TAMPA, Fla. — Boston College captured its third national title in five years and fifth overall. And while that is memorable, what may be most memorable of this national championship will be a goal by a pint-sized freshman.
Rookie Johnny Gaudreau, listed at 5-foot-8 on the BC roster, scored one of the most highlight-reel-worthy goals in recent NCAA tournament memory to ice Saturday’s title game over pesky first-time finalist Ferris State 4-1 at Tampa Bay Times Forum, continuing one of the strongest college hockey dynasties in recent memory.
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The goal, which came with 3:02 remaining in regulation, was the insurance the Eagles needed. Steven Whitney added an empty-net goal with 63 seconds left to account for the final.
“He’s got some really different moves,” said BC coach Jerry York about Gaudreau. “He’s really almost a magician out there with the puck. I’ve got to watch that on tape again.”
Gaudreau moved into the top five in scoring among freshmen in Boston College history. “He’s right in there with freshmen like Ben Eaves and Chuck Kobasew,” said York, who captured his fifth national title as a coach, tying him with Denver legend Murray Armstrong for the second-most all time.
Gaudreau’s goal salted away what was a much more difficult victory for the Eagles than most thought it would be. Ferris State, making its first championship game appearance, executed its game plan to a T, hanging with the Eagles until late in the game with hopes that at some point it would be able to knot the score and, eventually, take a lead.
“I thought it was the perfect game for us,” said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels. “I looked up, we’re under seven minutes [and trail by one]. We’re got this down to a seven-minute hockey game. This is a good spot for us to be in.”
What Daniels might not have known, though, was the game also played into BC’s game plan as well. The Eagles, expecting to play a tight defensive game, hoped to wear down the Bulldogs, something that was accomplished judging by the 15-6 shot advantage BC had in the third period with the game on the line.
“They wanted to hang with us; we wanted to hang with them in some respects,” said BC captain Tommy Cross. “We knew they’d be comfortable with playing the whole 60 minutes. We wanted to try to keep pushing the pace and I think we did that.”
BC opened the scoring early in the first when Whitney scored his first of two goals, backhanding a shot that bounced to him at the left post into a partially open net. That goal at 3:18 could easily have rattled the Bulldogs.
But 2:01 later, Ferris State responded. Andy Huff drove the net and, after BC netminder Parker Milner made the initial stop, a crashing Garrett Thompson banged home the rebound to ignite the 18,818 in attendance, many of whom were cheering for the Bulldogs.
A penalty to Ferris State’s Brett Wysopal at 8:42 gave BC its first chance at the power play. As the man advantage was coming to an end, the Eagles struck. Brian Dumoulin’s shot from the left point appeared to have bounced off Paul Carey’s glove as he was setting a screen in front. After a two-minute video review, officials ruled that it had deflected off of Carey’s stick.
The second period was scoreless but momentum and possession swung the Bulldogs’ way. Much of the reason was four BC penalties that put the Eagles back on their heels.
BC, though, was solid in the penalty kill, allowing a total of just three Bulldogs shots while short-handed.
The Bulldogs felt that the inability to convert on the power play was a lost opportunity.
“We definitely didn’t take advantage of our power plays,” said Ferris State’s Jordie Johnston. “In any game, that’s going to kill you. And it was at a crucial time in the game. Probably would have changed the outcome a bit.”
In the third, BC seized possession but Nelson stood his ground. He stopped Bill Arnold on a breakaway at 1:47 and made Chris Kreider miss the net on his breakaway at 10:47.
That big save certainly gave the Bulldogs hopes of tying the game. But those hopes were dashed when Gaudreau provided the “wow” moment that will — similar to the dynasty BC is building — be talked about for a long time.