Friday, April 22, 2011

The 1990-91 Terriers: One Glove and Two Caroms Shy of a Load

By mh82

And so it goes, and so it goes
And so it goes, and so it goes
But where it’s goin’ no one knows
Nick Lowe


Ed Carpenter, the Boston University Sports Information Director, reached across his desk to answer the ringing telephone, but when he picked up the receiver, the voice on the line didn’t sound familiar.

Perhaps that’s because the caller was a high school teacher hailing from the town of Chicago Heights, located 30 miles south of the City of Big Shoulders.

“I just called to tell you that I watched your game against Northern Michigan last Saturday,” he informed Carpenter. “I have no ties to BU, but I just wanted to say that watching that game was an exciting, absorbing experience. It was just great.”

That game.

The caller’s reference to “that” game was the 1991 NCAA hockey championship game between the Terriers and Wildcats at the St. Paul Civic Center in Minnesota, the rink that featured clear boards and the venue that once served as the home of the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the defunct World Hockey Association. It was also where Harvard had won its first and only NCAA title two years before, defeating Minnesota in overtime.

The BU-NMU game took more than four hours to complete (ending past midnight on the East Coast), featured comebacks from three goals down by each team over the final two periods, went to three overtimes and had 88 combined shots on goal. It showcased continual shifts in momentum on the ice, endless swings of emotion on the benches, in the arena and for those watching the dramatic game unfold on television. And finally, there was one euphoric team creating a pile of bodies in celebration on the ice where the winning goal had been scored while the losing squad simply watched in silence, slumped in exhaustion against the boards or mostly motionless on the bench.




It is a game still remembered and dissected two decades later, in arena corridors, over beers at a bar, on message boards and wherever else there is talk about the history of the NCAA Hockey Tournament. Whenever chatter about the greatest NCAA hockey championship games surfaces, the 1991 final rightfully earns a place in the discussion. Although it’s a fruitless exercise to determine what the “best” NCAA hockey championship game of all time is, simply because there have been so many enthralling ones down through the years, it’s difficult to come up with a more compelling back-and-forth clash than the one that took place on March 30, 1991.




*****





Before recalling the details of the NCAA title game, however, it’s worth a look at the journey that the 1990-91 Boston University hockey team took just to get in position to win the school’s fourth NCAA crown, and first in 13 years.

The 1989-90 Terriers (25-17-2) ended a long drought of BU not advancing to the NCAA Final Four when they knocked off North Dakota at Walter Brown Arena in the opening round and then top-ranked Michigan State in the quarterfinal round in East Lansing, a pair of thrilling best-of-three series that went the distance. That landed the Terriers in Detroit for the Final Four, along with Colgate, Boston College and Wisconsin. BU drew Colgate in the semifinals and suffered a gut-wrenching 3-2 defeat. BC had a similar fate, losing to Wisconsin 2-1 before the Badgers claimed the NCAA title with a 7-3 blowout win over the Red Raiders.

BU coach Jack Parker lost three players off that Final Four team as he prepared for the 1990-91 campaign: inspirational captain and forward Mike Sullivan, whose leadership proved as valuable as his 11 goals and 20 assists; forward Joe Sacco, who left school a year early to pursue an NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs after leading the team with 28 goals and finishing third in points with 52; and forward Rob Regan, who chipped in with 12 goals. Sacco and Regan had played in all 44 games while Sullivan played in 38, missing some time due to an ankle injury.

While those losses were felt, Parker had a tremendous amount of talent returning on his roster, including four of the top five scorers, a deep defense and both goalies. In addition, BU was getting back two players—sophomore center David Sacco, younger brother of Joe, who had played only three games in 1989-90 due to a shoulder injury after scoring 14 goals and dishing off 29 assists as a promising freshman, and junior defenseman Tom Dion, returning after missing most of the season due to knee surgery. Add in a small but talented freshman class that included skilled power forward Keith Tkachuk, a physical grinder in Doug Friedman and heralded defenseman Scott Lachance.

Not that the Terriers would be a shoo-in to win Hockey East, what with Boston College, the defending regular-season and league tournament champions, and Maine also have rosters bursting with talent, but given what BU had on paper, the national media deemed Parker’s squad the preseason No. 1 team in the nation.

Parker was cautiously optimistic that the Terriers would be able to match their success from the season before that included a Beanpot championship and an exciting run in the NCAA playoffs.

“Our team worked very hard last year both on and off the ice. And the success that we enjoyed was because of the commitment the players and staff made,” Parker said in his preseason assessment of his team in the media guide. “We need to have that same commitment this year.

“I don’t think our being number one in the preseason poll will affect us. We know that we are in a tough league. Just winning Hockey East will be a challenge, let alone winning the national title. The players can’t be distracted by any preseason polls or any other outside forces. They must be committed to their goals and the work that will be needed to achieve those goals. I’m excited about this season and I know the players are as well.”

The season opener on the road at RPI made two things abundantly clear: BU would have one of the nation’s most potent offenses, one that thrived on speed and skill, but at the same time, the defense was going to be a work in progress. The Terriers jumped out to leads of 4-2 and 6-4 before the Engineers twice came back to tie up the game. Third-period tallies from the freshman Tkachuk (two goals), sophomore defenseman Kevin O’Sullivan (his first career goal) and sophomore Finnish forward Petteri Koskimaki (two goals) helped BU escape Troy with a 9-7 victory, giving Parker his 350th career win behind the bench. The win came at the expense of one of Parker’s former BU players from the 1970s, Buddy Powers, who was RPI’s coach. Sacco and Dion also each chipped in with a goal, marking a successful return from an abbreviated 1989-90 season for both.

“We had a lot of team speed and we were deep,” said Shawn McEachern, a swift junior center on BU’s first line that season who now serves as the varsity hockey coach and assistant athletic director at the Rivers School. “The emphasis on speed was our strength. [Strength and Conditioning coach] Mike Boyle had become established at the school and he really helped us as a team with our conditioning. We had quite a few guys from that team go on to play in higher levels of hockey after BU.”

Another ECAC opponent, Colgate—the team that had ended BU’s season in Detroit just a little over seven months earlier—was up next in the home opener. Much like the RPI game, the Terriers had problems holding the lead. Ahead 6-4 after two periods, BU’s defense fell flat over the final 20 minutes and the Red Raiders shot five pucks past senior goalie John Bradley to walk out of Walter Brown Arena with a shocking 9-6 triumph, spoiling a three-point night (two goals, assist) for sophomore defenseman Peter Ahola, another import from Finland. The disappointing setback dropped the Terriers down to the sixth spot in the polls.

A trip to Schneider Arena to face Providence followed the Colgate debacle. The Friars had won six straight games against BU at home, dating back to the 1986-87 season, and if not for McEachern’s two goals and an assist the streak may have continued, but the two teams skated to a 3-3 overtime tie.

