5 Minutes to Save a Season
Union Perfect in Killing Late Major
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA The prospect of facing Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold on an extended five-minute power play is quite daunting.
The trio has combined for nearly 200 total points this season.
After taking a one-goal lead midway through the third period, Union was faced with that exact task. Matt Hatch leveled BC’s Michael Sit with a heavy hit from behind in the corner near BC goalie Thatcher Demko’s net. It didn’t take long for the officials to escort Hatch to the locker room.
Meanwhile, the rest of his team gathered near their bench. Despite the enormity of the situation at hand, you wouldn’t have been able to gauge it after taking a glance at the Union bench.
Players barely moved. There was no sense of panic. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“Our guys were pretty calm when it happened,” Union head coach Rick Bennett said. “We needed to keep our sticks down on the ice because we knew they were great at finding those seam passes.”
Union killed the penalty, and won the game 5-4 to advance to its first national title game on Saturday.
“We’ve been killing the same way all year,” Union junior forward Cole Ikkala said. “We knew what we had to do. We wanted to limit their chances and get into the lanes and not let them get anything through. We kept saying that the five was just like killing two penalties, and we have been doing a good job killing penalties all year.”
It went perfectly according to plan.
Union only allowed seven shot attempts over the entire five-minute span and only three actually made it through the layers of Union shot blockers to goaltender Colin Stevens.
Despite as great as it looked on Thursday, Union’s penalty kill is just slightly above average on the season as a whole, ranked 28th in the nation at 82.6 percent.
But before Patrick Brown’s power-play goal with 4.3 seconds left in the game, Union had not allowed a power-play goal since the ECAC quarterfinal round on March 15 to Dartmouth, killing 14 straight.
“The guys in front of me were great on that kill,” Stevens said. “It’s been a characteristic of our kill all year. They were outstanding. I thought that was the difference in the game for us.”
Brown was the net-front presence on one of BC’s power-play units and admitted even he had a hard time finding the puck through the four Union bodies packed into the slot.
“They’re a great shot-blocking team,” he said. “They had two or three guys in the lanes at all times and there were times I couldn’t even see the puck. Credit to them. They played unbelievable.”
Added Boston College’s head coach, Jerry York: “We weren’t quick enough. That allowed those lanes to be blocked.”
Other than putting their bodies in front of shots, there were other tendencies the Dutchmen were trying to eliminate.
“We watched them on video,” Stevens said. “They have a lot of skill guys you need to keep an eye on and watch out for.”
Ikkala added, “We really wanted to limit their skill guys coming into the neutral zone with speed. They can be dangerous when they get into the zone with some speed so we wanted to take that away.
“Then, when they are in the zone, we obviously wanted to keep them to the outside as much as possible. When they take those shot attempts from the outside that’s when we wanted to get in front of them.”