Thursday, April 9, 2009
Wilson's 2 goals power Boston U to final
WASHINGTON -- A familiar face greeted Colin Wilson and Matt Gilroy as they stepped out of the locker room after leading Boston University to its 10th NCAA hockey championship game.
It was Mike Eruzione -- yes, that Eruzione, captain of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic hockey team and a BU grad. Grabbing Gilroy's hand, Eruzione said, "Congratulations! One more, huh?"
That's right, Mike: One more victory, and these top-seeded Terriers can celebrate their fifth national title and the school's first since 1995.
In an NCAA tournament filled with upstarts and upsets, hockey blue-blood Boston University reached the final by beating Vermont 5-4 in a thrill-a-minute Frozen Four game Thursday night, thanks to Wilson's two goals, including a tiebreaker with about 5½ minutes left.
"We walk down our hallway with the pictures of the national championship teams. We look at that every day," said Gilroy, a defenseman who like Wilson is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award given to college hockey's top player.
Boston University is looking to claim its first NCAA hockey title since 1995 on Saturday.
In Saturday's championship game, Boston will play No. 4-seeded Miami (Ohio), which ended the surprising run of outsider Bemidji State by winning the first semifinal 4-1.
"BU's the team to beat," Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. "In my opinion, they're the best team in the country -- and have been that way for most of the year."
BU (34-6-4) was the only No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the 16-team tourney to reach the Frozen Four -- and the only past champion to get that far. Yet Vermont (22-12-5), the only team to beat Boston twice this season, led 4-3 midway through the third period on freshman Drew MacKenzie's first college goal.
"We had a taste of it toward the end of the game there," Sneddon said. "We needed to be a little bit better defensively to get the job done."
It seemed as though no lead was safe in this back-and-forth game featuring two freshman goalies, and MacKenzie was involved again -- in the worst of ways -- when BU made it 4-4 with just under 7 minutes left. Chris Higgins' shot was blocked by goalie Rob Madore, but the puck bounced right off a sliding MacKenzie's stick and into the net.
"They kept coming," MacKenzie said.
That they did, and it took all of 73 seconds for Boston to finally take control for good, when Higgins took a shot that Madore kicked away -- right to Wilson, who tapped the puck in.
"I just kind of got to the net and sure enough, the rebound went right on my tape. Good feeling," said Wilson, whose father, Carey, played in the NHL.
What went through his mind on the go-ahead score?
"I didn't really have a thought. I think it was just a natural reaction to have a whack at it," Wilson said. "After, it kind of seeped in that I just scored a big goal."
Wilson, who leads BU in assists and points this season, was taken by the Nashville Predators with the seventh overall pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft and is expected to leave school after this season.
"At times, he's been like a man playing with boys," Boston coach Jack Parker said, "and he showed that a lot tonight."
Wilson also scored the game's first goal, standing with his back to the net while redirecting a teammate's shot. That helped BU go up 2-0, a lead that was gone after Wahsontiio Stacey, Justin Milo and Josh Burrows scored to give Vermont a 3-2 lead.
But Vinny Saponari's power-play goal with 1:21 left in the second period made it 3-3 heading to the third.
"The biggest goal of the game, no question about it," Parker said.
He set records by coaching in his 23rd NCAA tournament and 13th national semifinal. Now he wants his third championship at BU.
The banners that normally hang from the Verizon Center rafters were taken down for the Frozen Four, replaced by ones noting past NCAA hockey champions. BU was the only one of this year's participants to be so honored, thanks to its titles from 1971, 1972, 1978, 1995.
Miami and Bemidji State never had even been to the semifinals before; Vermont made one previous trip that far, losing in the round of four in 1996.
The Terriers took note.
"We went out and looked at the banners," Gilroy said. "The tradition's there, and we'd love to add to it."