Frozen Four Preview: Boston College vs. Union
by Jashvina Shah/Staff Writer
When Union and Boston College meet in the Frozen Four, it will be for the second time in history. The first meeting came last year, when the Dutchmen defeated the Eagles, 5-1, in the first round of the East Regional.
Few are expecting that kind of blowout result this year. Then again, few expected it last year. But Boston College is on another roll, the kind that it seems to ride every other year — the Eagles have won the national championship in the last three even-numbered years.
The teams have two of the best players in the country in BC’s Johnny Gaudreau and Union’s Shayne Gostisbehere. But both teams are made up of more.
While Gaudreau leads the nation in scoring with 35 goals and 77 points, he plays with two talented skaters in Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes. Together, the line has combined for 127 points this season.
“We’re not just all offensive,” Gaudreau said. “Billy Arnold’s probably the best two-way player I’ve ever gotten the chance to play with in the country. We've got to make sure that we’re playing good defensively and then contribute offensively.”
While the Eagles have the nation’s top offense, averaging 4.10 goals per game, the Dutchmen aren’t far behind with 3.70 goals per game. Union is an explosive team with a very offensive defense, including Gostisbehere and Mat Bodie. Those two play on two different units, and one of them is basically out there the whole game, especially with the TV timeouts in the NCAA tournament. Bodie and Gostisbehere are two of the highest-scoring defensemen in the country, with 35 and 29 points respectively, but are also very effective in their own zone.
Even though Union has an explosive offense, it also has a strong defense. The Dutchmen allow 2.05 goals per game, and have one of the nation’s best netminders in Colin Stevens. With Tony Grosenick’s departure, Stevens took over the starting role this season and holds a .932 save percentage. His missed some time early in the season with an injury, but didn't miss a beat upon his return.
The Dutchmen are on a 15-game unbeaten streak, with four shutouts over that stretch. They won the ECAC tournament championship for the third year in a row and this is their fourth straight year in the NCAA tournament. Union last made the Frozen Four in 2012, when it lost to Ferris State.
“Two years ago when we won it was wild in that dressing room,” Union captain Mat Bodie said. “Guys were celebrating hard. This year we’re extremely happy we won, but we didn’t celebrate like we won a championship. Because at the end of the day, you haven’t yet.”
That was the same season Boston College last made it to the Frozen Four, and won the National Championship. The Eagles have won four titles since 2000, and three times in the last six years.
Several current Eagles, including Gaudreau, Hayes and Arnold, were on that team. But Boston College has a freshman netminder this season in Thatcher Demko. After splitting starts with Brian Billett earlier in the season, Demko has started 16 of the last 18 games and holds a .920 save percentage.
The Eagles had a 19-game unbeaten game during the regular season, which was snapped by Notre Dame. After dropping three of four games afterward, the Eagles defeated Denver and UMass Lowell in the Northeast Regional.
“I think right now we’re plying our best hockey throughout the season so far,” Gaudreau said. “So we got to make sure we just keep improving every single day in practice this week and next week and get ready for the Frozen Four coming up next weekend.”