PHILADELPHIA -- The Boston College power play converted at an astonishing 24.1 percent during the 2013-14 hockey season, but when they needed it most on Thursday in their Frozen Four national semifinal against Union College, it failed them.
BC had five whole minutes of power play time late in the third period of their 5-4 loss to the Dutchmen, but couldn't beat a determined Union penalty kill. Ultimately, it cost them a chance at the NCAA title.
Just 10 seconds after the Union took a 3-2 third period lead, Dutchmen senior forward Matt Hatch delivered an ugly hit from behind on BC's Michael Sit. The play cost Hatch the game and put BC on that five-minute long major power play, but the Union PK was incredible, allowing eight shots -- mostly from the perimeter -- in the five minutes but only one truly dangerous chance.
"I was net-front and I couldn't even see the puck because they had two or three guys in the lane every time," BC forward Patrick Brown said of the five-minute PK. "But we didn't create enough movement, get pucks to the net around them. And credit to them. They played unbelievable."
As the penalty expired, Union's Kevin Sullivan forced a turnover at the blueline and had a chance in alone on Demko. The freshman goalie made the initial save but both trailing BC defensemen followed the puck and Sullivan down below the goal line, leaving a wide-open Mike Vecchione in front of the net. Sullivan delivered the puck on Vecchione's stick and he had a wide-open net to give Union a 4-2 lead that the Eagles would never recover from.
"I grew up watching BC and watching them dominate and everything," Vecchione, a Massachusetts native, said. "So to come out here and play them and end up beating them in the end is just an amazing feeling. We came out here to win a national championship, so getting past them was the first step."
It wasn't for a lack of trying on the Eagles' part. BC made a crazy push in the final few minutes, cutting it down to 4-3 on a Ryan Fitzgerald goal with 1:45 left. They were pressing for the equalizer with the goaltender pulled when defenseman Mat Bodie cleared the puck down the ice. It wasn't quite icing, though, as Ciampini had a leg on the BC defense and was able to coast in, pick up the loose puck and make it 5-3.
With five left, Brown made it 5-4, and then Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau made us all question whether or not it's possible to get a puck in the net from center ice in four seconds. He somehow got a shot on net, but it wasn't enough to beat goalie Colin Stevens. That was the season for the Eagles.
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"I thought there was plenty of time left in the game," Eagles coach Jerry York said afterwards. "Clearly there was because we got back to one goal. And really thought we had a chance to tie it up there in the fleeting moments of the hockey game. So the game's never over. Fully understand that."
Gaudreau, who will certainly win the Hobey Baker Award on Friday as the best player in the nation, showed precisely why with gorgeous work on an opening goal that gave Boston College a 1-0 lead. It was assisted by Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold, as the line showed what's made them the best unit in college hockey this season.
Union answered back with second period goals from Mat Bodie who could get NHL looks as a free agent, and Ciampini. A blast from Eagles defenseman Steve Santini evened the score at 2-2 five minutes later, and it came at a time when BC desperately needed a bump as Union had controlled much of the period until that point.
"I grew up watching BC and watching them dominate and everything," Vecchione, a Massachusetts native, said. "So to come out here and play them and end up beating them in the end is just an amazing feeling. We came out here to win a national championship, so getting past them was the first step. It’s going to be either NoDak or Minnesota, so we’re just starting to prepare for that one right now."
With the victory, the Dutchmen advance to their first ever national championship game on Saturday evening. They'll play the winner of Thursday's second national semifinal game, Minnesota or North Dakota.