Boston College on familiar route to Frozen Four
WORCESTER, Mass.—A trip to Worcester resulted into another spot in the Frozen Four for top-seeded Boston College.
Parker Milner stopped 33 shots for his second straight shutout and the Eagles advanced to their 10th Frozen Four in 15 years with a 4-0 win over defending NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth on Sunday night in the Northeast Regional Final.
BC, the Hockey East regular season and tourney champions, will take a 17-game winning streak into its national semifinal matchup with Minnesota, a 5-2 winner over North Dakota in the West Regional, in Tampa, Fla., on April 5.
Minnesota is seeking its sixth NCAA championship, Boston College its fifth.
The last two times the Eagles won the title (2008 and 2010) they passed won a regional in Worcester on their way.
"We've been fortunate in Worcester, to come out a winner more times than not," BC coach Jerry York said, with a wide smile. "My favorite place other than Watertown (his hometown)."
BC also captured the NCAA title in 2001 after coming out of Worcester.
Eagles senior defenseman Tommy Cross knows his team's history playing in a regional site about 40 miles from campus.
"My first thought was I have to go to class Thursday, but being able to take a bus ride is so much nicer," he said. "We've had some success here. It's been a good place for us."
Ferris State and Union (N.Y.) College will play in the other national semifinal in Tampa.
Pat Mullane and Bill Arnold had second-period goals for the Eagles (31-10-7). Patrick Wey added an strange unassisted goal early in the third and Johnny Gaudreau had one late.
Milner was selected most outstanding player of the regional. He stopped 20 shots in BC's 2-0 win over Air Force on Saturday. It was the 16th time during its winning streak that Boston College has held an opponent to two or fewer goals.
"This guy's going on," Cross said at a postgame podium, nodding at Milner after being asked what's led to the team's recent run. "He's playing unbelievable."
BC's winning streak is the longest in head coach York's 18 seasons.
"We made a couple of mistakes around our net," Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said. "Good teams find a way to put it in the net."
Kenny Reiter stopped 20 shots for the Bulldogs (25-10-6). It was Minnesota-Duluth's third time in four years reaching the regional final.
Sandelin knows how good BC's been in the national spotlight lately.
"Obviously it says a lot about their program. They have a great tradition. When you build that, it's a culture," he said before later adding "I want to be like them."
Minnesota-Duluth came out playing more physical in the second period, checking a BC player almost every time they dished off the puck, but the Eagles struck twice on the scoreboard, scoring a pair of goals 1:26 apart.
Mullane gave BC a 1-0 lead at 4:01 when he charged in for a loose puck in front of the net and banged it past Reiter.
About 30 seconds after Mullane's score, Milner made a solid save on Jack Connolly's wrister from the slot.
The Eagles then made it 2-0 when Arnold one-timed a shot by Reiter after Steven Whitney's nice pass from behind the net.
BC killed off a late high-sticking penalty to Isaac MacLeod to close out the second period, setting them up for another trip to the Frozen Four.
"I thought we had some good chances," Connolly said. "The goaltender stood on his head for them."
The Eagles, who improved to 10-1 in NCAA play in Worcester, then made it 3-0 on a strange goal 1:13 into the final period.
Wey collected a loose puck in the left circle and lofted what appeared to be a soft arcing shot on Reiter, but the netminder hardly moved and it went in over his left shoulder.
Both teams had good chances in the opening period, with Minnesota-Duluth getting its best scoring bid while short-handed. The Bulldogs collected a loose puck near their own blue line and David Grun carried the puck into the BC zone on a 3-on-1 break. He fed a cross-ice pass to Chris Casto, who fired over an open net with Milner sliding over from the opposite post.
Midway into the period, Mike Seidel was stopped in close and Milner dropped to make a pad save on Connolly's rebound bid with a backhander.
The Eagles' best opportunity came with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first when Bill Arnold collected a long pass, broke in alone, shifted to his backhand, but Reiter reached back with his right leg to make a save just before the puck got behind him.