PHILADELPHIA — Entering Thursday’s national semifinal between Union and Boston College, plenty was made of Boston College’s top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes.
Little was said about Union’s top scoring trio of Daniel Carr, Mike Vecchione and Daniel Ciampini.
2014 Frozen Four
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Led by a hat trick by Ciampini, a key Vecchione goal immediately following the kill of a major penalty and a total of six points for Union’s first line, the Dutchmen outdueled the Eagles 5-4 to advance to the national title game for the first time in program history.
Union (31-6-4) will play the winner of Thursday’s second semifinal between North Dakota and Minnesota on Saturday for the national championship.
“We had to respect the [BC top] line, obviously. They’re a great team — or a great, line, sorry — and it’s hard to keep them off the score sheets,” said Ciampini, who picked the perfect time to record his first collegiate hat trick.
“But at the same time, we couldn’t sit back. We had to keep pushing the pace. And I think that’s something that we talked about, especially in the third period: continuing to push the pace and keep going forward, not sitting back.”
It was the third period, in fact, where Union’s top line outdid Boston College’s on the score sheet and was the difference maker in the game.
With the game tied at 2-2, the Union power play got a chance at 4:56 when Ryan Fitzgerald was called for interference. Shayne Gostisbehere, arguably one of college hockey’s top defensive players, blasted a shot from the point that Ciampini was able to redirect at 6:31 to put the Dutchmen ahead 3-2.
“I thank Shayne for blasting my stick there,” Ciampini joked. “It broke on the tip.”
Just 18 seconds after the goal, Union’s Matt Hatch hit BC’s Michael Sit from behind into the boards and was given a five-minute major penalty for hitting from behind. The next five-plus minutes became the pivot point of the game.
After limiting the Eagles (28-8-4) to just three shots on a power play that BC’s players admitted was a bit out of sync, Vecchione buried a back-breaking goal four seconds after the penalty ended.
“We were just kind of out of sync there and not everyone’s on the same page,” said Boston College’s Arnold. “Maybe trying to force stuff too much, and you can’t do that against a good penalty kill.”
Trailing by two goals, the Eagles continued to attack, maybe more so than at any point in the game. After pulling goaltender Thatcher Demko (36 saves) for the extra attacker, the Eagles converted when Fitzgerald banked a rebound off Union goaltender Colin Stevens (34 saves) with 1:45 remaining to pull within 4-3.
That, however, led to Ciampini scoring an empty-netter, taking advantage of the hybrid icing rule and racing ahead of the BC defense on a full-ice clear and pushing the puck into the goal with 1:09 left.
That goal became the game-winner when BC’s Patrick Brown struck on the power play with 4.3 seconds remaining.
“It was nice to get off the schneid,” said Ciampini, tied with Carr for the team lead in goal despite not scoring in Union’s first two NCAA games.
Despite a happy ending for the Dutchmen, the game hardly started the way they wanted. It took just 2:08 for Boston College’s top line to score as all three of the forwards touched the puck. Gaudreau tapped home an easy rebound of a Hayes shot for a 1-0 lead.
Gaudreau nearly extended that lead single-handedly while his team was short-handed at 4:59. Picking up a loose puck, the crafty winger skated down the left wing and unleashed a wrister that clanged off the post.
Defenseman Michael Matheson added a post shot of his own at 9:10 and the first period ended with a single-goal lead for BC.
Although Union led the frame in shots, 11-9, it was BC that had the offensive chances.
That all changed at the start of the second. The Dutchmen came out with jump and at 2:39 evened the score. Captain Mat Bodie patiently found a shooting lane and fired a hard slap shot over Demko’s blocker.
Union, one of the worst faceoff teams in the nation (ranked 56th of 59 teams entering the game), took the lead converting on the win of a draw in the offensive zone.
After Vecchione won the faceoff, Gostisbehere fired a shot that appeared to be going over the net. Demko attempted to glove the puck and instead dropped it in the crease, allowing Ciampini to tip home his first goal of the night to give the Dutchmen a 2-1 lead.
Despite being outplayed much of the period, the Eagles responded late. Defenseman Steve Santini took a cross-seam pass from Chris Calnan and rifled a shot inside the far post at 15:53 to send the game to the third tied at 2-2.