Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Soaring To A Championship

The Tampa Bay Lightning closed out the season in Winnipeg with a win in overtime last night, but there was some serious hockey action happening at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with the final of the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four tournament taking place. The heavily-favoured Boston College Eagles, riding an 18-game winning streak, met underdog Ferris State in the final, and there was hope that the Bulldogs could continue their upsetting ways in upending the Eagles. Before we get to that story, we'll look at the paths that each team took in arriving at the final.

On the opening weekend of the tournament, all 16 teams were in action and there were certainly some upsets that affected how the tournament played out through the next few rounds.

ROUND ONE

Top-ranked Boston College opened the tournament with a 2-0 win over Air Force. Defending champion Minnesota-Duluth downed the Maine Black Bears by a 5-2 score, setting up a meeting between Boston College and Minnesota-Duluth in what looked to be the best second-round match-up at that point.

Minnesota downed Boston University by a 7-3 score in the highest scoring game of the opening round. Fourth-ranked North Dakota downed Western Michigan by a 3-1 score, setting up a second-round WCHA battle between arch-rivals Minnesota and North Dakota with a trip to Tampa Bay in store for the winner. And suddenly we had two intriguing match-ups on the second day of the tournament.

On the other side of the bracket, third-ranked Union knocked off Michigan State by a 3-1 score in their opening game. The University of Massachusetts-Lowell knocked off the University of Miami (Ohio) in overtime by a 4-3 score in what was one of the best games of the tournament. That set up a meeting between Union and UMass-Lowell on the second day of the tournament.

Ferris State won a close battle with Denver by a 2-1 score, eliminating the fourth entrant from the WCHA in this tournament. Cornell pulled off a major upset over the second-ranked Michigan Wolverines with a 3-2 win. In what appeared to be the weakest second-round game, Ferris State would meet Cornell with a trip to Tampa Bay on the line.

ROUND TWO

Boston College booked their tickets to Tampa Bay with a convincing 4-0 win over defending champion Minnesota-Duluth. In their second shutout of the tournament, Boston College was outshot 33-24, but the Eagles showed that they make their shots count with four goals on 24 shots. The top-ranked team showed why they were dangerous as they had yet to allow a goal in two tournament games against two of the best sixteen teams in the nation.

In the all-WCHA NCAA Quarterfinal, Minnesota punched their tickets to Tampa Bay by knocking off the fourth-ranked North Dakota Fighting Sioux by a 5-2 score. The Golden Gophers had a goal and an assist from each of Travis Boyd, Nate Condon, and Taylor Matson in the victory. The WCHA would be represented by another Minnesota-based school in the Frozen Four as the Golden Gophers would meet the Boston College Eagles in Tampa Bay.

On the other side, Union met with the UMass-Lowell River Hawks, and Union continued to play their stifling defence that led them to the third-seed. Union only gave up 21 shots in holding the River Hawks to a pair of goals in a 4-2 victory. Jeremy Welsh matched his jersey number with his 27th goal of the season in this game, and Union booked their plane tickets to Tampa Bay with this victory.

Ferris State and Cornell squared off in the final quarterfinal game, and this game was a defensive battle from the drop of the puck. Ferris State's Garret Thompson opened the scoring eleven seconds into the third period on a powerplay! Much like their game against Michigan, Cornell was content with grinding out a close game. They did tie the game 1:21 after Ferris State opened the scoring, and it appeared that both teams were content to sit back and wait. At 6:54, Jordie Johnston put Ferris State up, and that's how this grinding game would end. Ferris State would move on to Tampa Bay and a date with Union in what looked like another defensive, grinding affair in the semi-final.

SEMI-FINALS

Boston College's goaltender Parker Milner entered the game with a goals-against average of 0.00 in the tournament, so there was a major hurdle facing Minnesota's offence as they entered the April 5 game against the top-ranked Eagles. It didn't get any easier when Boston College's Steven Whitney opened the scoring 6:03 into the game. While Minnesota took a lot of shots, Milner held the fort as Boston College led 1-0 after the opening twenty minutes.

