Boston College beats Minnesota at Frozen Four
Milner leads Eagles past overmatched Gophers and into title game
TAMPA - In the National Football League, quarterbacks traditionally buy gifts for the offensive line. Way back when, Dolphins great Dan Marino made a TV commercial for gloves he said took care of the hands that took care of him.
The forwards and defensemen on Boston College’s hockey team should consider pooling their resources on a gift for junior goaltender Parker Milner.
Milner (30 saves) was absolutely immense against Minnesota Thursday night, particularly in the first period. He had 10 stops in the opening 20 minutes, giving the Eagles a chance to regroup and the result was a 6-1 thumping of Minnesota in their Frozen Four semifinal at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
BC, which extended its winning streak to 18 and its record to 32-10-1, will play in the NCAA title game for the fifth time in seven seasons Saturday night when it takes on Ferris State.
“We owe Parker for more than just the first period,’’ said left wing Chris Kreider, who had a goal and an assist. “We owe him for the past 18 games. You can’t say enough good things about him right now. He’s playing out of his mind.’’
What was surprising was that as shakily as the Eagles played in the opening frame, during which they gave up three odd-man rushes and assorted back-door plays, they came out of it with a 1-0 lead.
Steven Whitney put the team on the board at 6:03, converting on a give and go. Barry Almeida, in the left circle, fed Whitney, who was driving down the slot. Whitney beat Kent Patterson for his 14th of the year.
That play was immediately preceded by a terrific play at the other end by defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who broke up a two-on-one.
Minnesota (28-14-1) nearly got the equalizer at 15:14 when Nate Condon had a shot from the doorstep, but Milner turned it back.
The only penalty of the period came at 15:16 when BC defenseman Patrick Wey was whistled off for hooking. But the Eagles, led by Dumoulin, did an excellent job of killing it off.
Milner was tested again with 1:34 left when the Gophers won a draw in the left circle and defenseman Jake Parenteau, coming in from the left point, delivered a hard, low shot, but Milner snagged it.
With 49 seconds remaining, Minnesota had a terrific back-door opportunity with center Nick Bjugstad feeding right wing Taylor Matson, chugging in from the right circle, but Milner slid across the crease in time to keep it out.
BC made the necessary adjustments for the second period then scored the first of its three goals in the period at 6:35.
Minnesota defenseman Nate Schmidt was called for hooking at 6:27 and the Eagles had their first man advantage. Just eight seconds later, BC scored.
Kevin Hayes started and finished the play. The sophomore center won the draw against Matson and Whitney rifled a pass from the right circle to Hayes in the left circle, and he roofed it into the net.
With 2:33 remaining in the period, the Gophers had a chance to climb back into it. Center Erik Haula made a terrific backhand feed to right wing Jake Hansen, who had a point-blank chance, but Milner denied him.
Just 18 seconds later, the Eagles made it a three-goal lead. Right wing Destry Straight threw a cross-ice backhand pass to Kreider, who beat Patterson from the slot.
The fourth goal came with 16.8 seconds remaining. While Johnny Gaudreau was being hauled down in the left circle, and, as Patterson was turned Gaudreau’s way, the freshman was able to throw it across for Paul Carey, who buried it in the open net.
Hansen broke the shutout at 1:26 of the third. Haula made a saucer pass to Hansen and he redirected it in front past Milner, who gave up his first goal in the NCAA Tournament and ended his shutout streak at 193 minutes, 49 seconds.
But BC answered right back. Just 22 seconds later, Carey tallied his second of the night when he took a centering pass from Gaudreau and beat Patterson stick side.
BC closed it out with a power-play goal at 5:51 by Dumoulin.
For Minnesota, it was a bitter pill to swallow, but the Gophers tipped their caps to BC.
“We had some chances and we just didn’t score,’’ said Hansen. “It just [stinks] because at times we felt we were putting the pressure on and we were outshooting them, we just needed one to go in and that just didn’t happen.
“When you get down, 6-1, like that, it really just wears on you. It just hurts so bad.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.