MANCHESTER, N.H. — A high-flying offense coupled with a defense that limited quality chances and relied on its goaltender when necessary was the perfect formula for second-seeded Boston College to overtake the pesky and physical fourth seed, Miami, 4-0, in Sunday’s Northeast Regional championship.
The victory earns the Eagle seniors their third trip to the Frozen Four in four years. It also gives BC seven Frozen Four appearances over the last 10 years, a feat accomplished by no other team over that stretch.
“It never gets old,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “It’s a fabulous situation to put a team in. [The Frozen Four] has grown so much in the last dozen years. It really is our pinnacle.”
In a way, the Eagles made the road to the Frozen Four look easy. A 4-1 victory over St. Lawrence in Saturday’s regional semifinal coupled with Saturday’s shutout of Miami was very similar to the way the Eagles attack has rolled since the playoffs began. BC outscored its opponents, 21-5, on the way to the Hockey East title and, in total, has nearly quintupled their opponent’s offensive output, holding a 25-6 advantage.
York, though, was quick to say that none of the postseason victories came easy.
“Miami was a tough opponent,” said York, whose club shut out the RedHawks in last year’s NCAA regional semifinal, 5-0. “Most people will agree that the 4-0 game and 5-0 game last year, weren’t indicative of their score.”
The Eagles’ offensive hero on Sunday was senior Joe Rooney, who broke open a scoreless game early in the second with two goals in 2:44. The goals changed the complexion of a game that, for the most part, played into Miami’s style through the opening period.
“Between [the first and second] periods, [Rooney] stood up and said, ‘Guys, we’ve got to take the game over,’” said BC goaltender Cory Schneider, who posted a 37-save shutout on Sunday to earn tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. “He went out there and did it himself. He put us on his back in the second and gave us a lot of energy.”
With Miami still buzzing from the opening-period momentum it had built, Rooney, along with linemate Benn Ferriero, skated two-on-two into the zone. Ferriero, who also scored the game’s fourth goal, made a nifty move around the defenseman, drew the puck low and then fired a perfect pass to Rooney at the left faceoff dot, who buried the shot at the 3-minute mark to spring to the crowd of 7,007 and give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
A Miami penalty to Charley Fetzer at 3:46 put BC on the power play. While it appeared the RedHawks would kill off the penalty, a turnover by defenseman Brad Robbins followed by Rooney’s quick move to grab the puck and pull it around goaltender Jeff Zatkoff (29 saves) at 5:44 spotted the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
“That was a highly-skilled play to capitalize on that turnover,” said York.
Miami continued to press and fired a handful of shots off on the next shift. But the BC defense either blocked the shot or Schneider was there to make the save.
“We still had the pressure and got some good shots on the next couple of shifts,” said Miami forward Matt Christie. “We just didn’t get the bounces.”
It appeared that BC would take a 3-0 lead before the close of the second when Mike Brennan pushed home a second rebound at 12:41 but referee Derek Shepard, after conversing with video replay officials, ruled the net had come off its moorings before the puck crossed the line.
Miami was far from dead in the third after two BC penalties to Mike Brennan gave the RedHawks back-to-back power plays early. It was BC, though, with the better chances including a 2-on-0 shorthanded rush that forced Zatkoff to rob Ferriero at 6:00.
As great as that save was, though, there was nothing Zatkoff could do 1:26 later when the rebound of a Matt Lombardi shot was swatted at by a falling Kyle Kucharski into the empty net, giving BC a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead. Ferriero’s goal at 11:21 accounted for the 4-0 final.
The win is a nation-best 12th straight for the Eagles, a span in which the club has allowed just 19 goals. It sends the Eagles to the Frozen Four for the 20th time in school history, matching rival Boston University for second on the all-time list, behind only Michigan (22).
“We talked about it in Boston in 1998 that the longer you go [in the postseason] the more your returning players can benefit from it,” said York. “It’s a little bit self-perpetuating because [going to the Frozen Four] brings good players into the school.
“When you get to that stage [as a player], you return more experienced the next year.”