Just two days later the Terriers were off to Chestnut Hill for their first meeting of the season with Boston College. The Eagles were coming off a nine-day break in the schedule and BU had the better of the play in the first period, with senior forward David Tomlinson’s two goals giving the Terriers a 2-1 edge after 20 minutes. Then it was time for BC’s HEM Line (Steve Heinze, David Emma and Marty McInnis) to take over the game and a second-period goal by Emma and a third-period score by McInnis off a rebound lifted the Eagles to a 3-2 victory. Sophomore goalie Scott Cashman—who had been named the Hockey East Freshman of the Year the previous season after winning 23 games with a 3.22 goals-against average in 39 games—had 25 saves in the BU net while BC’s Scott LaGrand stopped 22 shots. After starting against the Eagles, however, Cashman would miss the next three games due to blurred vision.

“I thought we played real well all over the ice,” Parker told The Boston Globe. “We moved the puck well coming out of the zone and the goaltenders put on a pretty good show. We played a great college hockey game and got beat. That happens sometimes.”

Emma felt it was a matter of the Eagles getting their legs back after a long layoff.

“BU is the type of team that always comes out in the first period and they’re fired up,” Emma, who would go on to win the Hobey Baker Award with 35 goals and 46 assists, said in the Globe. “They try to intimidate you because they’ve got some big guys. They try to, in a sense, lay down the law. We knew we had to come out and play, and having not played in a game in over a week, we weren’t sure how we were going to react. I thought we reacted really well. We played tough in the first period and then took it to them the rest of the way.”



*****





On Nov. 16 and 17 the Terriers hosted the University of Denver and it would turn out to be a turning point of the season for the BU offense. It was in the opening game of the two-game set with the Pioneers that Parker shuffled his lines around and moved Tkachuk, the freshman left wing, onto the top line with center McEachern and the right wing, sophomore Tony Amonte. With Joe Sacco skating at left wing during the 1989-90 season, McEachern and Amonte had thrived, with the latter leading the team in scoring (25 goals, 33 assists) and the former contributing 25 and 31. Although they would only skate together for one season, the Tkachuk-McEachern-Amonte line would leave an indelible mark on BU hockey history with a combined 170 points for the season.

McEachern, for one, was happy to have the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Tkachuk to skate alongside.

“He gets the puck up real quick. He’s a fast skater, he’s big and he can hit people,” McEachern told the Globe. “Joe Sacco was quick and fast, and he could do a lot by himself. Keith’s real fast, can knock people down and he opens up the game for me and Tony.”

Although having arrived on campus a little over four months earlier, Tkachuk, who moved up from the third line, was showing maturity beyond his years by striving to play the type of complete game at both ends of the ice that Parker was looking for.

“I don’t think the coach is pressuring me to score goals. He’s really concentrating on playing defense first,” Tkachuk noted in the Globe. “If you play defense, the offense will come. You’ve got to concentrate on keeping them out of the net, that’s where you win games.”

The Pioneers didn’t have a prayer the first night with eight different BU players scoring goals in a 12-0 rout. Sacco alone accounted for seven points with two goals and five assists, sophomore center Mark Bavis had two goals and three assists, his twin brother and forward Mike Bavis added two goals, and McEachern scored twice and had an assist. Bradley picked up his first career shutout with 18 saves. The Terriers climbed over the .500 mark in the second game of the series which was another rout of embattled DU, this time by a 9-2 score. Nine different players had goals for BU and the new first line produced 11 points for the weekend. The 21 goals scored over two games was the highest BU total in a two-game set since February of 1978, when the Terriers swept BC by scores of 12-5 and 10-5.

BU ran its winning streak to five games with road victories over Harvard (4-0) and Princeton (7-2) and a home win over Northeastern (8-5). McEachern had a pair of goals against the Crimson and Bradley pitched a shutout with 23 saves. It was the Terriers’ first road game in Cambridge since the 1981-82 season and the first regular-season meeting between the two teams in eight years. Seven different goal scorers and McEachern’s three assists were enough to tame the Tigers. Three nights later, McEachern stayed red hot with a hat trick (NU’s sophomore forward Sebastien Laplante also scored three times) and senior defenseman Phil von Stefenelli picked up a trio of assists to help down the Huskies.

The five-game winning streak led up to a much-anticipated matchup with CCHA-leading Michigan at Walter Brown Arena on Nov. 30. BU exploded for six consecutive goals in a time span of 5:17 of the first period to open up a 6-2 lead at the first intermission. After that first-period scoring surge, however, the momentum began to slowly change and started to tilt in the Wolverines’ favor. And, in a virtual redux of the Colgate loss, Michigan scored five third-period goals (left wing David Roberts, a Connecticut native, had a hat trick) while keeping BU off the scoreboard, as the Wolverines posted an 8-6 victory in front of 3,383 stunned patrons on Babcock Street.

“What you saw is that college hockey is a game of emotions and momentum” Michigan coach Red Berenson told the Globe. “I think what we saw is what makes college hockey so good. You saw dramatic change, and that’s something you don’t see in the pros.”

To Parker, it was a pretty simple equation.

“They played like they didn’t know how to play hockey in the first period and we played like we didn’t know how to play hockey in the third period,” he said in the Globe.

There was no time for the Terriers to dwell about yet another third-period collapse, though, as a second-ranked Maine team that was on a 9-1-1 roll through its last 10 games paid a visit to WBA the very next night.

A four-goal second period helped the Terriers take charge, turning a 2-2 game into a 6-2 lead. Tkachuk put a shot past Maine goalie Garth Snow to give BU a 3-2 advantage and less than two minutes later Mark Bavis scored off a perfect feed from Sacco. McEachern brought the WBA crowd to its feet when he stole a puck at the blue line, motored away from the pursuing Black Bears, and beat Snow to finish off a shorthanded goal. Koskimaki also scored on a breakaway before the period ended to give BU a four-goal bulge. Less than a minute into the third period Koskimaki struck again to make it a 7-2 lead en route to a 7-4 triumph, an encouraging sign after the downer against Michigan.

“We broke down defensively. I think BU did a lot of jumping and caught us flat-footed a lot of times,” Maine coach Shawn Walsh told the Globe. “Their speed was most notable.”

It was a satisfying win for Parker and the Terriers, who had beaten Maine just once in the previous 14 meetings.

“I thought we played with a lot of poise,” Parker noted in the Globe. “We were real quick. It was a real team effort and we made some nice passes.”

McEachern, who increased his totals to 14 goals and 13 assists through 11 games, felt the Terriers learned their lesson well in a space of 24 hours.

“The loss to Michigan can hurt your confidence, but this win over Maine brings it right back up,” he told the Globe. “It teaches you a lesson about how to play defense. We were beating Michigan 6-1 and we stopped playing our game. We started trying to force the offense too much instead of playing defense and working off the defense. If they touch the puck, you’ve got to hit them and take them off the puck.”

