WORCESTER, Mass. — Boston College’s Joe Whitney said that every player’s dream is to score an overtime game-winning goal on a big-time stage. And though he got laughs by saying that on Sunday night, he’s glad it was he who could score it.
Whitney fired home the rebound of a Dan Bertram shot at 12:12 of overtime as second-seeded Boston College knocked off top-seeded Miami, 4-3, to capture the NCAA Northeast Regional title and advance to the Frozen four for the third consecutive season and the eighth time in the last 11 years.
It’s also the third straight season that the Eagles have beaten Miami to reach college hockey’s biggest stage, though Sunday’s championship game was hardly similar to the last two victories that saw BC rout the RedHawks, 5-0 and 4-0.
Whitney’s goal came after Miami had dominated the overtime frame, getting ten of the first 11 shots on goal in the extra session. But as so often happens in hockey, the Eagles were able to survive the onslaught and then get one high-quality shot on goal, this one a diving backhander by the rookie forward that banked off the left pipe and past RedHawks goaltender Jeff Zatkoff (38 saves) to set off an explosive celebration.
“I would usually go to the middle of the ice,” said Whitney describing the rush, which he joined off the bench to make the play a three-on-two.”I know Danny Bertram is always shooting for the far post and I knew there would be a rebound, so I just tried to get a stick on it.”
The goal completed an entertaining, back-and-forth, high-octane game that saw BC fall behind early then rally with a three-goal outburst late in the second before Miami tied the game in the third to force the overtime.
Throughout the evening the RedHawks seemed to force the play to BC, playing the game along the walls and winning the physical battle. It wasn’t until BC got its transition game going that the Eagles even seemed to have a prayer at victory.
“We wanted to stay away from a run-and-gun game,” said Miami senior captain Ryan Jones, who sat at the postgame press conference still wearing his jersey, not wanting to take it off one last time. “We wanted to control the game along the boards and we did that for two periods tonight. When we got away from that they scored three goals.”
The one aspect of the game that the Eagles were able to control that was monumental in keeping Miami from pulling away was special teams. Up 2-0 midway through the second, BC took back-to-back penalties, but the penalty kill, which finished the game perfect in five attempts, clamped down and limited the Miami chances.
“Special teams are really key, especially in a one-game shot,” said BC head coach Jerry York.” Miami is good on the power play but I think we had a lot of guys block shots and Johnny Muse (34 saves) was good in goal for us.”
The RedHawks jumped out to an early lead for the second straight game. Alec Martinez and Jarod Palmer worked a perfect two-on-one down low, with Palmer burying the rebound of Martinez’s shot at 1:30 to give the RedHawks the advantage.
It was the first time that Miami had scored a goal against the Eagles in 126 minutes, 2 seconds dating back to December 28, 2001.
BC outshot Miami in the frame, 13-10, but there were extended periods of time when Miami pressured the Eagles with a tenacious forecheck, forcing turnovers that led to solid chances to extend the lead.
The Eagles seemed poised to strike midway through the second when they peppered Zatkoff and the RedHawk defense during a power play. Not only could they not score, they surrendered Miami’s second goal immediately after the penalty expired.
Nino Musitelli buried a centering feed in the slot after Brian Kaufman won a loose puck on the forecheck. The goal at 8:32 of the second sucked the life out of the DCU Center crowd.
“That was a downer for us,” said York.”We’re down 1-0 but we had a fabulous power play. We had the momentum and then all of a sudden we’re 2-0 down.”
With the BC portion of 5,911 fans quiet as church mice, BC finally turned things around. Matt Price hustled to win a loose puck and found Nick Petrecki pinching from the left point, and Petrecki fired a shot off the right post for his fifth goal of the season at 16:48.
Just 14 seconds later Nathan Gerbe finished off a picture-perfect pass from Pat Gannon at the left post. And then Ben Smith scored his second goal of the weekend when he put home a two-on-one pass from Bertram at 18:46 to miraculously send the Eagles to the locker room with a 3-2 lead.
Miami, though, struck midway through the third when its top offensive weapon, Jones, finally found room in the slot, took a pass from Carter Camper and pushed a shot under Muse’s left pad to knot the game at three.
Both teams had chances to end the game in regulation, none more glaring than Bertram with 3:04 left. The rebound of Benn Ferriero’s shot on the power play came to a wide-open Bertram but somehow Zatkoff flashed his right pad to make the stop.
To prove just how open Bertram was, the goal judge actually turned the red light on, anticipating the shot. Simply put, it was never close to the goal line thanks to Zatkoff’s acrobatics, pushing the game to overtime.
With Miami controlling the play, York actually decided to use his timeout at 8:23. The BC bench boss said that he reassured his players.
“I said, ‘Let’s not worry about a chance to go to the Frozen Four, let’s try to win a hockey game,’” said York. “At that point we were sitting back and our motive all year was to be the aggressor.”
The advice worked and it took less than four minutes for York’s club to make him look brilliant for calling the timeout.
While BC is able to celebrate, Miami’s season ends for the third straight year at the hands of the Eagles in the Northeast Regional final. There seemed to be little regret from RedHawks head coach Enrico Blasi. Though disappointed he was more than proud of his club’s efforts.
“Any time you win 33 games, you’re doing something right. I’m as proud of this team as if they’d won the national championship.”
BC will be seeking its third national title when it arrives in Denver, its first since 2001.
“Denver in springtime is a great place to be,” said York. “I have to go to Denver either way, so it’s nice to be there with your team.”