WASHINGTON, D.C. — The team of destiny fulfilled it on Saturday night. But boy, it wasn’t easy.
In one of the most incredible comebacks in NCAA tournament history, Boston University defeated Miami 4-3 on a Colby Cohen goal at 11:47 of overtime to capture the school’s fifth national title and first since 1995.
Cohen’s shot from above the left faceoff circle deflected off Miami’s Kevin Roeder, popped in the air and looped over goaltender Cody Reichard (28 saves) to send the BU faithful who were part of the capacity crowd of 18,512 at the Verizon Center into pandemonium.
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” said Cohen, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. “I’ve been close to scoring a couple of goals this weekend and hit a couple of [cross]bars. I just let it go and I saw it deflect and go up over the goalie’s glove and saw it went in. I don’t remember anything after that.”
“I didn’t even see it go in,” said defenseman Matt Gilroy. “But the bench just erupted. It was just unbelievable.”
“Unbelievable” might be the best way to describe how the game got to overtime. If you didn’t see it with your own eyes, you might not believe it.
After Miami broke a 1-1 deadlock on a Tommy Wingels goal with 7:29 remaining in the third period and Trent Vogelhuber buried an insurance marker with 4:08 left, the RedHawks looked to be headed to their first-ever national title.
That was until BU scored two extra-attacker goals in the final minute of regulation.
BU coach Jack Parker pulled goaltender Kieran Millan with 3:32 remaining in regulation and Zach Cohen banged a rebound home at the left post with 59.5 seconds remaining to draw the Terriers within a goal. That set up Nick Bonino, who one-timed a pass at the right faceoff dot past Reichard with 17.4 seconds to play to force the extra session.
“I got the puck and saw Nick sitting wide open,” said Gilroy of the tying goal. “You put the puck on Nick’s stick and he’s going to put it away.”
The ending to regulation and the ultimate game winner in overtime spoiled an incredible effort by Miami, a Cinderella team that entered the tournament as the 13th overall seed but gave BU all it could handle throughout the title game.
Miami was the more physical of the two teams, pressured the Terrier defense and until the final minute limited BU to just 19 shots. It’s that that made this pill extremely difficult for the RedHawks to swallow.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi, who has coached his team over the last four years to the best overall winning percentage in college hockey. “BU played great and executed in the end. It was a great college hockey game and I’m extremely proud of my guys.”
While what is talked about in this game will be its ending, one of the major factors was the play of the Boston University penalty killers. BU gave Miami seven chances on the power play but the penalty killers were strong all night, limiting Miami’s grade A’ attempts and holding the power play off the scoreboard.
“One of the real Achilles’ heels of this team has been the penalty taking, and we took some stupid penalties tonight,” said Parker. “But our penalty killers bailed out their teammates. It wasn’t anything technical. They just played a little bit harder and a little bit smarter.”
BU took an early lead on a first-period Chris Connolly goal at 15:15. Defenseman David Warsofsky sent a puck on net from the left point that hit Miami’s Alden Hirschfeld and deflected towards Reichard. Before Reichard could cover the puck, Connolly got enough of it to push it into the net.
Miami had plenty of chances of its own in the first, particularly on three power plays, but was unable to solve Millan (29 saves).
Through 20 minutes, Miami held a 10-9 advantage in shots.
Miami penalty late in the first put the Terriers on the power play to start the second. BU’s Chris Higgins had two point-blank opportunities at open nets, fanning on one and redirecting another off the side of the net.
Once the RedHawks killed the BU power play, they used the momentum to draw even at 2:01. Gary Steffes buried a loose puck in a scrum in front of Millan for his 11th goal of the season, sending the Miami faithful into a frenzy.
Both clubs had quality chances throughout the remainder of the period. Miami’s Justin Mercier was stopped by Millan on a 2-on-0 at 10:45. Colby Cohen then rang a blast from the left point off the post with six minutes remaining to send the game to the third tied.
That was when Miami was at its best.
Wingels’ goal came after Carter Camper made a dangling move at the blueline and fired a low shot on Millan. Wingels was Johnny-on-the-spot, burying the rebound with 7:29 left.
After Miami failed on the power play for the seventh time in the game, Vogelhuber picked the perfect time to score his second goal of the season, firing a hard wrist shot inside the right post.
That, though, only set up BU’s last-minute heroics that forced the overtime.
The national title is the fifth for Boston University and the third for head coach Jack Parker (1978, 1995). It also marks the end to the greatest season in BU history, as the club set the all-time mark for wins with 35 and won every championship for which it competed all year.
All of which might be why the late comeback and the ultimate victory were not so surprising. Simply put, this was a team of destiny.