Wins over Merrimack (7-1), Providence (6-2) and Lowell (6-1) were the warm-up to BU’s final weekend of play in 1990, a two-game road series against Minnesota-Duluth. Parker had to make some lineup adjustments for the series with the Bulldogs, since Tkachuk, Lachance and Koskimaki were all off playing at the World Junior Championships in Canada. To make matters worse, Amonte went down with the bruised shoulder on the first shift of the first game, forcing him to miss the rest of the series.

In the first game the Terriers were clinging to a 2-1 lead after two periods before the Bulldogs struck for three goals in the final period to record a 4-3 victory. Senior forward David Tomlinson lived up to his nickname of “Sniper” and carried the Terriers the next night when he struck for a career-high four goals, and with Sacco handing out three assists and Cashman making 32 saves, BU earned a split of the series with a 6-5 victory, closing out the first 16 games of the season with an 11-4-1 record.



*****





The Terriers climbed to 10 games over .500 (15-5-2) with a 4-1-1 mark to start off January. The only loss during that stretch was on home ice to Clarkson by a 5-3 count. It wouldn’t be the last time the two teams would meet during the season, with a postseason rematch in late March on the horizon. It was also during that six-game stretch that the Terriers would lose a valuable defenseman, sophomore Alexandre Legault—who led all BU defensemen in scoring as a freshman with nine goals and 21 assists—who left school and returned to his native Quebec to play junior hockey with Drummondville. A few highlights of the successful run included Cashman making 33 saves in a 3-3 overtime time with UNH in Durham; Bradley blanking Merrimack 4-0 and picking up his third shutout of the season, the first BU goalie to do that since Jim McCann in 1968-69; and the Terriers coming back to defeat UNH 8-4 at Walter Brown Arena for the program’s 200th all-time victory at the rink, in the 301 games that had been contested there. McEachern’s two goals against the Wildcats was his eighth multiple-goal game of the season.

After picking up the milestone WBA win against UNH the Terriers would face the iron of Hockey East, Boston College and Maine, in three of the next four games. The outcome of those games would prove that this BU hockey team still had plenty improving to do if it was going to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

At the Conte Forum against BC, Amonte scored his ninth goal of the season to stake BU to a 1-0 lead, but the Eagles would have the upper hand the rest of the way, with Sandy Galuppo making making 29 saves, McEachern being held without a point and David Franzosa scoring the game-winner in the Eagles’ 5-2 victory in an overall lackluster performance by the Terriers.

A 7-4 win over Lowell with Ahola scoring two goals and McEachern dishing off a trio of assists (the one negative was the broken jaw suffered by Mike Bavis, sidelining him for eight games) preceded BU’s trip up to Orono for a crucial two-game series with the Black Bears. The Terriers took a 2-1 lead early in the first period of the opener on goals by McEachern and Amonte, but Maine would score the last four goals of the game in a 4-2 victory. The next night proved to be no better, and was in fact worse for the Terriers, as Snow stopped all 28 shots he faced and Maine registered the series sweep with a 4-0 win. The shutout ended a school-record string for the Terriers of playing in 248 consecutive games without being blanked, with BU last being kept off the scoreboard on Nov. 16, 1984 in a 6-0 setback against the University of Toronto. Maine owned the better of the special teams play during the weekend, scoring on six-of-17 power play opportunities while the Terriers were a dismal 0-for-14 with the man advantage.

“We didn’t have much success against Maine in my time at BU, especially when we played up there in Orono,” McEachern recalled. “Shawn Walsh did a great job building that program and they really had some great players on that team.”

Having suffered losses in three of their last four games, BU, now ranked eighth in the country, returned to WBA to host Northeastern. The Terriers found themselves down 3-2 after two periods, largely because NU goaltender Tom Cole, who finished the game with 40 saves, was doing a solid job of keeping pucks out of his net. Nonetheless, BU scored twice in the third period, with the game-winner coming off the stick of senior forward Darin MacDonald, who had been sidelined earlier in the season for 13 games due to a knee injury. The goal also happened to be MacDonald’s first in 33 games.

A trip to Durham for a meeting with UNH would be the Beanpot Tournment tune-up game for the Terriers, and when they took a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Tkachuk and Amonte, things were looking up. But from the second period on, BU was outplayed and outscored 5-1, as its record dropped to 17-9-2 with its fourth loss in six games. Cashman was called on to make 32 saves while UNH’s Jeff Levy only had to make 15.



*****




The Terriers’ first-round opponent in the Beanpot was Harvard, with the teams having played each of the previous three years on the Boston Garden ice, including squaring off in the championship game each of the last two seasons. Harvard took home the Pot in 1989 with a 9-6 victory but the Terriers grabbed it back in 1990 with an 8-2 rout. After experimenting with moving Sacco up to the first line and McEachern down to the third line to try and create a little more offensive balance for a few games, Parker returned the lines to their normal look and McEachern was once again centering Tkachuk and Amonte.

Although the Crimson took an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Matt Mallgrave, BU was all business and proceeded to put five pucks by Harvard goalie Allain Roy in the first period. The goal scorers were Tkachuk, Sacco, McEachern and senior forward Ed Ronan, who had a pair. Up by four goals entering the second period BU kept the pressure on and took complete control with two more scores to lead 7-2 after 40 minutes. Bradley had a 28-save night in his first-ever Beanpot game while Ronan and Sacco each had a pair of goals and McEachern and Tomlinson three assists each.

“I said when we lost earlier [4-0 in Cambridge in November] they’re one of the best teams I’ve seen,” lamented Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni in the Globe. “They have so many weapons. I wish we could’ve given them a better game. We didn’t.”

Shaking off the recent slump was a welcome change for Ronan and the Terriers.

“What our coaches try to do is have us peak at the end of the season,” Ronan told the Globe, “but it’s nice to peak for the Beanpot. I think we solved a lot of our problems tonight.”

BU moved back to 10 games over .500 (19-9-2) after dispatching Merrimack 6-2, with Amonte scoring his ninth goal in 10 games and reaching the 100-point mark in his second season, McEachern notching a pair of goals and Cashman making 29 saves.

Three days later the calendar hit the second Monday in February, meaning it was time for BU and BC to play for the Beanpot title at the sold-out Boston Garden. It had been five years since the Terriers and Eagles had last met with a Beanpot title on the line—BU topped BC 4-1 in the ’86 final—and for the Chestnut Hill crew, it had been eight long years since they had skated to victory in the Pot and they were saddled with a five-game losing streak against BU in the tournament. But the Eagles had won both matchups at Conte Forum during the season and were ready to carry that success over to the Garden.

BC’s leading scorer, Emma, got the Eagles off to a quick start by putting a backhander into the net just 54 seconds after the opening faceoff. BU answered a short time later when senior defenseman and captain Mark Krys whipped a shot over BC goalie Scott LaGrand’s shoulder for what was the only goal of his collegiate career. Heinze scored on a nice move around O’Sullivan and then Bradley, but Koskimaki tied the game at 2-2 scoring off a feed from Ahola.

