Shayne Gostisbehere of the Union College Dutchmen celebrates a goal against the Boston College Eagles during the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Frozen Four Championship Semifinal at the Wells Fargo Center. Credit: Getty Images
For the second time in four years a team wearing some shade of red mobbed the Wells Fargo Center ice and celebrated a championship — leaving Flyers fans with one inescapable thought: maybe their team should change its colors.
Because the way tiny Union College from upstate New York, took care of business, outgunning Minnesota 7-4 in the title game of the NCAA’s Frozen Four Saturday, just as the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks had done here vs. the Flyers, spoke volumes. Led by Flyers prospect Shayne Gostisbehere, named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player with a goal and two assists while being credited with a remarkable plus-seven for his night’s work, the Dutchmen took command with three goals in a 1:54 span in the first period.
They never relinquished it, proving once again a David (student enrollment 2,200) can still beat Goliath (Minnesota enrollment nearly 51,000).
"I said earlier this week we never looked at ourselves as Cinderella," said Gostisbehere, whose next big decision will be signing with the Flyers or returning to Schenectady. "We looked at ourselves as Union College and we're just a team trying to win the national title. I guess we proved all those people wrong."
They started Thursday by knocking off Boston College and Johnny Hockey, 5-4, sending Hobey Baker Award winner Johnny Gaudreau off to the NHL, where he makes his debut tonight for the Calgary Flames in Vancouver. Meanwhile, Minnesota stunned North Dakota, 2-1 with a shorthanded buzzer beater that still seems hard to believe by those who witnessed it, winning a faceoff at the other end of the ice with less than 10 seconds left and scoring the game winner with just .6 remaining.
As in the B.C. game, Union promptly fell behind, 1-0 on the opposition’s first shot of the night. The Dutchmen then started flying, led by Gostisbehere, and simply wouldn’t be denied, winning the championship in the only sport they qualify as Division One.
"I'm just extremely excited for our program, our school, for the community,’"said Union coach Rick Bennett, who’s put it all together in just three years. "For every player that has worn that jersey, for every coach that's coached here before us, I think it's a tremendous accomplishment. It's just a surreal moment right now."
While the soon-to-be Flyer Gostisbehere, a 2012 third round pick, preferred sharing credit with the rest of his teammates, it was clear to everyone else he was the difference maker.
"He's a big-time player,’’ said fellow defenseman and team captain, Mat Bodie, who scored into an open net to clinch it, moments after Gostibehere dove to break up a Minnesota rush that resulted in Kevin Sullivan’s crucial insurance goal with 1:22 left. "This is the biggest game of our lives and he really stepped up. He's the motor tonight that really got us going. He's been tremendous all year for us."
"I guess big-time players step up in big-time situations, and that's what he did," said Bennett, whose 32-6 -4 team dictated the pace against the usually defensive minded Golden Gophers, who simply couldn’t keep up. "He did it all game tonight. Guys are going to feed off that. The magnitude of this game, he brought it."
Now just how soon might he be bringing it for the other team that plays in this building?
"I'm not really thinking about that right now," said the man they call Ghost, who was so instrumental in making both B.C, and Minnesota disappear. "I'm just thinking about all the hard work we put in this year to get that right there. Just having fun with my teammates right now."
The rest will come soon enough for Shayne Gostisbehere. For now he’s happy to be part of the little school from New York that beat all the big guys to win the big prize.
Which is why the label Union wears today is Frozen Four champions.