The six-minute mark in the second period hurt Minnesota against as Boston College's Kevin Hayes fired a puck past Kent Patterson at 6:35 to put Boston College up 2-0. Boston College wasn't done as there, though, as they struck late in the period twice to double their lead. First, Chris Kreider put one home at the 17:45 mark, and then Paul Carey added another goal with 17 seconds left in the period. With Boston College leading 4-0, the writing was on the wall for Minnesota.

Credit the Golden Gophers for not just laying down, though. After some hard work in the Eagles' zone, Jake Hansen broke Parker Milner's eight-period shutout streak when he scored at the 1:26 mark of the third period. The euphoria was short-lived, though, as Paul Carey scored his second goal of the game just 22 seconds later. Brian Dumoulin put Boston College up 6-1 with a powerplay goal at 5:51, and the Eagles rode that score to victory. With the win, Boston College would enter the Frozen Four Final with an 18-game winning streak intact, and a chance to win their fifth national collegiate championship.

In the other semi-final, it was an all-defensive affair for most of the game as Ferris State and third-ranked Union met to determine who would battle Boston College for the NCAA Men's Hockey Championship. The opening period produced no goals, so things were going as expected. However, Union opened the scoring 7:56 into the second period when Daniel Carr found the back of the net to put Union up 1-0. Ferris State would respond before the period was up, though, as Aaron Schmit's shot on the powerplay dented the twine to even the score at 1-1 after forty minutes.

As the game dragged into the third period, it looked as though both teams were content for an overtime goal ending the game. However, Ferris State put the pressure on Union when Kyle Bonis scored with 4:43 remaining in the game. Suddenly, the defensively-minded Union Dutchman now needed a goal to keep their season alive, and time was not on their side. With the Dutchmen pushing, the Bulldogs iced the game with Aaron Schmit's second goal of the game with just 55 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs once again pulled off a major upset as they downed the third-ranked Union Dutchmen 3-1 to advance to the Frozen Four Final.

FINAL

Ferris State entered the game as the decided underdog despite being the ninth-best team in the nation. However, the 18-game winning streak combined with Boston College's impressive 32-10-1 record over the season put Ferris State at a disadvantage when it came to the on-paper comparison. Ferris State, however, had upset the second-ranked Michigan Wolverines and the third-ranked Union Dutchmen, and was looking to become the first team in NCAA Men's Hockey history to upset the top-three seeds on the way to the National Championship.

It didn't start well for Ferris State if they were hoping to pull off the upset. Just 3:18 in, Steven Whitney put the Eagles up by a 1-0 score by putting home a rebound. Ferris State showed some good hustle, though, and they were rewarded 2:01 later. Garrett Thompson beat Parker Milner off a rebound at 5:19 to even the score at 1-1 in the championship. However, Boston College would escape the first period with the lead as Paul Carey's deflection found its way in for a powerplay goal at 10:33 put the Eagles up 2-1, and that score would carry into the first intermission.

The second period would go scoreless as both teams missed on several good chances to increase their scores, so the 2-1 score would start the third period. Boston College dominated the third period with a 15-6 shot difference as they poured on the pressure. With 3:01 to play, Johnny Gaudreau beat Taylor Nelson, and the Eagles found themselves up by a 3-1 score. Steven Whitney's second goal of the game with 1:03 to play was into an empty net, and the celebration was on as Boston College downed the Ferris State Bulldogs by a 4-1 score to win the 2012 NCAA Men's Hockey National Championship!

After the game and the celebration had subsided, there were a few announcements. Boston College goaltender Parker Milner was named as the 2012 Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player after posting four wins and a 0.50 GAA in leading the Eagles to the championship. The Frozen Four All-Star team was made up of players from Boston College and Ferris State, the two finalists. The team was named as follows:
  • F - Kyle Bonis, Ferris State
  • F - Paul Carey, Boston College
  • F - Steven Whitney, Boston College
  • D - Chad Billins, Ferris State
  • D - Brian Dumoulin, Boston College
  • G - Parker Milner, Boston College
I present to you the 2012 NCAA Men's Hockey Champions, the Boston College Eagles!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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