Boston U. Tops Vermont to Advance to Frozen Four Championship
Thursday, April 9, 2009; 11:37 PM
In an NCAA tournament filled with upstarts and upsets, hockey blue-blood Boston University is one victory from its fifth national championship.
Hobey Baker Award finalist Colin Wilson scored twice, including a tiebreaking goal with about 5 1/2 minutes left, and the top-seeded Terriers beat Vermont 5-4 in a thrill-a-minute Frozen Four semifinal Thursday night.
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 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. Now the Terriers will try to claim their first NCAA hockey title since 1995.
Wilson -- whose father, Carey, played 13 seasons in the NHL -- scored the game's first goal and its last. He helped Boston go ahead 2-0, before Vermont responded with three goals in a 6-minute span of the second period.
The game was tied when freshman defenseman Drew MacKenzie's first college goal, on a power play with about 10 minutes left, put the Catamounts ahead 4-3.
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 in the third period. Chris Higgins' shot was blocked by goalie Rob Madore, but the puck bounced right off a sliding MacKenzie's stick and into the net.
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.
After the success of first-time Frozen Four participants Miami and Bemidji State, it might have made sense that Vermont would knock off BU. On the other hand, that Vermont led BU with half a period to play is not entirely stunning, given that the Catamounts did hand the Terriers two of their six losses this season entering Thursday.
Still, Boston was the team seeking to reach its 10th national title game, the team that came in as the tournament's overall No. 1 seed, the team that boasts two of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award for college hockey's best player, an honor to be handed out Friday here: Wilson and defenseman Matt Gilroy.
And while BU was participating in its 21st NCAA semifinal, Vermont made it to the Frozen Four for only the second time. The other was in 1995-96, when a team led by current Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis lost to Colorado College in double overtime.
Not much later, Vermont's beloved hockey program was in disarray. In 1999-00, a hazing scandal led the university to cancel the last 15 games of the season. Two seasons later, the team won only three games. And as recently as 2003-04, coach Kevin Sneddon's first at the school, Vermont went 9-22-4, its seventh consecutive sub-.500 record.
Instead of Vermont taking a step toward title No. 1, it will be Boston trying to add to its trophy collection.
Wilson gets much of the credit. With his back to the net, Wilson flicked his stick to redirect defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk's shot from outside the left circle through Madore's legs to make it 1-0 about 11 minutes in.
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.
He was right in the middle of things again when Boston doubled its lead, beating an opponent to control the puck along the boards. That set up a give-and-go in which Jason Lawrence passed to Higgins, who slid the puck right back. Lawrence shot into the upper-right corner to make it 2-0 at the 16:27 mark of the first.
Wahsontiio Stacey pulled Vermont within a goal at the 3:50 mark of the second, and Justin Milo and Josh Burrows scored 45 seconds apart to put the Catamounts ahead 3-2. Vinny Saponari's power-play goal with 1:21 left in the second period made it 3-3 heading to the third.