MINNEAPOLIS — After Minnesota and Boston College played 62 minutes of hockey which somehow managed to be both wide-open and defensively sound, it still took just one innocent-looking shot to end it.
At 2:30 of overtime, Minnesota defenseman Chris Harrington’s slapshot from above the left circle hit BC goalie Matti Kaltiainen, then Gopher winger Troy Riddle, then rolled slowly across the goal line to give the Gophers a 2-1 victory and their fourth straight Dodge Holiday Classic championship.
“I thought it was a great hockey game,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “We had to play with our hearts, and we had to play with our heads. … It was a playoff-type game.”
“I thought it was a very well-played hockey game,” agreed BC coach Jerry York. “I’m disappointed that we don’t have a trophy to bring home with us, but our standard of play was high.”
Netminder Travis Weber made 29 saves for Minnesota (11-4-4, 6-2-2 WCHA) and a total of 60 on the weekend en route to the tournament Most Valuable Player award. Since being named the Gophers’ full-time starter on Nov. 16, the sophomore is 6-1-2 with a goals against average hovering around 2.
“I’m really happy for Travis,” said Lucia, “the way he’s come on the last month. The team is confident in him, and the coaching staff is confident in him.”
“You could tell there was a lot of talent out there,” said Weber. “I didn’t have a lot of tough saves — most of the shots were from the perimeter, which makes it easier to see.”
The opening minutes came as advertised: up-tempo, with plenty of open ice, a couple of turnovers and good chances at each end.
The Gophers marginally got the better of those exchanges, including a sharp wrister from Riddle — off a Thomas Vanek centering pass from behind the net — that Kaltiainen sat on.
Boston College (10-4-3, 6-2-1 Hockey East) nearly scored on its first power play, but Ned Havern’s redirection of John Adams’ slapshot hit the right post. Undaunted, the Eagles came back at Weber with several more shots, all saved.
Shots on goal after one frenetic but scoreless period favored Minnesota, 17-12.
The second period featured more of the same — rush, shoot, save, repeat as necessary. Gopher Garrett Smaagaard did his best to untie the game, sneaking inside the defense for a 20-foot wrister, but Kaltiainen gloved his shot.
Three minutes later, Minnesota’s Jake Fleming broke away one-on-one, but Kaltiainen came up big again, stuffing his swerving backhander. Minnesota then came up with a two-on-one rush, and Kaltiainen got a leg out to deny Dan Welch’s point-blank stuff attempt.
After an unsuccessful BC power play, the first goal of the game finally came from an improbable source: Minnesota defenseman Joey Martin.
Skating above the right faceoff circle, Fleming circled and fed Martin in the clear, and the junior’s slapshot beat Kaltiainen cleanly through the five-hole at 18:16.
Given the pace of play, Lucia rightly didn’t expect that to be enough. “I thought we needed another goal. I didn’t think it was going to end 1-0,” he said.
Play early in the third settled down a bit, highlighted by Vanek’s near-breakaway before getting pulled off the puck by the BC defense between the circles.
A slashing call against Paul Martin gave the Eagles their fourth power play at 10:48, and BC finally capitalized. With the puck pinballing around in traffic in the Minnesota zone, freshman Chris Collins shot it to Weber’s left to knot the score at 1.
A subsequent trip by BC’s Peter Harrold put the Gophers up a man once more, but the hosts could not take advantage, despite a turnaround shot by Vanek and a point-blank redirection from Tyler Hirsch, both of which Kaltiainen slid into and stopped.
Those saves set up overtime, where BC’s Dave Spina had the Eagles’ best chance, but his slapshot from the right circle ticked off the crossbar.
A minute later, the Gophers finished it with Riddle’s caroming, slow-motion goal.
“It was kind of a weird play,” added Riddle. “I deflected it off my stick, and then maybe my skate.”
Kaltiainen took the loss despite making 39 saves, earning the praise of both coaches.
“If Spina scores, the MVP goes to Matti,” said York.
In the end, both coaches took a long-range view of the weekend.
“We’re not going to see a lot of better teams than [Minnesota],” York said. “That’s what you want to be, is in the [championship] mix. Minnesota’s in the mix, and we’re in the mix.”
“You had to fight for every inch, and that’s the type of hockey that’s played at the end of the year,” agreed Lucia.
Minnesota next returns to WCHA play, taking on St. Cloud State in a home-and-home series Friday and Saturday. Boston College plays a single game with Massachusetts Friday.