hockey in nearly every facet of the game.
The Dutchmen scored three goals in the second period – including two in a span of 25 seconds – to all but run away from the Eagles, eventually taking a 5-0 lead before a late Johnny Gaudreau goal ended Union goaltender Troy Grosenick’s (29 saves) shutout bid. Josh Jooris had two goals, including the eventual game-winner for Union, which advances to an all-ECAC regional final against Quinnipiac (Sunday, 6:30 p.m.).
“It’s easy to sit here after a win and say yes,” Union coach Rick Bennett said when asked if the Dutchmen surprised even themselves with the victory. “Did we think we were going to win this game 5-1? Probably not. But by the same token we felt we stood a very good chance of beating them tonight. This program’s had some pretty big wins over the past few years, Michigan, Minnesota. Tonight was just another win here for us.”
The loss ends the Eagles’ season at 22-12-4, and leaves the BC senior class wanting just a little bit more after four very successful years at Chestnut Hill.
“We’ve been extremely fortunate with the group I came in with,” said captain Pat Mullane (Wallingford, Conn.), who along with Steven Whitney (Reading, Mass.), Brooks Dyroff, Patrick Wey, Patch Alber and Parker Milner collected two national titles, three Hockey East titles and four Beanpots. “You can’t forget [early pro departures] Chris Kreider, Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson. We feel like the luckiest kids in the world to play for Boston College and Coach [Jerry] York.”
York (Watertown, Mass.) ends the year with 935 career wins, the most of any college coach in history. Of course, he would have liked a few more before summer.
“I thought we had to bury some chances,” York said. “We had some good scoring opportunities that didn’t go in the net for us – either real good saves or some missed opportunities.”
Union became the fifth team this year to hang five or more goals on BC – and the second in as many games after Boston University’s 6-3 win in the Hockey East semifinals. Their win ensures that this year will bring a first-time national champion.
Josh Jooris put the Dutchmen on the board midway through the first, one-timing a Kevin Sullivan feed from the left wing faceoff circle to give the Dutchmen a power play goal and a 1-0 lead. But he wasn’t done.
Thirty-nine seconds into the second period, Jooris made it 2-0 on another one-timer, this time from Wayne Simpson (Boxborough, Mass.) during a 4-on-4. And just 25 seconds later, fourth-line left winger Cole Ikkala ripped a wrister past Milner (30 saves) for a 3-0 Dutchmen lead.
“The early 4-on-4 was a critical goal against us,” York said. “We were getting ready to go on a power play, and we never got to the power play situation before they scored.”
It was clear in the second period that this BC team was lacking the poise and confidence of some previous editions. Union’s Matt Hatch took his second hooking call of the frame with 4:14 to go, but BC’s Steven Whitney nullified the power play with a hooking infraction of his own 43 seconds later.
Shortly after Hatch was released to give the Dutchmen an abbreviated power play, Shayne Gostisbehere delivered the dagger with 1:44 to go in the second, firing from the high slot to beat Milner and make it 4-0.
It didn’t get much better for the Eagles in the third. Whitney, looking more like he lost his place on the ice than anything, ran over Grosenick to give Union another power play, and the Dutchmen cashed in again, with Daniel Ciampini tipping a Greg Coburn feed over Milner’s shoulder for a 5-0 lead.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the Union victory was the Dutchmen’s ability to shut down the high-octane BC power play. The Eagles had seven power plays in the game but came up empty, nullifying an element of their game that has so often given them momentum.
“I thought we moved pucks well and had some opportunities,” York said. “You can’t place the puck in the net, it’s a result of a lot of good passing plays – and we did that, we just couldn’t get the red light on.”
Johnny Gaudreau got the Eagles on the board with about four minutes to go, but at that point it was pretty clear that the Eagles’ season was to end on a late Saturday night in Providence. There’ll be plenty to remember from 2012-13 for the Eagles, who saw their coach become the winningest in the history of the sport.
But they also suffered through injuries to Alber, who only returned a few weeks ago after missing 20 games, and Kevin Hayes, whose season ended prematurely due to surgery for a leg contusion. Even York himself was hit by the injury bug, wearing an eye patch Saturday to protect his surgically repaired right eye.
“You hope at the beginning of the year that no one’s going to get injured, but that’s pretty unrealistic,” Mullane said. “Some years you get lucky with a few injuries, other years you have more. We have to play the cards we were dealt. If we’re missing key guys, we need to find ways to win without them.”
The cards didn’t hold much for BC Saturday night, and it was clear that Union had the better hand.