Thursday, April 10, 2014

No. 1 stunner: Union advances to national final by taking out Boston College

Philadelphia, PA -- Shayne Gostisbehere gave legions of expectant Flyers fans what they've been told they wanted for the last two seasons.

Hyped as an answer to what ails the Philly blueline, Gostisbehere assisted twice, including the primary helper on the eventual game-winning goal from Daniel Ciampini as the Union Dutchmen continued their sweet ride into the NCAA championship with a 5-4 victory over the Boston College Eagles in the Thursday's early semifinal.

"It means a lot to do it here, but my focus is on my team right now," Gostisbehere, a senior not expected to spend his senior year in Schenectady, teased. "I was just happy I could contribute tonight and it shows just how our team works hard.

Ciampini added a late empty-net goal to complete his first career hat trick, Mat Bodie and Mike Vecchione also tallied and Colin Stevens stopped 34 shots including a last-ditch effort by Johnny Gaudreau.

"You had to respect the line (of Gaudreau, Hayes and Arnold). But at the same time, we had to push the pace. That's one thing we kept talking about, we had to keep going especially in the third period," Ciampini said of his top line's ability to control play in the later stages. 

The champions of the ECAC, Union (31-6-4) improved to 15-0-1 in the last 16 and will take on Minnesota, which topped North Dakota with less than a second remaining, in Saturday's final. It was a stunning turnaround from two years ago, when jitters late cost them a shot against eventual runner-up Ferris State.

"The biggest thing is the mindset. When I came here for my freshman year, there were goals set, but was thinking about a national championship. That bothered some guys," said Dutchmen captain Bodie.We took one step (two years ago). But we've won the ECAC the last couple years. It's just been growing each year.And here we are."

Gaudreau ended a stellar junior campaign with a goal and two assists, having scored at least one point in 34 of his last 35 games. Steve Santini, Ryan Fitzgerald and Patrick Brown also lit the lamp, but BC was eliminated from the tournament for the second consecutive season by the plucky program from upstate New York.

Thatcher Demko allowed four goals on 36 shots in defeat as Boston College finished the year with a 28-8-4 record. 

"I love how our team competed, how they battled, right down to the end in the final seconds of the hockey game. This particular senior class did a tremendous job for us, but my hat's off to Union," said BC head coach Jerry York, who will have to wait another year for a crack at a sixth national title. "They made some plays tonight. We had a chance to get things back going our way with the five-minute power play but didn't."

Union once again moved up by a goal, this time on the advantage, as a rocket shot from the right point by Gostisbehere was tipped in front by Ciampini just after the 6 1/2 minute mark of the third period.

Minutes later, Union's Matt Hatch was given a major and game misconduct for hitting Eagles forward Michael Sit from behind with 13:11 left in regulation, but the Dutchmen confounded a skitterish Eagles power play and successfully killed off the five-minute man disadvantage.

"When that happened, we were all talking on the bench about having to bear down. It was unfortunate. We didn't want him (Hatch) to go out that way," Bodie admitted. "We really didn't give them much, and we kept on working."

That work ethic threw the top-rated offense in the land into a tizzy, where it seemed they couldn't complete a pass or get shots through from distance.

"We knew what we had to do on the power play, but we still weren't able to get any shots through. We were out of sync there, everybody trying to do too much. I was at net-front and I couldn't tell where the puck was they had so many guys blocking the way," Arnold admitted.

It was all but over with 8:06 left in the contest. Kevin Sullivan stripped Santini in the BC zone and rolled in alone, and though Demko came up with the initial save on a backhander, Vecchione was the trailer and slammed the rebound into an open case for a 4-2 score.

Demko was called to the bench for an extra skater with 2:32 showing, and Fitzgerald managed to slip a shot home from the right post with 1:45 to go. Union then managed to negate an icing call when Ciampini was the lone player chasing the puck down the ice. He completed the trifecta on a shot into the empty net with 1:09 showing, and a brief review confirmed that the puck was not played with a high stick and that icing was not warranted. 

Brown surprised many by beating Stevens to the right pipe on a long wrister inside of five seconds to play, but it wasn't enough for the Hockey East regular-season champs to keep going.

"It's a memory I'll have forever..." said South Jersey native Gaudreau, trailing off and still visibly shaken, to have the dreams of a second national title dashed with two days to go. A potential Hobey Baker Award selection on Friday might quell his sorrow a bit.

BC made its presence known only 2:08 in, as its top line shredded the Union defense. Kevin Hayes appeared to be hemmed in near the blue line along the right-wing boards, but chipped ahead to Bill Arnold, who was 2-on-1 with Gaudreau. The initial shot was stopped, but Gaudreau followed up with his 36th goal of the season.

The Eagles also hit a crossbar and a post, but maintained that one-goal edge to intermission along with the better of the play despite an 11-9 shot deficit.

"I told them if they kept playing like that, they'd be walking home," quipped Union head coach Rick Bennett.

Bodie evened the game with 2:39 gone in the second period, and the Dutchmen endured several shifts of attacking pressure from BC, including a pair of failed odd-man breaks involving Gaudreau, before taking the lead.

From a right-circle faceoff win, Gostisbehere lofted a high wrister from the point which Demko mysteriously decided to try and snag out of mid-air. The puck instead laid flat at the left side of the crease for Ciampini, who made no mistake at 10:45.

Santini evened the score with 4:17 remaining in the second. A turnover inside the neutral zone by Sam Coatta wound up on the stick of Chris Calnan, who found the Devils' second-round pick for a laser-like wrister.

"The mindset we have is coming at it one shift at a time. They scored first, but that's hockey. We've done a great job of coming back and scoring once our team gives up a goal. We felt that if we got one, then we could get a few more," Ciampini said.

Notes: Ciampini's hat trick was the first in the Frozen Four semifinals since Nathan Gerbe of Boston College tallied three times in a 6-1 victory over North Dakota on April 10, 2008 ... Bodie finished a game-high plus-3, but Gostisbehere clocked in at minus-2 ... Stevens who allowed four goals in one game for the first time since February 15 at Colgate and for just the fourth time all season, was locked out of the five finalists for the inaugural Mike Richter Award, to be presented Friday to the nation's top goaltender ... Union's victory ensures that the ECAC can come away with back-to-back national crowns since Boston University did so in 1971 and '72 ... Gaudreau ended up with four goals and eight assists in three NCAA playoff tilts, while his 80 points were the most for a BC junior since David Emma had a school-record 81 in 1990-91. 
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