Later in the period Amonte carried the puck into the Eagles’ zone and was cutting to his left when BC’s Joe Cleary caught him with a shoulder on a thunderous check. The hit not only knocked Amonte off his skates but knocked him cold for a few seconds as well. He slowly skated off the ice and went to the locker room for observation but would return to the game after the first intermission to earn a place in the Beanpot record book.

Cleary gave BC a 3-2 lead on a 5-on-3 power play, but then it was time for the kid from Hingham to get the Terrier fans energized. Amonte evened the score at 12:18 of the second period by scoring on a rebound off a shot by von Stefenelli. Just 45 seconds later Amonte struck again on the power play by scoring on the rebound of a McEachern shot. After Franzosa pulled BC into a 4-4 tie, Amonte finished off the fastest hat trick in Beanpot history (5:24)—a feat that would earn him the tournament MVP—when he shot a loose puck by LaGrand for a 5-4 Terrier advantage, one they would not relinquish. Goals by Friedman and Mark Bavis wrapped up BU’s five-goal blitz in the second period. Senior forward Chris McCann closed out the scoring on a slapper from the left wing at 14:43 of the final period and the Terriers cruised to an 8-4 victory.

The Eagles kept Bradley busy in the BU net, as he finished with 34 saves (including 14 in the first period) to LaGrand’s 22. Sacco had a pair of assists (along with McEachern) to match Amonte’s feat from three days before and reach the 100-point career mark in his second full season in Scarlet and White.

“The puck was bouncing in the net for us,” Parker commented in the Globe. “We played so hard. We played with a lot of intensity. I knew we were in good shape because Bradley played so well. The MVP was deservedly Amonte’s, but the big plays all night were made by our goaltender.”

“We played an up-tempo game on the small Boston Garden ice and it was a lot of fun to play in that building,” McEachern said. “Even though he took that big hit in the first period, Tony Amonte came back and played with a lot of confidence and we just fed off him.”

After the Beanpot victory the Terriers prepared for the three-game home stretch of the regular season. Providence made its last trip into Walter Brown Arena and BU won going away, 9-5, with nine different players scoring goals and Ronan notching three assists as the Terriers outshot the Friars 49-19. Next up was a trip to Matthews Arena and a date with NU. The Terriers matched their season-high winning streak of five games from back in November with an 8-4 conquest of the Huskies. A four-goal first period sent BU on its way as McEachern had a four-point night (two goals, two assists) and Tomlinson chipped in with a pair of goals. McEachern’s second goal of the game was his 30th of the season as he became the first BU player to reach that milestone since Mark Fidler hit for 30 goals as a freshman on the 1977-78 national championship team. While NU scored on four of its 34 shots against Bradley, he blanked the Huskies over the final 20 minutes, the fourth straight opponent he held scoreless in the third period.

The season finale on Babcock Street had Boston College paying its final visit of the season, with the Eagles having already defeated the Terriers twice at Conte Forum. A win by the Eagles would clinch first place in Hockey East while a BU victory would allow it to pull into a second-place tie with BC behind Maine. Over 3,700 fans packed into WBA for the crucial confrontation.

BU helped create plenty of noise in the building in the opening period when it outshot the Eagles 15-9 and scored three times. Dion broke an 11-game scoring drought by beating BC’s Galuppo on a shot from the point. Amonte followed with a nifty goal off some fancy stickwork and Dion lit the lamp again at 12:05 on a power play strike to put the Terriers up 3-0. The Eagles got one back before the period expired when Bill Guerin scored his 23rd goal of the season.

Amonte, who finished with a three-point night, struck again at 7:07 of the second period to push BU’s lead back to three goals, but unlike their Beanpot defeat, the Eagles found the energy to get back into the game and take the lead by scoring the next four goals. A blast from the circle by Heinze found its way through Bradley’s pads and into the net, giving BC a 5-4 lead with 11:40 left in the third period. With just over five minutes to go in the game von Stefenelli evened the score, but BC broke the tie for the final time and wrapped up first place when Franzosa delivered the game-winner at 17:10 on a wrist shot, sending the Terriers to their only Hockey East loss on home ice for the season.

“It’s as sweet a victory as I’ve had in a long time,” BC coach Len Ceglarski told the Globe. “If you saw the kids, you’d think we won the Stanley Cup.”

Like the Colgate and Michigan games, the Terriers had let a lead slip away and suffered a disappointing home-ice defeat, made worse by the fact that this one was against the team’s biggest rival from up Commonwealth Avenue. But Parker felt his team would be able to put the loss to the Eagles behind them and prepare for the upcoming postseason games.

“I thought we deserved a little better fate,” he said in the Globe. “But Galuppo (40 saves) played extremely well. We’ve got ourselves in good position, as far as Hockey East and the national picture are concerned.”

The Terriers finished the regular season with a 22-10-2 record, the most regular-season wins since the 1985-86. Despite that, they finished in third place in the Hockey East standings with a 13-6-2 mark for 28 points in 21 games, trailing second-place Maine (15-5-1, 31 points) and regular-season champion Boston College (16-5-0, 32 points). Maine’s 110 goals was the top offensive output in the league—BC finished second with 106 goals, BU was third with 104—while BU’s 69 goals allowed was the leading defensive mark, ahead of Maine’s 73 goals allowed and BC’s 77.



*****







Third-seeded BU played host to the No. 6 seed, Merrimack (7-14 in Hockey East) in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs, but before the game even started, eighth-seeded Northeastern’s stunning 6-5 upset of No. 1 seed BC the night before removed a formidable opponent from the four-team field that would play in Boston Garden for the league crown. The Terriers got off to a fast start by scoring four times in the first period to put the Warriors in a deep hole, and that was really all the scoring they needed in the 7-1 victory, which capped a 4-0 record for the season against Merrimack.

“Falling behind BU makes it very tough,” said Merrimack coach Ron Anderson, who played on BU’s back-to-back NCAA championship teams in the early 1970s, in the Globe. “If you fall behind those guys, you’d better have an offense to get back in it. We wanted to get through the first period with the game still close. We didn’t.”

Friedman put a shot off goalie Yannick Gosselin’s glove and into the net for BU’s first score and Tomlinson followed a short time later with his 23rd goal to make it 2-0. Before the period ended linemates Amonte and Tkachuk each lit the lamp to extend the lead to four goals. The second period, which was scoreless, featured an altercation between Amonte and Howie Rosenblatt that eventually earned six Warriors and four Terriers penalties. The minor dust-up was punctuated by Gosselin, who, according to Joe Concannon in the Boston Globe, “left the crease and skated out to the blue line to conk Tomlinson on the head with his stick as referee Ned Bunyon looked on.”

