Bounced: Season Ends for Minnesota at Frozen Four
Bounces Go Against Gophers Late in Second Period
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Tampa, Fla. A quick look at the final score of Thursday night's national semifinal between Boston College and Minnesota might lead to an assumption that the Eagles dominated the game from start to finish, en route to a 6-1 victory and their 18th consecutive win.
But the Gophers, who came in to the Frozen Four with the nation's most potent offense behind the talent of 18 NHL draft picks, actually outshot Boston College through two periods, 21-15. With fewer than three minutes to play in the second period, coach Don Lucia's club only trailed 2-0, and a comeback felt very much within the realm of possibility.
Unfortunately for the Gophers, that's when the game suddenly became out of reach.
"We tried to do a little bit too much," said Lucia, who led Minnesota to national titles in 2002 and 2003. "It went from 2-0 to 4-0, and that was basically the game. Up until that point, I thought we deserved a little bit better, but BC is a good team."
Indeed, up until that point, the Gophers found themselves with many high-quality scoring opportunities, despite trailing by two goals. On one chance, senior forward Jake Hansen found himself alone in the slot for a one-timer that Eagles goaltender Parker Milner stopped seemingly effortlessly.
Milner finished the game with 30 saves.
Said Hansen, "I had more time than I thought. I just regret that because that's a grade-A scoring chance right in front of the net. If I score there, it would be 2-1, and we'd be right back in the game. They end up scoring on the next shift I believe. It just kills you."
Even more frustrating for Minnesota was that Boston College scored on what seemed like every opportunity it had — the mark, certainly, of a mature, efficient team that understands how to be opportunistic.
"We had some chances, and we just didn't score," continued Hansen, who admitted to feeling embarassed when the score ultimately reached 6-1 in the third period. "We couldn't get things going on our side, and then the mistakes that we made — then they go on and score the goal. We felt, at times, that we were putting the pressure on, that we were outshooting them, and we just needed one to go in. That didn't happen, and they took advantage of their opportunities."
Late in the second period, Chris Kreider converted on a 2-on-1 with Destry Straight to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead. Fewer than two minutes later, with 20 seconds remaining in the period, Paul Carey took advantage of Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson being out of position to the right of the net. Carey tapped the Eagles' fourth goal into a wide open net.
At that point, the route was on.
"They took the game over at the end of the second," said Lucia. "They have the ability to, when you make a mistake, to convert on their chances. They're a very good transition team, and they do a great job applying back pressure when you're coming up the rink."
After the game, Lucia admitted that he might have considered pulling Patterson to start the third period — if this weren't the Frozen Four and potentially the senior's final game.
"Probably, if he wasn't a senior, I might have (pulled him)," said Lucia. "But he's a senior, and he earned it to finish that out. We wouldn't have gotten here without him. I'm sure he's disappointed in the result. Those things are going to happen some nights. But Kent had a great year for us and probably more than any other player on our team was responsible for the year that we had."
Thursday's national semifinal was Patterson's 64th consecutive start for the Gophers — a streak that began on Dec. 4, 2010, at Minnesota State. During his streak, Patterson played a consecutive 3,414:13 before giving way to sophomore netminder Michael Shibrowski in the third period against Wisconsin on March 2.
The Plymouth, Minn., native also led Minnesota to the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular season champions and to 28 wins overall this season — the most for the Gophers since winning 31 in 2006-07. With his strong senior campaign, Patterson set the program record for career goals-against average.
And on Thursday, against the top team in the nation, although Patterson's career at Minnesota came to an end, the senior was still able to put the loss in perspective.
"I think just being in the Frozen Four will be one of the great memories," said Patterson. "Our senior class has been through a lot through four years. This season as a whole was a big highlight. It's just unfortunate that this had to end tonight.
"It was just a matter of us getting that one bounce. That's how hockey goes. Someone had to lose tonight, and unfortunately, it was us."