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Providence edges Boston U. to win first national title

by Connor Mellas /

BOSTON -- The clock hit zero, and the Providence College Friars raced straight for their goalie, crushing junior Jon Gillies in a celebratory sea of black and white jerseys.

Gillies made 49 saves and the Friars scored two third-period goals in a 4-3 come-from-behind victory against Boston University on Saturday in the Frozen Four final at TD Garden to win their first national championship.

"He was big-time for us," Providence coach Nate Leaman said of Gillies, a third-round pick (No. 75) by the Calgary Flames at the 2012 NHL Draft. "He held the ship. It was very much like our season. He held us in there, he held us in there, he held us in there, and then we were able to kind of respond in the third period there. He was our best player tonight."

Gillies, the Frozen Four most valuable player, finished the season with a 2.01 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

Junior forward Brandon Tanev scored the championship-winning goal with 6:17 left in the third period.

Providence scored the first goal of the Frozen Four final at 9:25 of the first period when sophomore defenseman Anthony Florentino one-timed a slap shot from just beyond the right faceoff circle past BU goalie Matt O'Connor. Florentino, a fifth-round pick (No. 143) in 2013 by the Buffalo Sabres, threaded his shot through three BU players and over O'Connor's stick.

BU took the lead when it scored the two fastest goals in NCAA tournament history.

At 12:50 of the first, BU junior forward Ahti Oksanen beat Gillies with a quick shot from the boards. Oksanen's shot somehow squeezed through what little space there was between Gillies' blocker and skate to the near post.

Four seconds later, the Terriers scored again to take a 2-1 lead. Hobey Baker Trophy winner Jack Eichel won the faceoff and skated up the middle into the heart of the Providence zone. Eichel deked left and lost the puck in the slot, but forward Danny O'Regan, a 2012 fifth-round pick (No. 138) of the San Jose Sharks, cut inside and backhanded the puck against his body and past Gillies.

"I think that's a testament to our team where they had my back 100 percent and didn't lose faith in me, thankfully," Gillies said. "I just tried to reset, especially after that second goal, kind of a weird bounce that ended up right in front of our net, and Danny O'Regan was able to put it home. Definitely after those two things, you just try to take a deep breath and refocus and remember that there's a long way till the game's end."

Providence tied it 4:20 into the second period when Mark Jankowski, a first-round pick (No. 21) by the Calgary Flames in 2012, hit the back of the net with a quick shot. Trevor Mingoia, whose 15 goals tied for the Friars lead, drew O'Connor to the left side of the crease before dishing a backhand pass across the slot to Jankowski.

The Terriers went back in front at 11:36 of the second. Senior alternate captain Cason Hohmann gathered a rebound off the faceoff draw and swung across the crease, stretching his stick to the right and sliding the puck past Gillies. Oksanen had the assist, and BU took a 3-2 lead and a 40-23 shot advantage into the third period.

Providence came roaring back in the third, outshooting BU 20-12, and got some luck at 11:24 to draw even. Junior defenseman Tom Parisi lofted a high, seemingly innocuous shot from the red line. It appeared O'Connor had the puck secured in his glove, but he began swinging his head side to side, looking for the puck. As O'Connor panicked, the puck dropped out of his glove, through his legs and into the net.

"As a goalie, you feel for a bounce like that," Gillies said. "You've been there, so you know the bottomless feeling that it presents."

O'Connor seemed rattled by the game-tying goal, and at 13:43, Tanev picked the puck off the dot, snaked into the slot, and put a wrist shot past O'Connor for the game-winner.

"It was just a heck of a faceoff call by [assistant coach Steve Miller] there, and Kevin Rooney did a great job to win that back for me," Tanev said. "Steve McParland boxed the guys out, and I was fortunate enough to pick the puck up and get off a clean shot, and it happened to go over O'Connor's shoulder."

After pulling O'Connor for the extra attacker, the Terriers threw everything they had at the Friars. With a minute left, Gillies made a diving save to rob Hohmann.

Gillies and Providence held on to win the first national title in the program's history.

"I can tell you in Rhode Island, I have a 5?????????year?????????old and a 2?????????1/2?????????year?????????old and a 1?????????year?????????old, and we play knee hockey just about every night, and the frustrating thing with me is they all want to be Jon Gillies," Leaman said. "I don't want a goalie. And you see that, you see that around the rinks. You see so many kids, they're like, 'I want to be Jon Gillies, I want to be Jon Gillies.'"

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