Order was restored in the third period (a total of 27 minor penalties were called) with McEachern (who also picked up his 100th career assist), McCann and Tomlinson wrapping up the scoring for BU. Cashman finished with 18 saves and Gosselin, the wandering netminder, had 32. Ahola picked up three assists.

A matchup with the No. 4 seed, Providence College, which had defeated fifth-seeded New Hampshire 4-1 in another quarterfinal series, awaited BU in the semifinals at the Garden. The Friars had certainly given BU all it could handle in the Hockey East playoffs the previous six years, having won four of five games.

Tomlinson maintained a hot hand on the offensive end, scoring two goals and dishing off two assists to help power the Terriers to a 7-5 victory and a spot in the Hockey East championship game for the first time since 1986. For Tomlinson, it was just more of the same at the Garden, who in 10 career games there increased his offensive totals to six goals and 13 assists.

“I like playing in the Garden” Tomlinson noted in the Globe. “I find it easy to get pumped up and easy to find the puck here.”

BU scored the only two goals of the opening period on a shot from Ahola at the left point and a power play tally from Tomlinson in close.

PC didn’t back down, though, and tied the game at 2-2 at 7:13 of the second period when the skilled Rob Gaudreau beat Cashman on a shorthanded bid. The two teams then exchanged goals, with Tkachuk scoring on a rebound off the boards and PC’s Larry Rooney scoring on a slap shot during the power play.

It was obvious that the Friars weren’t going to go away as they matched BU chance-for chance, but the Terriers countered with a pair of quick goals late in the period to regain control. Ronan struck first with a 35-footer at 17:33 and Amonte followed with a goal at 19:29.

Tomlinson hit the net from 10 feet out to make it 6-3 just under five minutes into the third period, but Gaudreau answered again for PC to pull the Friars within two. McCann delivered the decisive blow for BU when he stole the puck, skated in on goalie Brad Mullahy and shot it home at 8:54 to make it 7-4.

“We played pretty well for a young team. We didn’t lose any face,” PC coach Mike McShane told the Globe. “We skated with BU, but they are bigger and more physical than we are. I don’t think the small rink helped our game, but BU has a lot of guns.”

Northeastern almost pulled off another big upset in the other semifinal before falling to Maine in overtime 4-3 on a goal by Steve Tepper. That set up a clash between the Terriers and Black Bears for the Hockey East title, with Maine coming off that sweep of BU in Orono at the end of January. Befitting of a matchup between two of the most talented offensive teams in the nation, the game would pulse with excitement from the opening face-off to the winning goal, and it would take more than 60 minutes to decide the outcome.

The Black Bears, who by season’s end would win more games (32) than any other Hockey East team, featured a line-up that had six 48-point scorers, including forwards Jean-Yves Roy (37 goals, 45 assists), Brian Downey (29, 34), Scott Pellerin (23, 25) and Martin Robitaille (23, 25), center Jim Montgomery (24, 57) and defenseman Keith Carney (7, 49). The goaltending was also very strong with Garth Snow (18-4, 2.98 goals-against average) and Mike Dunham (14-5-2, 2.96 GAA).

Ronan broke BU’s scoreless drought against Maine that had carried over from the shutout loss on Jan. 26 at the 6:44 mark of the first period when he took a feed from Tomlinson and shot it off Snow’s pads and into the net. Maine pulled into a tie in the second period when the dangerous Roy took the puck away from Krys and snuck a shot into the corner of the net past Bradley. The game remained deadlocked at 1-1 through two periods.

After the teams combined to score just two goals through two periods, four would be put on the board in the final period. The Black Bears edged ahead when Dave LaCouture tipped a shot from the point by Matt Martin past Bradley, but BU answered less than three minutes later after Amonte took a pass from McEachern from behind the net and shot it by Snow. The Terriers looked like they had picked up the game-turning goal at 17:45 when Ahola took a pass from McEachern on the left wing and popped it into the net on the near side, but an interference penalty on Ronan just 17 seconds later put Maine on the power play. Carney tied the game back up at 3-3 just six seconds later when he took a shot through traffic that found its way into the net. The tense final two minutes passed without any scoring and the game headed to overtime.

With just over two minutes having elapsed in OT, von Stefenelli picked up a loose puck at center ice, stickhandled around a defender and pushed it ahead to Amonte at the right wing boards. Amonte spotted a red jersey and sent a cross-ice pass onto the stick of the streaking McEachern, who was flying into the Maine zone. Martin made a futile dive and extended his stick to try and slow down McEachern, but it was too late. McEachern moved in on Snow at the left side of the net, and when the goalie opened his pads, he tucked the puck through the opening to give BU its second Lamoriello Cup in the seventh year of Hockey East, and its 23rd tournament championship all-time on Boston Garden ice. The venue on Causeway Street had been a perfect match for the Terriers down through the years, as they had won 73 of the 113 games they had played there. And, to go along with the Beanpot, ECAC and NCAA titles it had captured at the Garden, BU now added a Hockey East championship to that collection.

McEachern’s goal (video) set off a wild celebration as Snow dejectedly skated away from the crease, Montgomery slumped over the net with his head down, and the tournament MVP eluded an attempted hug from Tkachuk and was finally mobbed at center ice by his joyous teammates. At the other end of the ice, Bradley and Dion embraced and fell to the ice.

“Even though playing against Maine in the championship game was a challenge, we always felt confident as a team playing games in Boston Garden,” McEachern said. “Tony made a great pass to me in the overtime and it was very satisfying to be able to score the winning goal. Even my kids have seen a tape of that goal, when I ducked under Keith and went jumping around the ice in celebration. You look back at that game and at the guys who were on the ice, and it’s just amazing how much talent there was on both teams and how so many guys went on to play in the NHL.”

Although he allowed three goals, Bradley did make 24 saves and played his finest game of the season. He made half a dozen clutch saves in the third period to keep BU in it, and Parker pointed out that the play of his goaltender was the key to the victory.

“I knew it was going to be a one-goal game,” Bradley told the Globe, “and I knew I had to be at my best. It’s as good as I’ve played in goal.”

For the captain, Krys, the Terriers had achieved one of the major team goals for the season in winning the Hockey East title.

“This is something we’ve worked for all year,” he said in the Globe. “All the hard work really came to bear. We had a couple of rough minutes in there [in the third period], but John Bradley played great.”



*****


With a 25-10-2 record the Terriers earned a first-round bye and the No. 2 East seed in the NCAA Tournament, and they would host a best-of-three quarterfinal round series at Walter Brown Arena. The opponent was Michigan, the No.3 West seed, which had defeated Cornell in three games in the opening round. This was the same Wolverines team (34-8-3) that had overcome a five-goal deficit at WBA at the end of November to hang a hard-to-fathom 8-6 defeat on BU. Michigan had some big offensive contributors in Denny Felsner (40 goals, 35 assists), David Roberts (26, 45) and Brian Wiseman (25, 33), as well as a top goalie in Steve Shields (26-6-3, 3.24 goals-against average).

