TAMPA — They had their eyes on it all season. They were never caught looking past a single game, but the National Championship trophy was always in their peripherals. Now, that trophy is in their hands.
For the third time in five years, and the fifth time in program history, the Boston College Eagles are National Champions. A 4-1 win over Ferris State on Saturday night gave BC the trophy it had been playing for all year.
“I couldn’t be happier right now, obviously,” said senior captain Tommy Cross. “I can’t believe I get to win the national championship in my senior year, the second of my career. I feel honored and privileged to be able to be a part of the BC program and the University and specifically the hockey program with Coach, the opportunity he gave me to come here. And I keep thinking of my teammates, best teammates I’ve ever had. The closest team I’ve ever been on.
“We just had something in our mind that the season was only going to end one way. And that was our main focus.”
The Eagles battled all game long, carrying a 2-1 lead into the third period. In those final 20 minutes, Ferris State had chances, but the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player, Parker Milner, turned away shot after shot.
The championship was all but won with 3:02 remaining, when freshman phenom Johnny Gaudreau turned in a highlight-reel goal to make it 3-1. Gaudreau dangled his way by two Bulldog defenders before backhanding the puck into the net.
“I was coming through the middle of the ice on this great breakout pass by Destry Straight,” Gaudreau said. “And I was thinking in my head, maybe I should probably get this deep. Four minutes left in the game, and I didn’t go with what I was thinking. I just went with it. And luckily, it happened to work for me. I saw the goalie put his shoulder down and I tried to backhand it off the top shelf, so luckily it went in.”
Two minutes later, Steven Whitney added an empty-netter, and just over a minute after that, sticks, gloves, and helmets went flying into the air.
“It’s incredible,” said senior forward Paul Carey. “I couldn’t ask for anything better right now, any better teammates. It’s just a great feeling.”
“I don’t even know right now,” senior forward Barry Almeida added. “It’s unbelievable to have a chance to share this with all my teammates. We worked so hard together all year.”
Head coach Jerry York knows how hard his team had to play against the Bulldogs, despite many thinking the game would be a cakewalk for the Eagles.
“I don’t think most people understood outside of the real hockey community how tough a game this was going to be,” York said. “I thought our team stayed patient through the first two periods and got an incredible goal from Johnny Gaudreau to break open the game there. But during the course of the game, Parker Milner once again was extremely strong in the net.”
Milner finished the game with 27 saves, giving him 57 during the Frozen Four.
“You can’t describe how excited we are,” Milner said. “First of all, hats off to Ferris State. They’re a heck of a team, and they gave us all we could handle. As far as our team goes, our coaching staff, the way they lead, I’ve never been around a coaching staff with such positive energy. And my teammates, I can’t say enough about them.”
The Eagles got on the board first, 3:18 into the game. Ferris State tried to clear a puck right in front of the net but failed, and Almeida was right there to pick it up. He calmly slid the puck over to Whitney, who backhanded it into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Just over two minutes later, though, Ferris State came right back and showed they weren’t going to roll over. Andy Huff took a shot on Milner that he originally saved with his left pad. But the rebound hung around in the crease long enough for Garrett Thompson to skate in and slap home the puck under Milner’s leg.
BC managed to light the lamp once more in the first on a power play, with 9:27 remaining. Brian Dumoulin received a pass at the point from Pat Mullane, and fired off a slap shot on the net. While the puck was in the air, Paul Carey got a piece and redirected it into the net, ultimately proving to be the game-winner for the Eagles .
The second period didn’t feature any goals, but that was in part due to the strong penalty kill of BC. Ferris State had three power plays in the period, but could not convert on any of them, thanks to Milner and the PK unit. York credited the success of their play to his coaching staff.
“Our assistant coaches are one of the reasons we’re so successful,” York said. “We’re going to keep them a long time. They’re not rushing off to any other spot. Mike Cavanaugh works the PK. They pressure very well. No. 4 [Chad Billins] for Ferris is awfully difficult to handle. He’s very shifty in the point. But I think we did a reasonable job on him tonight. And then Greg Brown works the power play. Both those units were instrumental in the win tonight.”
Dumoulin was a key part of the defense all game, especially on the penalty kill. He too credited Cavanaugh.
“We’ve had a great penalty kill,” he said. “Coach Cavanaugh works with us every week on penalty killing. That’s one of the things that wins games and loses games and makes or breaks a big game like this. Fortunately enough we killed all of them. Everyone worked at it so hard. Everyone made the right decisions and we were fortunate enough to kill off all of our penalties.”
When the final horn sounded, the Eagles could finally bask in the enjoyment of a victory. All year, wins were important, but the team’s sights were always set on trophies. Saturday night, BC got a hold of the coveted one.
“There aren’t any words,” said junior forward Chris Kreider of winning it all. “It’s the pinnacle, it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s absolute bliss.”
For the first time all season, the Eagles are not looking down the telescope at the big trophy that comes at the end of the season. That’s in their hands now. And they’re not letting go any time soon.