Gaudreau delivers on the big stage
TAMPA - They don’t list heart and skill on a roster. If they did no one would ever refer to 5-foot-8-inch, (ahem) 150-pound Boston College freshman forward Johnny Gaudreau as small.
The pint-sized puckster, who looks like your paper boy, helped deliver Boston College its 19th straight win and a national championship Saturday night in the Frozen Four final at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Gaudreau’s highlight-reel goal with 3:02 left propelled BC to a hard-fought 4-1 victory over Ferris State and its third national title since 2008, No. 4 under coach Jerry York.
Gaudreau’s Goal - it deserves capital letters - will go down in Boston College sports lore, not quite Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass, but definitely an indelible memory and moment of glory for the BC faithful.
With BC clinging to a one-goal lead it had held since the 10:33 of the first period, Gaudreau scooped up a loose puck in the neutral zone and turned in a sensational effort that cued the confetti. The baby-faced, 18-year-old freshman sniper beat two Ferris State defenders, dangling the puck around Bulldogs defenseman Brett Wysopal like he had it on a string, and then roofed a backhander past stunned Ferris State goalie Taylor Nelson.
Gaudreau’s shining moment was an impulse decision.
“It was a great breakout pass by Destry Straight,’’ said Gaudreau. “I was thinking that maybe I should probably get this deep. There was four minutes left in the game. I didn’t go with what I was thinking. I just went with it, and luckily it happened to work for me.’’
You have to appreciate Gaudreau’s diminutive stature to appreciate his talent.
In the jubilant BC locker room, Gaudreau asked for a national championship T-shirt. Naturally, he requested a small. He was told there were only larges and XLs. So, the guy who made those T-shirts possible couldn’t get one in Gaudreau’s size.
“I first saw [Gaudreau], and I was like, ‘There is no way this 140-pound, 5-4 kid is going to make an impact in college hockey,’ ’’ said linemate Pat Mullane. “He’s been unbelievable. He’s become an unbelievable hockey player.’’
Mullane said that in practice Gaudreau pulls off moves that are even better than his goal in the national title game. “It’s stupid,’’ he said. “In practice we watch him do things that I can’t even think about.’’
It was fitting that Gaudreau scored the clinching goal since during the remarkable 19-game run, which began Jan. 27, he has been the team’s leading scorer with 13 goals and 14 assists.
BC can thank former Northeastern coach Greg Cronin for Gaudreau, who was slated to matriculate on Huntington Avenue until Cronin left the school to become an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
BC needed every bit of Gaudreau’s magic and the stellar goaltending of tournament Most Outstanding Player Parker Milner to take home the crown.
Champions in 2008 and 2010, BC was trying to become the first team since Denver, which won NCAA titles in 1958, 1960, and 1961, to win three national championships within five years. Ferris State, a worthy ice antagonist, didn’t make it easy.
BC led, 2-1, after the first period and after a scoreless second found itself locked in the type of taut, tense, agita-inducing championship contest that Boston sports fans have become accustomed to.
You got the feeling that one fluke bounce could be the David Tyree moment for Ferris State and doom for BC, which had reached the final by outscoring its opponents, 12-1, in three tournament games.
The Bulldogs were doing what all underdogs want to do, simply hanging around.
BC was simply hanging on to the trophy for dear life.
“I thought it was a perfect game for us,’’ said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels. “It seemed to be our kind of hockey game.’’
Ferris State neutralized the high-flying Eagles’ offense by constantly putting them on the penalty kill. BC killed three power plays in the second period and began the third period on the penalty kill after Bill Arnold drew a roughing call with 23.4 seconds left in the second.
BC killed all four Ferris State man advantages and among the many incredible footnotes to the Eagles’ title run is the fact they didn’t allow a power-play goal after the Beanpot final against Boston University.
Milner, who during BC’s 19-game jaunt to the title stopped 508 of 529 shots, had a lot to do with that.
Milner (27 saves) made two sterling saves in the final 5:22 to send BC to the locker room with a 2-1 lead. The second came with 28.7 seconds left in the period. Ferris State’s Garrett Thompson, who scored the Bulldogs’ goal in the first period, appeared to have an open net in front, but Milner sprawled out and stopped the backhander with his left pad.
Doug Flutie, Dana Barros, Brian Gionta, now Johnny Gaudreau, all subcompact BC sports heroes.
“Those guys are in the history of BC. Hopefully, I can make it some day,’’ said Gaudreau. “I scored one goal in the national championship. It’s a goal I’ll remember for the rest of my life, but those guys have done so much for BC. Hopefully, through my four years I can become one of those guys.”
Johnny, you’re well on your way.