What would transpire on Friday and Saturday nights at Walter Brown Arena was nearly hard to believe, but nonetheless, BU fans ate it up. The Terriers shot out to a 3-0 lead over the Wolverines the first night and never looked back. This time there would be no defensive collapse and there would be nothing even resembling a comeback by the Maize and Blue. Instead, Parker’s club put the pedal to the metal from the get-go and blew Michigan’s doors in, sweeping Berenson’s embattled team back to Ann Arbor by a combined score of 12-2. Eighteen different players figured in the scoring over the two games, and in the words of radio play-by-play announcer Bernie Corbett, the Terriers “went through Michigan like a buzzsaw.”

In the opener, first-period goals by Tkachuk, Tomlinson and Sacco put the Terriers in command, and Cashman (20 saves) did his part, and gained sweet revenge for the November defeat, by keeping the Wolverines off the scoreboard until the third period. BU’s penalty kill snuffed out all seven of Michigan’s power plays and Dion’s empty-net goal with 39 seconds left put the finishing touches on a 4-1 triumph.

It was expected that a team as skilled and as proud as Michigan would come out on fire on Saturday night, but BU was even more dominant than the night before, scoring the first eight goals (and chasing Shields from the crease in the process) and owning every facet of the game. The Wolverines’ frustration continued to build throughout the night as they were whistled for 16 penalties. Amonte, with a pair of goals, and Mike Bavis, with a pair of assists, were the only multiple-point scorers (14 other players had one point) as BU posted an 8-1 victory. The Terriers, who came back out onto the ice from the locker room for a curtain call for the fans, were heading to Minnesota to play in the Final Four for a second consecutive year, something that BU had last accomplished in 1977 and ’78.

“I think we sent out a message to all the teams when we beat Michigan,” Ronan told the Globe. “We played team hockey and every guy played his role just perfect. We’re not individuals, we’re a team, and we’re looking ahead to playing our two best games of the season [at the Final Four].”

“Playing in such a competitive league like Hockey East against teams like BC and Maine helped prepare us for the NCAA Tournament, and I think it really showed in that series at home against Michigan,” McEachern noted.

In the NCAA semifinals the Terriers would be matched up against an old ECAC foe who had come into Walter Brown Arena in November and beaten the home team—Clarkson. Even more impressive, however, was the fact that the Golden Knights (28-8-2) had knocked off the school with the most regular-season wins (35) in the country and had been ranked No. 1 in the polls for 10 straight weeks, Lake Superior State, on the Lakers’ home ice in three games in the quarterfinals.

Clarkson had captured first place in the ECAC standings and then won that league’s tournament title at Boston Garden on the same night that BU had knocked off Maine in overtime. The Golden Knights had a Hobe Baker candidate in Hugo Belanger (32 goals, 43 assists) and other skilled offensive players including Dave Trombley (31, 38), Mike Casselman (19, 35), Mark Green (21, 24) and Scott Thomas (28, 14). Goaltender Chris Rogles had won 16 of 21 starts and had a goals-against average in the low threes. He was the one who had made 37 saves in the November win over BU.

As Jack Parker told the Boston Globe’s Bob Monahan, “Clarkson is an excellent team and plays well in all facets of the game. It has the best power play in the country, which is working at 39 percent. No weak spots. They have a super goalie in Chris Rogles and Hugo Belanger is one of the best scorers around. They have it all.”

Clarkson may well have been a well-rounded team that took down the nation’s No. 1 team on its home ice, but the Golden Knights buckled under the offensive pressure that BU threw at them in the first period.

Things actually started out on a positive note for the Golden Knights when Casselman tipped a shot by Sylvain Lapointe past Cashman for a 1-0 lead just 31 seconds after the game began. But then BU’s offensive skill broke the game open behind a flurry of five first-period goals.

Amonte got it started at 5:15 by taking a feed from Tkachuk, who was positioned behind the net, and firing it past Rogles to tie the score. The sophomore winger, who was known as “Broadway” to his teammates—and who following the game announced that his BU career would be drawing to a close after the last game of the season, as he turned his attention the Olympic team and later an opportunity to play in the NHL with the Rangers—got his second goal of the night on a spectacular shorthanded effort when he maneuvered around a defenseman, skated by Rogles and deposited the puck behind the surprised goalie as his momentum carried him beyond the goal line.

McCann increased BU’s lead to two goals when he redirected a pass through the crease by Sacco. The bad luck for Rogles continued when, with under five minutes until the first intermission, Tomlinson’s passing attempt from behind the net bounced off the back of the goalie’s leg and found its way into the cage. At that point Clarkson coach Mark Morris decided to pull Rogles from the game (he would later return to play the second and third periods) and insert backup Jason Currie, hoping to get out of the period down 4-1.

It didn’t happen. Amonte, like he had done to BC in the Beanpot final, completed his one-period hat trick by scoring off a setup from McEachern at 17:45 to give BU a commanding 5-1 lead. After scoring his third goal Amonte gathered up the puck and skated back to the bench to present it to his coach with the satisfaction of having completed a preseason ambition.

“He has a lot of determination,” Parker said of Amonte in the Globe. “He has great linemates. We were really struggling in January [after losing three of four to BC and Maine]. We had a team meeting. I thought we were getting too individualistic. I said to Tony. ‘This is January. You have only nine goals [after the 5-2 loss to BC on Jan. 18 in BU’s 21st game]. You’re probably not going to get 30. Let’s accept it and do something else.’ He said, ‘I’ll do that, but I’m also getting 30. When I get 30, I’m giving you the puck.’ ”

Clarkson scored the only goal of the second period to cut the deficit to 5-2, but third-period strikes by McEachern and Friedman put the finishing touches on the 7-3 rout as the Terriers won their season-high sixth straight game. Cashman had 18 saves to pick up the win, as BU held the Golden Knights to 21 shots. Including the sweep of Michigan the weekend before, the Terriers’ penalty-killing unit had killed off 15 of 16 power play attempts by their NCAA Tournament opponents. Not to be outdone, Amonte’s four-point night gave him 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 11 career NCAA playoff games.

“I started scoring [after the Beanpot] and the team took off too,” Amonte observed in the Globe. “Since my career is winding down at BU, I want to end it on a good note. We’re in the finals, and that’s where we wanted to be all year. I think it’ll be my last game.”

And in Amonte’s last game in a Scarlet and White jersey, the Terriers would be trying to follow in the successful footsteps of the likes of Jack O’Callahan, Mark Fidler, Dave Silk and Jim Craig, all members of BU’s last national championship team in 1978. Playing for an NCAA title would also have special meaning for BU’s seven seniors—Bradley, Krys, MacDonald, McCann, Ronan, von Stefenelli and Tomlinson—considering that their first two years on campus produced a 28-38-4 record, an 0-3 mark in the Hockey East playoffs and no Beanpot crowns.

