ALBANY, N.Y. — It’s two down, one to go.
When Boston College meets North Dakota in Saturday’s NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey championship game, the Eagles have the opportunity to avenge last year’s 4-2 loss to the Sioux, their third consecutive disappointing exit from the Frozen Four.
And while BC head coach Jerry York emphasizes that the impending rematch is about winning a national title rather than revenge, the Eagles have mastered the art of payback through the NCAA tournament this year.
In the 2001 East Regionals, the Eagles knocked off Maine, the team that ended Boston College’s season in the 1999 semifinals.
Thursday, BC took care of Michigan, the team that delivered the ultimate hurt in 1998, when the Wolverines defeated the Eagles in overtime, in Boston, in the national championship game.
Now, Boston College faces North Dakota.
“I think we all understand that we’re in sports, and in sports you get knocked down and you get back up again,” said York. “The alternative is that you don’t try hard, you go off into the whatever, into the abyss.
“We were very disappointed we didn’t win in Anaheim. Then we came back with a great sense of ‘let’s get back here.’ Providence was a tough loss for us, but again we all understand what happens in sports.
“It’s been a learning experience for all of us. Our goal is to get back and win a national championship.”
The Eagles earned the right to play for that championship with their 4-2 win over Michigan tonight. Freshman Chuck Kobasew and Ben Eaves each had two goals, as Boston College forced the Wolverines to play from behind, taking a commanding three-goal lead midway through the second.
BC led 2-0 after the opening stanza on Kobasew’s and Eaves’ first goals. In the middle of the period, Rob Scuderi cleared the puck from the Eagle end and shuffled a pass up to Tony Voce, as the pair broke in two-on-one. From the bottom of the left circle, Voce sent a cross-slot pass to Kobasew, who, crashing fast, directed the puck past Wolverine netminder Josh Blackburn close to the ice and clean on the glove side at 10:06.
It was 2-0 at 14:29 when Eaves tipped Bobby Allen’s high power-play shot from the top of the slot. Brian Gionta also had a helper on the play.
The Eagles were up 3-0 at 11:38 in the second on Kobasew’s second goal, this one on the power play. It was Mike Komisarek in the box for shoving Scuderi into the glass behind the Michigan net when both teams were down a man, but the goal was scored after Josh Langfeld and Ales Dolinar had returned to the ice, with 27 seconds left on the Komisarek power play.
“Brooks had the puck back at the point,” said Kobasew, “and he was passing it back and forth with Rob. I just came in from the far left-hand boards and felt that I was open. I tapped my stick down a couple of times and gave him a holler, and he gave me a great pass, right on the tape.”
The Wolverines answered at 12:34 on John Shouneyia’s goal, fed by Jeff Jillson. With heavy traffic in front of the Boston College net, Jillson pushed the puck over to Shouneyia, who was stationed near the left post. From just beyond the red line left of the crease, Shouneyia backhanded the puck to the opposite upper corner, over Scott Clemmensen’s left shoulder. The Eagles led 3-1 after two.
Mike Cammalleri pulled Michigan within one early in the third when he managed to shoot the puck underneath Bill Cass, who had gone face-down to block in front of the BC net, and past Clemmensen on the glove side, but in the words of Wolverines senior Josh Langfeld, it was too little, too late. Eaves added the empty-netter at 19:40.
“I think it was just the pressure of being in the final four,” said Langfeld, the Wolverine who scored that overtime game-winner against Boston College in the Fleet Center in 1998. “I don’t know if we just weren’t focused enough. For whatever reason, we just had a bad start, and you can’t do that against a potent offense like Boston College.”
“Obviously, it was a bad start for our team. Getting down three goals was a huge obstacle to overcome,” said Red Berenson, Michigan head coach. “Our team worked hard. It’s true that we feel bad that we didn’t put our best foot forward in this game. We played some good hockey, but we just couldn’t get that tying goal.”
“We had some chances. Clemmensen played well, and I thought Josh Blackburn gave us every opportunity to get back into the game. I thought he was outstanding.”
The Eagles outshot the Wolverines 36-33. Clemmensen had 31 saves to Blackburn’s 32.
Although two rookies were responsible for the BC tallies tonight, seniors Brian Gionta, Bobby Allen, Rob Scuderi, and Scott Clemmensen were instrumental in the win.
“It wasn’t just freshmen,” said Kobasew. “I think the whole team showed up and played…from the seniors down. The team showed a really gritty effort and played with strong intensity for sixty minutes tonight.”
“We’re older and more mature than the last few teams we’ve brought here,” added York. “Even though the freshmen contributed a lot with all four goals, the nuts and bolts of our club was still our junior and senior classes.”
York called the contest a “terrific college hockey game” and praised the Wolverines for their tenacity. “I thought it was hard, fast-paced — just what you hope for at this level. A couple of momentum swings both teams should be credited for. When we were up three-nothing, Michigan came back and had all the momentum … and then I thought we held our ground really strongly for the last ten minutes of the hockey game.
“Two good hockey games went hard at it. It was an enjoyable game to watch. Both teams played to win it. There wasn’t any holding back.”
Michigan ends the 2000-2001 season with a 27-13-5, while the Eagles advance with a record of 32-8-2.
As for revenge, Clemmensen said, “I guess it’s kind of nice to get redemption for freshman year, but we’re not worried about that right now. We just want to … win this next one on Saturday.”