Saturday, April 7, 2012

Boston College Claims Third NCAA Title in Five Seasons

For the third time in five seasons, and the fifth time ever, Boston College is the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey National Champion.

The Eagles (33-10-1), who finished the 2011-12 campaign with a 19-game winning streak that dated back to January, earned this year's NCAA title with a 4-1 win over Ferris State on Saturday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.

BC junior goaltender Parker Milner recorded 27 saves and freshman forward Johnny Gaudreau scored an electrifying goal with three minutes to play to break open a one-goal contest. Junior forward Steven Whitney then iced it with an empty-net tally with just over a minute left that put BC up by three.

Whitney also scored the first goal of the game, as he did in Thursday's 6-1 national semifinal win over Minnesota, while Paul Carey deflected home the game-winning goal on a first-period power play.

It wasn't as easy as it sounded.

Garrett Thompson scored Ferris' only goal of the game just 5:19 into the contest, which pulled the Bulldogs (26-12-5) into a 1-1 tie, before Carey scored midway through the opening stanza to put BC ahead for good.

The score remained unchanged for nearly 40 minutes, although both teams had plenty of offensive chances. Ferris kept pressing for the tying score, forcing Milner to make several tough stops, before Gaudreau's nifty one-man effort put matters to rest. The rookie from Carneys Point, NJ put the puck through the legs of a Ferris defender, and then backhanded in a high shot over the right shoulder of Bulldog net-minder Taylor Nelson (33 saves), who had earlier stopped Barry Almeida on a shorthanded attempt point-blank.

BC, which was playing in its 11th national title game overall, is now 5-6 in NCAA championship contests out-shot. The Eagles outshot first-time finals participant Ferris by a 37-28 margin before 18,818 fans at the Forum, which was hosting its first Frozen Four. The Eagles, who went 10-0 in the gold throwback uniforms they wore this season, inclduing all four NCAA tournament contests, went 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Bulldogs were scoreless in four man-advantage attempts.

Milner earned Frozen Four Outstanding Player accolades for his work on the weekend, stopping 57 shots in all and allowing just two goals in four NCAA tournament games this spring. He also posted a pair of shutouts at the NCAA Northeast Regional two weeks ago in Worcester, Mass. against Air Force and Minnesota-Duluth.

Milner also led BC to the 2012 Beanpot title, and both the Hockey East Association regular-season and playoff crowns this season. For the season, the undrafted Pittsburgh native went 29-5-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average, a .937 save percentage, an .853 winning percentage, and three shutouts.

BC head coach Jerry York, who now has 913 career wins, has led the Eagles to national titles in 2001, 2008, 2010, and 2012. He also led Bowling Green to the 1984 national crown.

Perhaps an omen of sorts for the insurance goal by New Jersey native Gaudreau came in New Jersey itself on Saturday afternoon, as former Eagle forward Stephen Gionta scored the game-winning goal in the New Jersey Devils' 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. For Gionta, whose older brother Brian is BC's all-time leading goal scorer, it was his first career NHL goal.

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