PROVIDENCE — The hollow look on Pat Mullane’s face spoke volumes as he sat at the news conference late Saturday night, one seat to the left of coach Jerry York.
Second-seeded Boston College had just been shown the door by No. 3 Union, which played an excellent tactical game in a 5-1 victory in the NCAA East Regional semifinal at Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
It was the final collegiate outing for Mullane and his fellow seniors — Steven Whitney, Brooks Dyroff, Patrick Wey, Patch Alber, and Parker Milner.
There would be no defense of their 2012 NCAA championship, no trip to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, which is home to both Milner and Wey.
The results over the course of the weekend guaranteed that whichever team brought home the ultimate trophy, it would be a first-time winner, which was a positive development for college hockey.
Some of the Eagles took to Twitter after the game with Milner tweeting: “I have cherished being an Eagle for the past few years. Thank uto everyone who helped make it so special. I will miss every part of BChockey.’’
For BC captain Mullane, who was emotional after the loss, it was a bitter end to a season that was full of ups and downs.
“You hope at the beginning of the year that no one is going to get injured and that it’s smooth sailing the entire way,’’ said Mullane.
“But I think that’s pretty unrealistic. Some years, you get lucky with a few injuries and other years, you have more than others. You have to play the cards you’re dealt. Obviously, it’s difficult having Kevin Hayes out [leg surgery] and having [York] out [because of three eye surgeries] and Patch Alber out for so long, but you have to find ways to win. I think our senior class did a great job keeping guys on an even keel throughout the process and those bumps in the road.’’
The senior class achieved an impressive amount of success, finishing 114-40-9 overall and 8-2 in NCAA Tournament play, with two national championships. But it was stopped in its tracks by Union’s superior play.
“I think I’ve been extremely fortunate with the group that I came in with,’’ said Mullane. “I think it’s opposite ends of the spectrum. The high you feel after you win a national championship and come off the ice and spend the following month and half with your team knowing you are best team in the nation is the feeling I wanted to pass on to my freshmen. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience that twice and it’s so special.
“It’s something I hope everyone who wears a Boston College sweater gets to experience at one point in their career.
“Knowing that I won’t have a national championship [this year] and I don’t get the chance to come back and do it again, it’s really hard for me. I’ve been a bad loser since I was a little kid and I’m going to continue to be a bad loser. It’s not fun losing and I don’t enjoy it. Just opposite ends of the spectrum.’’
It has been a mixed bag for York. He became the winningest coach in Division 1 history earlier this year, but missed some time because of a detached retina in his right eye. He was on the bench Saturday night, with a patch over his injured eye.
“You’ve got to give credit to Union, I thought they beat us fair and square,’’ said York. “They’re a very, very strong hockey team. We knew that going in. They were an eyelash away from playing us in the championship game, as far as getting by [Ferris State] last year. So I knew they were going to be a difficult team to play, but I was even more impressed watching them play.’’
Union junior goaltender Troy Grosenick was outstanding, making 29 saves. But he had a lot of help. The Dutchmen blocked 20 shots to just six for BC. The Eagles had just 14 shots in the opening 40 minutes before pouring on 16 in the third, when the score was 4-0 going into the final frame. And BC was 0 for 7 on the power play while the Dutchmen were 3 for 7.
“The 1-0 lead [by Union] after one, I thought we had to bury some chances,’’ said York.
“We had some good scoring opportunities that just didn’t go in the net for us. Either real good saves or missed opportunities. But then they just kind of built on that lead. That early four-on-four goal [39 seconds into the second] was a critical goal against us. And that took that 1-0 lead to 2-0 real early in the period.’’
Last year, BC won 19 straight to finish the season on the highest of highs. Saturday night, it was someone else’s turn to celebrate.
“They were the better team,’’ said Mullane.