Images from the 2009 NCAA championship game at the Verizon Wireless Center in Washington, D.C. Boston University rallied from down 3-1 against Miami in the final minute of regulation to tie, then the Terriers won it in overtime. (photos: Josh Gibney, Paige Ozaroski)
WASHINGTON, D.C. With 3:32 left and trailing Miami 3-1 in what would have been one of the greatest NCAA championship game upsets in history, Boston University coach Jack Parker called timeout. The faceoff was deep in the RedHawks' zone.
As the Terriers came back from the bench for the draw, National Rookie of the Year goaltender Kieran Millan stayed behind, in favor of an extra skater.
This was it.
On the verge of seeing its dream season ended with a shocking loss to the 13th seed in the tournament, a season that saw the top-ranked and top-seeded Terriers in complete control and winning everything they could win to this point, BU was going to have to roll the dice.
Forced to. By an upstart Miami team that had played like it was the favorite, not the 34-win Terriers.
No turning back. Burn the boats.
"When you're down two, you've gotta start early," said BU coach Jack Parker.
Parker actually called the timeout at the same stoppage of play as an ESPN TV timeout. He let the team come back out for the draw to Miami goalie Cody Reichard's left, but then called them back to the bench.
"I was hemming and hawing about whether or not I was going to pull the goalie at that time," Parker said. "I sent them out there and had decided, we're not going to pull the goalie, and then I said, 'Well, let's call time out, I want to pull the goalie, I want to tell them what to do.' I had a chance to do it. But I wanted to give them a little more rest too."
In all, Millan would spend 2:33 of the last 3:32 of regulation on the bench. And his team would complete its final and most amazing masterpiece — in fitting fashion, given the way this 2009 tournament unfolded — by scoring, not once, but twice in the final minute with the extra attacker, and then winning in overtime.
When the clock struck the final minute of play in the third, it might as well have been striking midnight for the Cinderella RedHawks.
Time for the Terriers to go to work. Zach Cohen got it started at 19:01.
"It was pretty scrambly out there," said Brandon Yip. "We got the puck and I had a little bit of room, so I went behind the net. I didn't really know what happened, I think I dropped it to [Nick] Bonino, the D-man might have gotten it. [Bonino] stole it from him and passed it out front, and Zach Cohen banged it home."
Then with 17 seconds to go, Hobey Baker Award recipient and CHN Player of the Year Matt Gilroy made a brilliant play to set up Bonino for the goal that tied it at 3-3 and sent Terrier Nation to a new level of ecstasy. Gilroy faked a shot and pulled Reichard over to the goalie's right, then slid the puck back across the top of the slot to Bonino for a quick shot over Reichard's glove.
"What else can you say about that pass from Matt Gilroy?" Bonino said. "It's unbelievable. He saw me and I saw it in his eyes. He looked at me, faked the shot and dragged it around the guy, so I knew it was coming.
"I was wide open and he saw me and obviously I tried to put it on net. I was aiming anywhere, I just hit it as hard as I can and it squirted by the goalie."
In typical fashion, Gilroy downplayed his role in the goal, said he wasn't trying to fake a shot.
"No, that didn't go through my head at all," he said, to laughter from his teammates. "I just got the puck and out of the corner of my eye I saw Nick sitting wide open. You put the puck on Nicky's stick, and he's going to put it away. It went in and we went into overtime. Once we had that, I think the whole bench and the whole team knew it was ours."
The Terriers settled things down between the third period and the overtime.
"We said, everyone needed to calm down, it's a 0-0 game," said Yip. "We don't need to score in the first minute, just keep playing our game and hopefully one will go in and it did."
"First thing I do is quiet them down, and then I let them be for a while," said Parker.
"Then I went back and said, 'This is an opportunity that you probably didn't think you had with six minutes to go in the game or four minutes in the game and now you've got it. Make sure you take the best opportunity here that you've got and do something with it. And most importantly you've got to play offense off of defense. You can't just try to rush up and get the goal. You've got to make sure you play the right way and sooner or later we'll get a goal.'"
The winner came from Colby Cohen 11:47 into the sudden death extra session, a shot that deflected off Miami defenseman Kevin Roeder, who had gone down to block the attempt, and went past Reichard.
It marked the third straight tournament game where BU found itself in a position of needing big goals at big times. Every time, someone stepped up and got the job done.
In the regional final against New Hampshire, it was Jason Lawrence scoring the winner with 15 seconds left. Thursday night in the semifinal win over Vermont, it was a come-from-behind 5-4 win, with Vinny Saponari, Chris Higgins and Colin Wilson doing the honors.
Anyone who ever questioned the old adage, "Just put it on net and good things will happen," only has to look at how the Terriers got those big goals. Lawrence scored off a diving UNH player. Higgins' shot to tie the game Thursday went off the stick of a Vermont defender. And Cohen's winner deflected off Miami's Kevin Roeder.
"I've never seen anything like this where it seems like we were getting a big goal here, big goal there," said Parker. "It always seems like they're always late.
"I thought the biggest goal of the tournament was the Saponari goal two nights ago when we got the power play. It was a huge goal to get us back in the dressing room 3-3 and feeling better about ourselves. That was huge.
"We've had that all year. We've kind of dried up on our power play down the stretch here because so many teams have watched it all year and they've gotten better at killing it. So we weren't as fortunate or the goals didn't come as easy on our power play. That kind of blew games over for us earlier in the year, and that didn't happen [the last three games]. We had to rely a little bit more on gritty goals and I don't think you can describe it any better than the gritty goal that Zach Cohen got with the 6 on 5."
Said Yip, "All year we had no quit. We were down the other night, Thursday night, against Vermont, and I think we learned from that. We might have gotten a little nervous, but there's no quit in the guys and I'm just so happy for everyone."
Burn the Boats. It was BU's motto all season, and it was never more fitting. The Terriers wore t-shirts under their jerseys with the motto, and a pot of gold labeled "D.C." on the back. No one said publicly what it meant, until now.
"I was sitting in my house in Gloucester and (former BU assistant) Ben Smith came by one day in early September," Parker said. "Ben came by with a printout of a story about (Spanish conqueror) Cortez. ... He got four or five ships together. He got the best men he could find and he sailed across. The story, there were people whining halfway over, 'This is harder than I thought. I didn't know it was going to be this way.' When he got to Cuba he got rid of all the whiners, he got them on the beach, Yucatan Peninsula, hence the Sea of Cortez, and he drilled them more and more.
"Now he thought they were ready and the very last day ... he gave one last order and that order was burn the boats."
Parker said it was meant to raise the crew's level of commitment.
"His quote was, 'If we're going back, we're going back in their boats.' There was no turning around jumping, he had to go beat that club if you wanted to get back and that's what he did.
"We decided that was going to be the theme."
It was never more fitting.
"I think the way we did it, might give Coach a heart attack, but I wouldn't want it any other way," said Gilroy. "The dramatics of it. J-Lo scoring, and then Thursday night was unbelievable.
"And what just happened now — I'm in awe over it and it's a great feeling."