In their path would stand Northern Michigan, the No. 2 West seed and the regular-season and tournament champions from the WCHA, with the 37-5-4 Wildcats having taken down Maine in the other semifinal by a score of 5-3, avenging a sweep by the Black Bears in Orono earlier in the season. The victory over the Black Bears raised the Wildcats’ record to 23-0-2 in their last 25 games, with their last loss having come before Christmas. If BC, Maine, Michigan and Clarkson all had what was considered to be strong offensive attacks, the Wildcats’ offense was downright scary. They were the highest-scoring team in the country, averaging 5.7 goals per game, and had scored seven or more goals 17 times during the course of the season.

NMU’s biggest offensive threat was center Scott Beattie, a First Team All-American who had a nation-leading 45 goals and 40 assists for 85 points. Beattie received plenty of support from forwards Jim Hiller (22 goals, 41 assists), Tony Szabo (39, 20), Dallas Drake (22, 36) and Kevin Scott (27, 30). Not to be overlooked was defenseman Brad Werenka, another First Team All-American, who chipped in with 20 goals and 43 assists. Goaltender Bill Pye, a Second Team All-American selection, was 31-3-4 with a goals-against average of 2.76.

Since first meeting on the ice in 1984-85, the Wildcats had won five of seven games against the Terriers, with four having been decided in overtime. That trend would follow in the eighth meeting.




*****


Given that Northern Michigan could crank up its potent offense at just about any time during a game, three important factors loomed for BU as the puck dropped: having the ability to create offensive pressure of its own on Pye, playing a thorough defensive game through center ice and in its own end, and receiving a steady effort from Bradley in goal.

Some nice stick skills displayed by Ronan helped the Terriers jump ahead 1-0 just one minute in. Ronan knocked down a knee-high pass from Tomlinson at the blue line, beat his man into the zone, skated in on Pye and shot the puck over the goalie’s left pad and inside the right post.

Right after that BU goal, however, the Wildcats turned up the heat and took the next seven shots on goal, with Bradley thwarting good attempts by Ed Ward, Hiller and Beattie.

It was during that flurry by NMU that Wally Shaver, the University of Minnesota’s play-by-play announcer who was serving as color analyst alongside play-by-play man Tom Mees on the ESPN broadcast of the game, chillingly remarked, “Boy I tell ya, the way this game has started it could be 8-7 before it’s over with.”

BU upped its lead to 2-0 at the 8:24 mark on one of the more bizarre goals in tournament history. Sacco was skating toward the NMU net with the puck when he was tripped up, landing on his stomach with the puck in front of him. He took a swipe at the puck while sliding on his stomach and missed, but he stayed with the play and while leaning on his right shoulder he connected with the puck and swatted a backhander by the surprised Pye’s right skate and into the net. Sacco then proceeded to raise his arms for a goal while on his back and looking up at the arena’s ceiling.

Just a little over a minute after Sacco’s admirable effort, the Terriers added to their lead when Lachance took a shot from the blue line toward the net and Ronan executed a perfect tip of the airborne puck, knocking it past Pye’s left pad and into the goal. Much to the surprise of many in the arena, the first period was less than half over and BU was sporting a three-goal lead.

With Ward off for checking from behind BU almost clicked again on the power play, but Ahola’s slapper hit off the post. The period came to a close without any further scoring and BU holding and 11-7 shot advantage.

The Wildcats had last been down 3-0 in a January road game at Minnesota-Duluth, but they had fought back to win that contest 5-4. Forty minutes still remained for NMU to get its offensive game in gear, so it went to the locker room to regroup and find ways to turn the pressure up on Bradley and his defense corps.

It was the second period that had turned into the fatal flaw for two other BU teams playing in NCAA championship games in the 1990s. In 1994, in this very same St. Paul building, Lake Superior State outscored BU 5-1 in what was the beginning of an eventual 9-1 rout. In 1996 in Milwaukee, North Dakota outscored the Terriers 5-1 to overcome a 2-0 deficit at the end of the first period, helping propel the Sioux to a 6-4 victory.

The tide of ’91 championship game would shift sharply in the direction of the team in Green and White in the middle period, but unlike Michigan and Clarkson that had fallen behind the Terriers in the three previous NCAA games, the Wildcats had the offensive chops and the will to turn the game around and put BU in a hole.

BU began the period shorthanded, with Ahola having drawn a high-sticking penalty as the first period expired. The Wildcats cashed in on the opportunity when Dean Antos—part of NMU’s checking line, along with Darryl Plandowski and Joe Frederick, that was assigned to slow down the Tkachuk-McEachern-Amonte unit—got to a loose puck in the crease and backhanded it into the net.

It appeared that NMU had cut the margin to one goal when Werenka crashed the net, literally, as he, the puck, and Bradley all ended up inside the cage on an apparent goal, but the it was waved off when the referees ruled that they had lost sight of the puck and had blown the play dead.

Having the goal called off seemed fire up the Wildcats, and they kicked their offense into another gear, spending a good chunk of the period in the BU end. The persistence finally paid off at 14:36 on a carbon copy of BU’s third goal when Lou Melone’s shot from the point was tipped by Mark Beaufait under Bradley’s glove.

With the Wildcats continuing to apply pressure, Parker called a timeout to settle his team down with 5:22 left in the period. It took NMU all of six seconds after the stoppage to tie the game when Beattie scored on a rebound. The Wildcats took the lead 54 seconds later when the checking line struck again, with Plandowski shooting the puck inside the right post off a feed from behind the net from Frederick.

Beattie then scored the final goal of the endless period for the Terriers, who were outshot 16-7, when Dion tried to pass the puck out of the BU zone but had it hit off the heel of his stick. The puck was scooped up by Beattie, who used O’Sullivan as a screen, and fired it into the net. It was Beattie’s 47th goal of the year, a new school record, and chased Bradley from the crease as Parker made a switch and sent Cashman into the game.

The Terriers, having wasted a three-goal lead and now trailing 5-3, found themselves trailing after two periods for only the seventh time in 42 games. In the previous six games it had trailed after 40 minutes, BU had won only once. Meanwhile, the Wildcats had not lost in 34 games while holding the lead after two periods, going 32-0-2.

A little over three minutes into the final period it was NMU’s turn to move out to a three-goal lead when Cashman made a pad save on Steve Carpenter’s drive, only to have Beattie pounce on the loose puck in the left circle and shoot it five-hole past Cashman for the hat trick.

Tomlinson cut the deficit to 6-4 when he got tangled up with Werenka, started to fall to the ice and whipped a forehand shot between Pye’s pads for his 30th goal of the campaign. But when Plandowski hit the back of the net at 8:24 to make it a three-goal game again, it was looking more and more like the Wildcats would win their second championship at the Civic Center in a matter of weeks, having already defeated Minnesota in the finals of the WCHA Tournament.

