April 8, 2012

Gaudreau's gut feeling helps Eagles lock up title game

By Diana C. Nearhos

TAMPA, Fla. -- With just over three minutes left in the national championship, BC freshman phenom Johnny Gaudreau put the game away. 

Freshman Johnny Gaudreau's goal with 3:02 left in regulation sealed the deal for the Eagles. (Dave Arnold Photography)

The left winger took a pass from Destry Straight as he raced down the ice to beat out one Ferris State defenseman. Gaudreau used some fancy stick work to deke the other defenseman and then only goaltender Taylor Nelson stood in his way. Gaudreau made another move on Nelson to get him where he wanted him and then backhanded a shot over the netminder’s shoulder.

“I was thinking in my head, ‘Maybe I should try to get this deep. There’s four minutes left in the game.’ I just didn’t go with what I was thinking,” Gaudreau said. “I just went with it. Luckily, it worked for me.”

It certainly did work for him; it gave the Eagles a 3-1 lead in the final minutes, as Ferris State had been bearing down harder. Two minutes later, left wing Steven Whitney tapped in an empty-netter to make the final score 4-1.

BC had its 19th straight win and more importantly, its fifth and biggest trophy of the year: the National Championship.

The game began with a goal from Steven Whitney, assisted by left wing Barry Almeida (Springfield, Mass.) just 3:18 in, the same way the semifinal had started two nights prior.

Ferris State attempted to clear the puck, but bobbled it between a few players just in front of its own goal. Almeida scooped up the turnover and sent it over to Whitney, who was ready at the left post. The junior tucked the puck inside the post with a backhanded shot.

The Bulldogs responded just over two minutes later – the first team to respond to a BC goal in the NCAA tournament.

Right wing Andy Huff charged at the goal and fired a shot at BC goaltender Parker Milner from close range. Milner made the save, but right wing Garrett Thompson, following close behind Huff, tucked the rebound in between the netminder’s legs.

That goal was one of only two Milner gave up in the tournament, the other coming from Minnesota in Thursday’s semifinal game. This was also the first time BC played in a tie that was not 0-0. 

Parker Milner allowed just two goals in four NCAA tournament games. (Dave Arnold Photography)

It only took the Eagles 5:14 before they gained the lead again, this time for good.

With nine seconds left in BC’s first power play, defenseman Brian Dumoulin (Biddeford, Maine) fired off a slap shot in the direction of the goal and right wing Paul Carey (Weymouth, Mass.) tipped it into the back of the net for his third goal of the Frozen Four.

The goal was briefly reviewed to see if Carey had tipped the puck with his glove or stick, but it was upheld.

That power play goal, along with four penalty kills, were what made the difference for BC.

The Eagles spent over half of the second period in the penalty box, (10:24 to be exact). They were down a man for 8:24 of that time. BC’s third-ranked penalty kill, which has an 88.8 percent kill rate, was on display. It allowed only three shots, none of which were memorable to Milner.

“I cannot think of any shots I even faced on the penalty kill tonight,” he said, lauding his defense.

“We definitely didn't take advantage of the power plays.  In any game, that's going to kill you,” Ferris St. left wing Jordie Johnston said. “They knew how to get in lanes and they knew how to shut down.”

And shut down BC did. Milner faced 28 shots in the game and made 27 saves, some of which were ones were akin to those captain Tommy Cross called “saves he has no business making” after the Regionals in Worcester.

In the final minute of the first period, Ferris State had one of its best chances of the night. Thompson jumped on a rebound, trying to send another one home, and Milner, who had been knocked down on the original shot, was on the ice. The sprawling goaltender dove across the net to make the save.

The Bulldogs had another good chance with 7:07 remaining in the game. Center Travis Ouellette tried to squeeze a shot in past the left post behind Milner. The junior slid backwards, into position, and managed to catch the puck between his elbow and body.

The Eagles held on for seven more minutes until they hoisted the trophy on the ice and carried it back to the locker room. If there was any question how much this trophy meant to a team that already has a table full of them in its locker room back home, it could be answered by looking at Cross.

The senior captain had tears rolling down his cheeks as he sat in the press conference and he was not letting that trophy out of his grip – he carried it to the podium, back to the locker room, to the bus and into the hotel.

“This is the big one,” he said.