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Dan Shaughnessy

Hub-capped season, again

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / April 9, 2010

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DETROIT — Boston College thrashed Miami University, 7-1, last night and will play Wisconsin tomorrow night in the NCAA men’s hockey championship game. The Eagles, who won this thing two years ago in Denver, are on a roll. BC is undefeated in its last 12 games.

Still, it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for the young men from Ohio. This is the fifth consecutive season in which Miami has been sent home from the NCAAs by a team from Boston, and it’s been a particularly difficult 12 months for the program that calls itself “The Brotherhood.’’

A year ago in Washington, the RedHawks were one minute away from winning the NCAA championship. They led Boston University, 3-1, but surrendered two goals in the final minute, and another in overtime. It was quite possibly the most excruciating loss in the history of college sports.

That may sound like hyperbole, but think about it. A 3-1 lead with a minute to play in the title game? In hockey? And you lose? A two-goal lead in hockey with a minute to play is like a 10-0 lead in baseball with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth.

The RedHawks never knew what hit them. Jack Parker pulled his goalie with 3 1/2 minutes to play and Zach Cohen scored with 59 seconds remaining. Then Nick Bonino scored with 17 seconds left, forcing overtime.

You knew it would be BU once the game got into overtime. These were the “Burn the Boats’’ Terriers (a theme they got from explorer Hernando Cortez) and they were not going to be stopped after scoring twice in the final minute. A high, knuckleball goal by Colby Cohen won it at 11:47 of OT, and the Terriers partied long into Sunday morning at the Mayflower Hotel.

It certainly didn’t crush Miami University (they reject the notion that they are “Miami of Ohio’’). The RedHawks (29-8-7) were ranked first in the country for most of this season. They had the best defense in the nation.

“Last year, we had a great run with a very young team,’’ coach Enrico Blasi said before last night’s game. “We took a lot of great memories and a lot of experiences from that run. Obviously, the outcome was not what we wanted. I believe at the press conference we said that everything happens for a reason and we stayed true to that this year.

“We have had to answer that question every week, if not every day, and to have the No. 1 ranking all year, to continue to play at a high level, and to continue to get everyone’s best every weekend tells you a little bit about the character of these guys.’’

Last night’s loss was entirely different. The RedHawks skated to a draw for the first 18 minutes, then saw their hopes dashed at the end of the first period and the beginning of the second. A power-play goal by Ben Smith gave BC a 1-0 lead after one, then the Eagles scored twice in a span of 62 seconds at the start of the second. With BC leading, 3-0, Blasi pulled sophomore goalie Connor Knapp and replaced him with Cody Reichard.

Some irony there. Last year at the Verizon Center, Reichard was the young man between the pipes when BU engineered the greatest comeback in the history of the Frozen Four. He’s one of the best goalies in the country, but BC’s snipers beat him four times in 6:11, sucking all the air out of Ford Field.

It was a crusher for the thousands of fans who made the 250-mile drive from Oxford, Ohio, to Motown. Miami fans outnumbered BC fans more than 10 to 1, and the Eagles no doubt hope they’ll be better represented at tomorrow’s final.

Still, none of the RedHawks hung their heads.

“It looks like the curse of Boston continues,’’ said senior forward Jarod Palmer. “We were disappointed in our performance, but I still love my teammates and still love the Brotherhood . . . I can say personally that over the years the meaning of the Brotherhood has grown a lot inside my heart.’’

The spirit of the Brotherhood was summoned in February when Miami team manager Brendan Burke was killed in an automobile accident while returning from a series against Lake Superior State. Brendan Burke was the son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, a New Englander who went to Harvard Law School and put together this year’s US Olympic hockey team. Miami’s players went to Brendan’s funeral in Canton, Mass., Feb. 9, wearing their road jerseys to the services. They wore “BB’’ shamrock patches on their uniforms last night.

“Tonight was one game and it’s disappointing and it’ll sit with us,’’ said Blasi. “But when you sit back and take it all in, we had a great season. We had a lot of adversity to go through, and some real-life situations. The disappointment from this last game doesn’t take away how I feel.’’

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.