ALBANY, N.Y. — It took four minutes and 43 seconds longer than expected, but it was worth the wait.
Finally, after 52 years and four title-game losses, the Boston College Eagles have captured their second NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey championship with a 3-2 overtime victory over North Dakota on Saturday.
“We’ve been very, very close here to winning three straight national championships prior to this tournament,” said Boston College head coach Jerry York. “Sports are funny. You wonder why you didn’t win one. It could be crossbars, the flip of a puck.
“I think North Dakota was an equal team with us. They won last year, we won this year. Terrific talent on both clubs, both very well coached.”
Krys Kolanos was the overtime hero for BC, registering the game-winner at 4:43, a goal he earned by getting by a North Dakota defender and then reaching around Sioux netminder Karl Goehring for an impossible shot.
“It was a quick transition in the neutral zone,” said Kolanos, “and I was able to beat their D-man wide and put a little fake on their ‘tender.”
After Kolanos doubled back on the defenseman at the bottom of the left circle, Goehring was in position to make a save left, but with his tremendous reach, Kolanos sticked the puck to the other side of Goehring and swept it into the empty net.
“That’s a move I practice quite often,” joked Kolanos. “I guess I’d have to say that’s my bread and butter.”
Senior netminder Scott Clemmensen added, “He does that move to me all the time in practice.”
With his 99th career win and 10th NCAA tourney victory, Clemmensen became the all-time win leader in NCAA tournament history.
“I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t comment on some of the players who played here at BC in the past,” said Clemmensen, referring especially to the members of the Eagles’ 1999-2000 senior class, who lost the NCAA Frozen Four finale to North Dakota in Providence. “The only regret I have is that they didn’t get to hold that trophy above their heads, because they played a big part in how far this BC program has come.”
After a scoreless first period, the Eagles led 2-0 after two on goals by Chuck Kobasew and Mike Lephart, but the Sioux tied it up with two goals in the final four minutes of regulation.
On the power play at 5:26 in the second, Kobasew and Jeff Giuliano accepted a gift from Goehring to give Boston College the 1-0 lead. With every BC player in the North Dakota end, Goehring came behind his net to play the puck.
Instead of clearing — which would have been very difficult from that position — Goehring passed directly to Giuliano at the bottom of the right circle. Giuliano fed Kobasew, who had the easy goal in front of the empty net.
At 9:50, Lephart skated into the right circle and let loose a high one-timer, which deflected off Sioux defender Chris Leinweber’s stick and through an available four inches over Goehring’s left shoulder, in the corner of the crossbar and right post.
Trailing by two in the third, North Dakota pressed hard and took advantage of what could have been a costly Boston College mistake with five minutes left in regulation. When the Eagles were called for too many men at 15:07, the Sioux increased their chances by pulling Goehring in favor of the extra skater. The gamble paid off at 16:18, when Tim Skarperud tipped in Travis Roche’s shot from the top of the slot to make it a 2-1 game.
Then with 1:23 left in regulation, Goehring left the net again and North Dakota peppered Clemmensen repeatedly in the final minute of play. At 19:23, Wes Dorey redirected Aaron Schneekloth’s shot from between the circles, sending the game into overtime.
“When we tied the game, the momentum was on our side, and [I thought] we were going to win,” said Dean Blais, North Dakota head coach. “Had the game gone on through that intermission, the momentum would have been ours. I thought we were going to win that game based on momentum.”
Disappointed at the outcome of the game, Blais was not disappointed in his team.
“We’ve had some [difficult] losses in North Dakota, and I personally have cried after a game. But with this loss, I thought what a character-type team we have. I’m very, very happy with the guys — not that we lost, but the manner in which we lost.”
Said York, “North Dakota deserves an unbelievable amount of credit. They never gave up. They forced us to play as well as we did. I thought it was a match that could go either way at the end.”
Hockey East Rookie of the Year Kobasew said that the much-lauded Boston College rookie class felt there was more than just a title riding on this game.
“I don’t know how to explain this, how special it is to play with this group of guys,” he said. “All we wanted to do was to send [the seniors] away with a national championship this year.” Kobasew, named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for his three-goal performance, was joined on the All-Tournament team by Kolanos and Lundbohm at forward; Roche and BC’s Rob Scuderi on defense; and Clemmensen in goal.
York said that he’s proud of his team’s perseverance through three years of NCAA tournament appearances. “I think if I were a young coach just starting, it would have been hard. But I’m more of a warhorse who’s been at this for a couple of years.”
As good as it is to finally break the title drought, York is happier still with a Boston College program that is an annual title contender.
“It’s a difficult process to get teams to the Frozen Four,” he said. “We’ll be back for lots more Frozen Fours.”