BOSTON – As one of the most electrifying NCAA Ice Hockey National Championship games comes to a close on Saturday night at the TD Garden, Providence College stands victorious for the first time in school history in its second all-time trip to the title game.
This is the third consecutive first-time NCAA champion following Union (2014) and Yale (2013). The only previous three consecutive first-time champions were 1948 (Michigan), 1949 (Boston College) and 1950 (Colorado College) in the inaugural three years of the tournament.
Providence College kicked-off the scoring halfway through the first period, but Boston University quickly responded in record breaking fashion. BU forward, Ahti Oksanen, snuck the puck in short side and behind Providence goaltender, Jon Gillies, off a tough angle shot 12:50 into the first period. Directly after the following faceoff, BU forward, Danny O’Regan, skated into the attacking zone, received a pass on his backhand from teammate, Jack Eichel, and quickly sent it inside the right post and behind Gillies at 12:54 into the first period. The four seconds separating BU’s goals broke the NCAA tournament record for fastest consecutive goals scored by one team, and ranks fourth all-time in any collegiate hockey game.
“Came out the same way we've been playing all season,” said Terriers senior forward Cason Hohmann about starting the game strong. “Got pucks behind the defensemen. Dialed down low. Won a lot of faceoffs, a lot of goals off faceoffs tonight, so that was huge for us.”
Boston University broke another NCAA tournament record with 40 shots on net through the first two periods. The 95 total combined shots on goal ranks second in NCAA championship game history and the most in a regulation game.
The Terriers remained ahead 3-2 through the first half of the third period until the momentum shifted with 8:36 left to play in the game. BU cleared the puck to center where Providence defenseman, Kyle McKenzie, collected it and sent a high, lobbing dump back into the zone. Terriers goaltender, Matt O’Connor, caught the puck but then lost it between his legs while it trickled behind him into his own net to tie the game at 3-3.
Minutes later the Friars took advantage of the change in momentum as junior forward, Brandon Tanev, collected the faceoff win and sent the game-winning-goal over O'Connor's glove.
“Obviously would have liked to spend more time in the offensive zone,” said Boston University Head coach David Quinn of the loss, “but people lost sight in the fact because of all our success‑‑ we're the youngest team in the country. We have four 18‑year‑old defensemen playing the game tonight. We've got eight freshmen in the lineup.
“Sometimes experience is the best remedy for situations that we're in tonight. And we don't have a lot of it. And to go from the year we had last year to be that close to winning a national title is an incredible accomplishment.”
Despite losing tonight, Boston University’s improvement of 18 wins from the 2013-14 to 2014-15 is the fifth best in the history of Division I Men’s Hockey.
“The things we've accomplished when nobody thought we could do any of it, an incredible testament to the two guys to my left [Cason Hohmann and Matthew Grzelcyk] and everybody else associated with our team,” said Quinn. “We were a true team, and that doesn't happen very often in sports. We got to this point because we won as a team. And we lost the game tonight because we as a team didn't play well enough.
“Tough one to swallow, without question. But we'll be back.”
On the other side of the ice, the exceptional play of Friars goaltender and South Portland, ME local Jon Gillies awarded him the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“Our wingers and our defensemen and everyone just were absolutely eating pucks and doing a phenomenal job of staying in shot lanes,” said Gillies. “Forcing shots wide and forcing the BU guys to make a play that they didn't necessarily want to make. So it starts there.”
Providence had to battle back in the third period against a Boston University team that hadn't lost a game all season where they've been leading after two periods.
“We tried to adjust a little bit in the neutral zone. I don't know if that helped or not,” said Providence College Head Coach, Nate Leaman. “I think really it was just more of the guys just saying, we've got 20 minutes left. We've got to lay it all on the line and get after it. And I thought they did. I thought they just put it on the line every shift, every man.”
It may be closing time for the college hockey season, but leave it to Boston Bruins’ prospect, Matthew Grzelcyk, to put everything back into perspective looking toward the future.
“Hockey is not going to last forever but the friendships you make along the way will.”