Union defense turns the tables on Boston College

Quickness and speed have long been trademarks of Boston College. Their ability to transition and bring play into the other zone in a flash has left many defensive units uneasy.

But it was the speed of Union’s defense that was the key in the Dutchmen’s 5-1 win Saturday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

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“Their defensemen are extremely mobile,” Boston College senior forward Pat Mullane said. “There are two to three guys back there that are extremely shifty and if you give them a couple steps they can take it up ice and really beat you.”

Shayne Gostisbehere made several plays both on the power play and at even strength, while Greg Coburn and Mat Bodie also made their presence felt, all while respecting the Eagles’ ability to turn the play the other direction in an instant.

“I think that’s just the conditioning we do in practice,” Bodie said of Union’s defense jumping into the play. “That’s something we pride ourselves on being able to do, get up and down the ice. But it works both ways. Our forwards did a great job of coming back and breaking plays up.”

Saturday’s win was Union’s seventh in a row. While the Dutchmen have gotten big plays from their stars such as goalie Troy Grosenick and forward Daniel Carr, they’ve also gotten a number of contributions throughout the lineup.

“They have three lines that hurt you offensively and a fourth line that can grind you down,” Mullane said.

But fourth-line winger Cole Ikkala followed Josh Jooris’ goal with a goal of his own 25 seconds later to make it 3-0 early in the second period. That’s not normally his game, but he and some of the other bottom-six forwards have made plenty of other contributions this season.

“I’m a player that prides myself in that kind of stuff — finishing hits, creating energy,” Ikkala said. “That goes a long way with the team. It could be me, David Roy, Sam Coatta or Max Novak doing the small things. I think this year we’ve started to produce offensively, which has helped the team a lot.”

Ikkala is also a member of a Dutchmen penalty kill that entered the game on a 19-for-20 stretch, and held Boston College to eight shots and no goals on seven power plays.

“Our coaches have done a great job pre-scouting these games,” Ikkala said. “We go in knowing the [other team’s] plays and then we just pride ourselves on blocking shots.”

A familiar feeling

While Saturday was the first-ever meeting between Union and Boston College, the Dutchmen will face a familiar opponent Sunday as they attempt to make their second straight Frozen Four appearance.

Quinnipiac beat Canisius 4-3 in the earlier game to move to the next round of the East Regional. The Bobcats swept the season series against Union, winning 4-0 in Schenectady, N.Y., on Nov. 30, and using three unanswered third-period goals Jan. 12 to win 3-2 in Hamden, Conn.

Yale’s 4-1 win over North Dakota earlier in the day clinched the Bulldogs’ first spot in the Frozen Four since 1952. They’ll face Massachusetts-Lowell, the winner of the Manchester regional.

That guarantees the ECAC will have two teams in the Frozen Four for the first time since Harvard and Providence in 1983 — the last season before the ECAC-Hockey East split. The league sent at least one team to the Frozen Four from 1985 to 1991, with Harvard winning a national title in 1989.

Union’s appearance in Tampa last season marked the league’s first time in the Frozen Four since Cornell in 2003.

“It’s great for our league,” Union coach Rick Bennett said of the matchup with the Bobcats. “You hope it’s your team. Right now, we’ve got to buckle down, watch some video and get ready for Quinnipiac. They’re just a phenomenal team.”

A different feeling for Boston College

Saturday’s loss was especially painful for an Eagles senior class that was looking to win a record three national titles.

“I think its opposite ends of the spectrum,” Mullane said. “The high you feel after you win a national championship and come off the ice, spending the following month and a half with your team knowing you’re the best team in the nation and no one ended your season is the best feeling — it’s the feeling I wanted to pass on to the freshman because I’ve been fortunate to experience it twice.”

Still, the senior is appreciative of his time on Chestnut Hill.

“I think I can speak on behalf [of the senior class] that we feel like the luckiest kids in the world to be able to wear the maroon and gold for four years and represent Boston College and play for Coach York,” Mullane said. “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to wear this jersey — to have to take it off is the hard part.”