Furious rally propels Terriers to title

Updated: April 12, 2009, 12:57 AM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The game was over. Had to be, right?

Trailing by two goals as the final minute began to tick away, Boston University clearly was going to have to wait to add to its collection of national hockey titles. And Miami University was on the verge of its first NCAA championship in any team sport.

[+] EnlargeBoston University Wins
AP Photo/Alex BrandonBoston U players celebrate their fifth Frozen Four title, first since 1995.

Except all of a sudden, everything changed Saturday night. BU's Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist in the last 60 seconds to somehow force overtime, and the top-seeded Terriers won 4-3 on a shot that sailed in off a RedHawks player in the extra session.

Boston U. collected its first title since 1995, and No. 5 overall.

"Wow. What a hockey game. What a finish," BU coach Jack Parker said. "All I can think of is it's the greatest comeback I've been involved in."

That's quite a statement from a 64-year-old coach who set a record for most tournament victories with his 30th.

"The way we did it gave Coach a heart attack, but I wouldn't want it any other way," said Hobey Baker Award winner Matt Gilroy, whose deft pass set up Bonino's tying goal with 17.4 seconds remaining in regulation.

"The dramatics of it. What just happened now -- I'm still in awe of it."

As well he should be. After all, it's not often a team gets to feel as though it celebrates a championship twice in one night.

First, BU went wild after erasing its late 3-1 deficit. And then the Terriers went through a more prolonged victory party -- including an elaborate team dance session in the locker room -- after Colby Cohen scored the winning goal.

"I saw it go in, and that was it. I don't remember anything after that," said Cohen, chosen as the Frozen Four's most outstanding player. "It's an unbelievable feeling."

His slap shot ricocheted off sliding Miami defenseman Kevin Roeder's leg 11:47 into OT, fluttering over goalie Cody Reichard's shoulder and into the upper-right corner.

"It's just a real tough way to go down," said Reichard, a freshman.

BU's goalie, Kieran Millan, also is a freshman, and both were superb. Millan made 29 saves; Reichard made 28.

Reichard dropped to his knees at game's end. Roeder remained on the ice, too, for several moments, while BU players piled atop each other at the other end.

"It was a bad bounce that hit my pad and rolled in, and that's what the game of hockey brings to you," Roeder said. "We're not ashamed of anything that just happened."

Boston U. (35-6-4), which set a school record for victories in a season, was playing in its 10th NCAA final. Miami (23-13-4) had never been beyond the round of eight in the hockey tournament.

What some might have figured would be a mismatch wound up close as could be. An indication of the disparity in the finalists' hockey traditions: While BU grad and 1980 U.S. Olympic "Miracle on Ice" captain Mike Eruzione was shown on the above-ice video board rooting for his Terriers, the buzz among RedHawks fans was whether or not two-time Super Bowl champion and former Miami quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was in attendance.

Miami was the bottom seed in the West Regional of the 16-team tournament. BU, meanwhile, was ranked No. 1 during the regular season and entered the NCAAs as the favorite after winning the vaunted Hockey East's regular-season and playoff titles.

But Miami, which squeezed into the tourney with an at-large bid, seemed headed for an upset after Tommy Wingels and Trent Vogelhuber scored less than 3½ minutes apart in the third period to break open what had been a tie game and put Miami ahead 3-1.

Wingels knocked in a rebound with 7½ minutes left, and Vogelhuber added to the advantage with 4:08 to go after BU turned the puck over at the blue line.

The RedHawks' supporters in the crowd of 18,512 certainly thought the championship was won right there: Shortly after Vogelhuber's goal, they unleashed loud chants of "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!"

With only a handful of minutes left, the RedHawks might have been forgiven for thinking those fans were right. After all, up until then, Miami had allowed all of five goals in the entire tournament.

It was still 3-1 as the last minute began. But with Millan on the bench in favor of an extra skater, Zack Cohen corralled Bonino's rebound and lifted a backhander over Reichard with 59.5 seconds left. That pulled the Terriers within a goal.

And when Bonino tied it, the Terriers began jumping and back-slapping -- even though the final outcome was still in doubt, of course. But at least BU suddenly had a chance.

Parker, who won his third national title, needed to calm down his team during the locker-room time before OT.

"I told them to relax. They were all excited like they'd just won," Parker said. "I told them they had to relax and get ready to win the game. They hadn't won it yet."

This was the first NCAA hockey championship game to go to an extra period since 2002, when Minnesota beat Maine. Parker thought back to the 1991 final, which his BU team lost in three OTs to Northern Michigan. But this one didn't go nearly as long.

Gilroy said this week that he and his teammates noticed the banner hanging from the rafters during the Frozen Four that showed BU's title-winning years of 1971, 1972, 1978 and 1995. At next year's Frozen Four, they'll have to add 2009, something that didn't quite seem possible to anyone late in Saturday's game.

"I'm a confident person -- in our team -- and I when we went into the last minute, I was even down a little bit," said BU forward Colin Wilson, a Hobey Baker runner-up to Gilroy. "We had big players who made big plays."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press