BU Gets the Message, and Frozen Four
by Jake Seiner/CHN Reporter
MANCHESTER, N.H. A week ago, in the championship game of the Hockey East Tournament, Boston University coach Jack Parker broke up his top scoring line and sat Hobey Baker-finalist Collin Wilson, unhappy with the line’s effort and production.
Parker kept the top unit, comprised of Wilson and seniors Jason Lawrence and Chris Higgins, separated in practice last week, with Wilson taking his shifts with the fourth line.
The line was reunited for this weekend’s NCAA Northeast Regional action, but was demoted from top status as senior co-captain John McCarthy centered the top unit alongside Brandon Yip and Nick Bonino.
Parker said he made the move to break the unit, namely Wilson and Higgins, out of a motivational slump, and apparently, his message was received loud and clear.
With a 2-1 win over New Hampshire in Sunday’s NCAA Northeast Regional final, BU earned its first Frozen Four appearance since 1997, and the Wilson, Lawrence and Higgins line was responsible for the winning tally with 14.4 seconds left.
“I wanted to let these guys know that they had bean a little stale,” Parker said about breaking up the unit during practice. “I wanted to break up the line and I wanted them to get a feel for not playing with each other. They were very happy to get back playing with each other again.”
The unit, which had propelled the nation’s second-best power play all season, was kept on the bench at the start of BU’s power plays early in Sunday’s game. As the game went on, the threesome, along with defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen, began to see more and more time on the ice when BU got a man-advantage.
With 45.7 seconds left and the game tied, 1-1, UNH’s James van Riemsdyk hooked BU’s Nick Bonino in the slot, giving the Terriers their fourth power play of the game.
With time for only one shift, Parker called upon his top-scoring line.
As the clock ticked away, the unit fought to get the puck to the net. With about 20 seconds remaining, Higgins took the puck from the left corner, wheeled up the boards and hit Lawrence with a pass about 5 feet left of the top of the crease. Lawrence, working around a sliding UNH defender, tried to move the puck across the top of the crease to a waiting Wilson. UNH forward Thomas Fortney – the senior who scored with .1 seconds left in regulation to send Saturday’s contest with North Dakota into overtime – slid into the crease to break up the pass, and in the process, knocked the rubber disk over the goal line with his left forearm.
“I didn’t really see it, I lost sight of the puck,” Lawrence said about the deflection that gave BU the winning goal. “I just saw that it was in and we were happy about that.”
“Big time players make big time goals,” Parker said. “That line went out with [Wilson, Higgins and Lawrence] along with [Shattenkirk] and Colby Cohen. They’ve been our number one power-play unit all year long. . .They have been our go-to guys on the power play and they were again tonight.”
With the win, BU advances to the Frozen Four for the first time in twelve years. For the seniors, who were freshman on the 2005-06 team that entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed only to fall, 5-0, to Boston College in the second round.
“Coming into this game, I thought the seniors did a good job of explaining to the young guys that, ‘You don’t want to experience that feeling inside,” senior John McCarthy, who was a freshman on the 2006. “Right from the beginning of the week, we made sure we’d be ready to play tonight, and that was a responsibility of our seniors.”
“It’s a very difficult thing to do and it’s different than it used to be,” Parker said about advancing to the Frozen Four. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities to get here and play for a National Championship since ’97, and we’ve come up short.
“I have been [to the Frozen Four] many times as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach. It’s always best when it’s this one because the guys you’re working with now get a chance to feel that. I want my players to get this opportunity like so many other BU players got.”