April 13, 2014 PRINT Bookmark and Share

From Star to Legend

Gostisbehere Cements Place in College Hockey History With Title Game Performance

by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer

 (photo: Paige Ozaroski)

(photo: Paige Ozaroski)

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PHILADELPHIA — Shayne Gostisbehere doesn't need an inch to take a mile.

He doesn't need an opponent to err to make a play.

He doesn't need any help to captivate a crowd.

He just needs a hockey puck and an idea.

In the first period of Saturday's national championship game, he saw something — a gap between himself and a Minnesota defenseman just a shade too wide. A chance to make something happen.

With those few inches, he changed a hockey game, burning the blue line and cutting into the Minnesota zone without pause. In an instant, a 1-0 deficit became a tie game. Gostisbehere effortlessly snapped his wrists, unleashing a shot that darted through the defenseman's legs and caught Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox flat footed, beating his glove to the bar.

It was Gostisbehere's first goal of the Frozen Four. His first major contribution of the night, but he was just getting started. He led his Dutchmen to a national championship win Saturday night, downing Minnesota, 7-4.

"He's a big-time player; and this is the biggest game of our lives, and he really stepped up," Union captain Mat Bodie said. "He's the motor tonight that really got us going. That first goal was a great individual effort."

"He's just a big-time hockey player," Union forward Daniel Carr said. "You look at tonight, and it's a huge game ... the biggest game of our lives, and we come out and Shayne scores an unbelievable goal. He's done that for us the last three years. Just offensively, defensively he's unbelievable. The amount of talent is second to none."

In fact, the junior defenseman was on the ice for all seven Union goals and none of Minnesota's four, finishing the evening with an astounding plus-7 rating. He had just one goal, just one assist on the night. The measure of his contribution extends far beyond that, though.

"A plus-7 is pretty staggering," Union coach Rick Bennett said. "He's, you know, maybe some of the plays he wasn't really a part of, but just his presence out there does create something, because you've got to be aware. That's the sign of a great player."

Gostisbehere managed to overshadow a four-goal week from Daniel Ciampini and outdo a pair of huge goals from freshman Mike Vecchione. Gostisbehere was plainly omnipresent, leading rushes and quarterbacking power plays at one end, shutting down Gopher possessions and turning defensive zone time into odd-man rushes at the other. He dazzled with a spin-a-rama one minute, and the next with a deke and pass off the boards to himself to beat a defender.

For a college hockey player, the stage doesn't get any bigger than it was on Saturday night. A performance from one individual doesn't either.

"I guess big-time players step up in big-time situations, and that's what he did," Bennett said. "He did it all game tonight. You know, guys are going to feed off that. Our bench, you could just tell by their reaction, watching every guy on that bench after these plays that he actually made. ... The magnitude of this game, he brought it."

On the defensive end, Gostisbehere stood out just as well. With the Dutchmen protecting a 5-3 lead, Minnesota's Taylor Cammarata gained the zone with a teammate streaking to the net. Gopher possession threatened the lead with the dynamic freshman dangling through the zone, looking for a passing lane.

Gostisbehere dove from the right face-off circle and swatted the puck away, just as Cammarata was planning his next move. It fell right to Mat Bodie. It was 6-4 Union six seconds later.

This particular assist didn't come on the typical pretty pass or bit of creativity. This was just grit, the type of play that makes Gostisbehere a great hockey player instead of just a talented kid with enough skill to make coaches dream. Those instincts made him a Hobey Baker finalist, a first-team all-American and, arguably, the best Union player since the program went Division I ahead of the 1991-92 season.

"I'm just thinking about all the hard work we put in this year to get here and just having fun with my teammates right now and how we sent off the seniors perfectly as champions," Gostisbehere said.

It wasn't just Gostisbehere that helped this edition of the Dutchmen complete the dream that started with that leap into college hockey's top division. Ciampini's hat trick on Thursday helped down Boston College. Senior defenseman Mat Bodie played one of the best games of his career against the Eagles. Junior goaltender Colin Stevens recovered from a difficult first 25 minutes on Saturday to keep his team in control.

But even his teammates praised Gostisbehere before they thought of any other individual. Don't get it wrong, this Union group defines team like few other can. The high-end skill is present, but shots are always blocked, pucks are always won and the front of the net is a gauntlet for any opponent trying to deny or take their space.

That's what made Gostisbehere's performance in this Frozen Four so special. Jim Montgomery didn't do it all alone when he scored a third-period hat trick to carry Maine to a national championship in 1993. Nathan Gerbe's five goals in the 2008 Frozen Four didn't happen just because of him. But that's what people remember. Those two players performed in a way that transcended college hockey.

Gostisbehere joined that fraternity on Saturday night. He did it at both ends of the rink, and he did with the type of panache that made the 18,742 clamor every time the puck hit his stick.

Shayne Gostisbehere arrived in Philadelphia on Thursday as a great college hockey player. He left the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday as a legend.

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