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NCAA Hockey Notes

Milner throwing a big block party

BC’s Bill Arnold checks Minnesota-Duluth’s Chris Casto’s helmet off in first-period action. BC’s Bill Arnold checks Minnesota-Duluth’s Chris Casto’s helmet off in first-period action. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / March 26, 2012
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WORCESTER - It was no surprise that Boston College goaltender Parker Milner was named the NCAA Northeast Regional’s outstanding player of the tournament.

Milner pitched a pair of shutouts during the weekend. He beat Air Force, 2-0, in the semifinals Saturday and followed that with a 33-save performance Sunday night in a 4-0 victory over defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth. BC has won 17 in a row and has surrendered a total of 20 goals.

When asked what was going on with the Eagles being so stingy, BC captain Tommy Cross smiled.

“This guy is going on,’’ said Cross, nodding toward Milner seated nearby. “Parker has been playing unbelievable. There are so few second chances and he’s making some unbelievable saves. He’s making the routine saves and then he’s making a couple of saves a game that he has no business making and they’re unbelievable plays.’’

Milner started the season pretty well, but the team started to stumble and coach Jerry York plugged in two other netminders - senior Chris Venti and freshman Brian Billett. Beginning Nov. 26, Milner played just two of the next 12 games, winning one and losing the other. That changed when BC was swept at Maine Jan. 20 and 21. Venti and Billett split those games and York went back to Milner based on the hard work he had seen from him in practice.

Milner said at times, early in the season, he felt the pressure to fill the shoes left by John Muse, but eventually realized he just had to be himself. He also feels he has benefited from the improved play of the Eagles.

“I think a lot is different,’’ said Milner, when asked to compare the earlier part of the season with the 17-game winning streak. “I think our team is a lot different. Everyone is playing really good defensively and that defense is leading to strong offense. A lot of our success is due to a full team effort.

“I have to thank coach York for throwing me back in there and I have to thank my goalie coach [Jim Logue, and associate coaches Mike Cavanaugh and Greg Brown] for being down there in the morning to work on things with me. I don’t think that I would be able to give the effort that I can without those guys.’’

Line of duty

Arguably the Eagles’ best line last night was senior left wing Barry Almeida, sophomore center Bill Arnold, and junior right wing Steven Whitney. The trio combined on BC’s second goal at 5:27 of the second period.

Almeida said just getting the chance to go to the Frozen Four again, where he won a national title his sophomore year, is thrilling.

“It’s unbelievable,’’ said Almeida, who has 22 goals this season. “We believed from the start. The culture at BC, guys move on and guys step in. Everyone has been doing a great job and Milner has been our backbone. Everyone knows their role and everything is fitting right now.’’

Minnesota-Duluth did a lot of banging in the first period, but BC withstood it and won most of the battles for the puck.

“It was two great teams battling,’’ Almeida said. “We kept saying to each other, ‘Just stick to the game plan.’ And we did that and eventually it paid off.’’

Due recognition

In addition to Milner on the all-regional team, the Eagles added Cross, Chris Kreider, and Patrick Wey. Minnesota-Duluth forwards Jack Connolly and Jake Hendrickson also made it.

Gophers going on

Erik Haula scored his 20th goal of the season, Taylor Matson added a goal and an assist, and second-seeded Minnesota beat top-seeded North Dakota, 5-2, to win the West Regional in St. Paul. Ben Marshall, Travis Boyd, and Nate Condon also scored for Minnesota (28-13-1), which advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2005. Kent Patterson made 24 saves for the Gophers, who eliminated Boston University, 7-3, Saturday night.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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