When you really think about it, the undeniably cruel part about the NCAA Tournament is that no matter what, only one team will ever be happy after the final whistle has sounded in mid-April. No one could even begin to argue that Boston University men’s hockey team (28-8-5) had anything less than a fantastic season but they still came up just short on Saturday night at TD Garden as they fell 4-3 to Providence College (26-13-2) in the 2015 national championship game. The Friars captured their first NCAA title in program history while simultaneously denying the sixth for the Terriers. PC junior goaltender Jon Gillies made a record 49 saves and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player for his Herculean effort.
“I’d like to congratulate PC,” those were the first words uttered by BU head coach Dave Quinn in his classy postgame press conference. “I’ve been lucky in life to be coaching for 20 years but I’ve never enjoyed a team more than this one. In a moment like this, there is not much that I can say to them. We were a true team, that doesn’t happen very often.”
The 18,168 fans in attendance and those watching across the country on ESPN were treated to a truly spectacular college hockey game. With both teams hailing from Hockey East (and neighboring states), the mighty conference was guaranteed of its fifth crown in the past eight seasons which is a remarkable run. The underdog Friars took a 1-0 lead at 9:25 of the first period when Anthony Florentino (a sophomore defenseman from West Roxbury) blasted a shot from the point. With PC’s win, the team scoring first in the national championship game has now captured 52 of the 68 titles. BU responded like the powerhouse that they are though as junior right wing Ahti Oksanen and junior right wing Danny O’Regan (from Needham) scored four seconds apart later in the first-a new record for the final.
The ice was totally tilted in BU’s favor as they outshot PC 18-6 in the first period but the Friars responded in the second, tying it at two on junior center Mark Jankowski’s power-play goal early in the second period. Terriers senior center Cason Hohmann regained the lead for his team at 11:36 after a loose puck bounced right to him. For whatever unexplainable reason, an extremely fluky bounce went PC’s way when junior defenseman Tom Parisi’s dump in on BU junior goaltender Matt O’Connor (39 saves) from center ice somehow found a way over the goal-line. That shocking tally propelled the Friars to a dominant third period (outshooting the Terriers 20-12) and the eventual game-winner by PC junior right wing Brandon Tanev a couple minutes later.
Quinn and his players were quick to defend O’Connor, pointing out that he wasn’t the reason that they lost. “He is the backbone of our team,” explained junior defenseman and captain Matt Grzelcyk (a Bruins prospect and Charlestown native). “We wouldn’t have been here without him.”
It was hard to think about anything except the painful reality of the moment but BU has returned itself to national prominence in only one season. They finished with 18 more wins than last season’s disastrous 10-win squad in Quinn’s first season as head coach after replacing the legendary Jack Parker. First-line left wing Evan Rodrigues (21 goals, 40 assists) and Hohmann are the only seniors that will be gone next season and of course, it would be shocking if freshman superstar Jack Eichel (26 goals, 45 assists) returns when he’s basically guaranteed to be a Top-2 draft pick in the NHL this June. However, having such a great season can only help Quinn’s recruiting efforts. Don’t expect the Terriers to be going anywhere for the near future, being so close to this title should only help to motivate them to come back with a vengeance next season and beyond.