It would take Amonte three minutes to alter that perception when he received a McEachern pass in front of the net and popped the puck over Pye’s left shoulder. That tandem would then officially help turn the game into nailbiter at 14:59, when Amonte carried the puck up the right wing, and as two defenders converged on him, he made a one-handed pass across to McEachern who was skating toward the crease. McEachern only had to tap the puck into the open net to make it 7-6 with sufficient time left to give BU hope of tying the game.

“Neither of the teams were playing a lot of defense in that game,” recalled McEachern, “and we were able to come back in the third period because we just kept playing hard on offense and kept creating chances.

“The NHL had become such a high-scoring league in the 1980s that it carried right over into the college game. The real emphasis in college hockey in those days was on scoring.”

As the game clock continued to wind down Cashman stopped Szabo from in close and Pye denied MacDonald on a wraparound attempt.

With just 50 seconds left in the game and the Wildcats clinging to a one-goal lead, Cashman skated off the ice and Parker sent a sixth skater over the boards to give BU a 6-on-5 advantage. The Terriers got the puck in the NMU zone and a bang-bang play followed that brought BU fans out of their seats. Lachance was pressured by two Wildcats inside the right circle, but instead of losing the puck and having it head the other way for a possible empty-net goal, he dove and extended his stick and pushed it over to Sacco who had found some open space in the left circle. Sacco chipped a quick shot over Melone’s stick and into the open net—Pye had moved against the left post when Lachance had possession of the puck—to tie the game at 7-7 with 39 ticks left on the clock.

For the Terriers, an unlikely rally had turned into reality, and for Northern Michigan, the possibility of letting a championship slip away hung over its stunned bench.

“Thirty-nine seconds to a national championship and they score,” Plandowski told Sports Illustrated. “I was ill, sick to my stomach.”

With six goals having already been scored in the period, the two teams would likely spend the last 39 seconds playing carefully and waiting for overtime to take their chances, correct? Well, not exactly.

Ronan took a quick shot on net that Pye got a piece of, and then von Stefenelli retreated back into the BU zone to corral the puck with under 10 seconds left. He spotted Amonte breaking through center ice and put a pass on his stick. With six seconds left Amonte entered his own Bobby Thomson at the Polo Grounds moment, looking to give college hockey its own version of The Shot Heard ’Round the World while putting the finishing touch on an astounding BU comeback.

Amonte split two defenders at the blue line and moved in on Pye with scant little time left. Pye reacted aggressively and moved out of the cage to blunt the rush. Amonte uncorked a hard, low shot, trying to beat Pye to the glove side, but Pye saw the puck come off the stick and snared it with his glove with one second left in regulation.

“I wanted to come out on him because I knew he didn’t have much time,” Pye told the Globe. “I didn’t have time to think. I didn’t know what he was going to do but I had my glove ready. I knew I had to have my glove ready. It was probably the best save I ever made. I stopped it or we lost.”

Despite being rushed, Amonte took the shot he wanted.

“I didn’t have much time,” Amonte said in the Globe. “I knew there were only a couple of seconds left and that’s why Pye came so out on me. I wanted to get it under his glove [and shot it] right where I wanted it to go.”

So, for the second time in three years, an overtime game in St. Paul would determine the NCAA Division I hockey champion. BU owned a 1-0-2 mark in overtime games while Northern Michigan was 1-0-4. One team would suffer its first OT loss in the final game of the season.




*****



Much like they had done in the second period, the Wildcats carried the play and created the better chances in the first overtime. The best opportunities to end it for NMU came on a Phil Soukoroff blast from the point that hit the right post, Beattie being denied on a pad save by Cashman at the left side of the net, and Hiller’s shot from the doorstep being gloved by Cashman.

Under the NCAA rules at the time, one 10-minute overtime was played, and if there was no winner, a three-minute break was taken, followed by another 10-minute overtime period. If the game was not decided by that point the teams would go to the locker room for a full intermission while the ice was cleaned, and then return for a third 10-minute OT.

After the Wildcats had dominated play for the first nine minutes of the first OT (they outshot BU 8-2), the Terriers gained possession inside the final minute, creating two sudden scoring chances in an agonizing four-second sequence that left them inches from victory. Inches.

O’Sullivan picked up the puck at his own blue line and gathered some speed through center ice. He carried the puck into the NMU zone, made a nice move to get around defenseman Garett MacDonald, headed toward the left faceoff dot and let a shot fly at the net, with Pye having come out of his crease to cut down the angle. The puck flew by Pye’s right skate, smacked against the left post, and traveled across the crease. Werenka, trailing the play and covering Tkachuk to the right of the net, had the puck hit off his right skate and move left again, in the direction of the slot.

That’s where McEachern just happened to be, all by himself, with an open net to shoot at with Pye out of position after the attempted save on O’Sullivan. McEachern had a split second to react and flicked a shot at the net. Once again the left post came into play and the puck bounced off the iron, moving right while hugging the goal line. Werenka saw the puck and attempted to stop it, but it hit his left skate and headed in the opposite direction, moving left and getting closer to crossing over the line before Pye recovered and trapped it with his glove, leaving BU’s stirring come-from-behind win two posts and one skate-blade ricochet from completion.

What of McEachern’s near miss off the same post O’Sullivan hit?

“It happens. The puck went in for me against Maine in the Hockey East final but it didn’t happen in overtime in the NCAA final,” McEachern noted. “That’s the way it is in hockey. Truthfully, I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it, not any more than some of the other missed opportunities I had in that game.”

The Wildcats made one final rush after BU’s twin post hits, and Szabo wound up and fired a rocket from the blue line. The puck sailed over Cashman’s right shoulder and looked like it might be the game winner, but it pinged off the crossbar and over the glass for a stoppage in play. The iron remained both Pye’s and Cashman’s best friend.

With only a three-minute break after the first OT, the pace slowed in the second extra session. BU owned a 5-3 advantage in shots, but the Terriers survived a scare when Melone’s shot from the point was tipped in traffic and bounced through the crease. Pye made a stop on Ronan in front, as well as a pad save on Amonte and then Tkachuk, following up the rebound with a backhander. Beaufait also had a shot smothered by Krys at the right of the crease. The only penalties of overtime were handed out to Ward and Amonte for slashing at 9:31, when Ward hit Amonte after the whistle and Amonte reacted and went after Ward. Both teams would skate the first 1:31 of the third OT down a man.

The ice surface opened up with the four-on-four play and Lachance, who had made his game-saving pass for the tying goal in what seemed like forever ago, squeezed through two defenders and came in alone on Pye before shooting the puck over the top of the net.

Soon after the Wildcats made their final rush of the game up ice, aided by a late change on the BU bench, caused by some miscommunication, leaving NMU with a brief 5-on-4 situation which it took advantage of. Beaufait carried the puck down the right wing with O’Sullivan and Ronan giving chase, and as he nearly reached the goal line, and with Cashman putting his right pad along the ice, he spotted an open Plandowski in the slot and quickly slid the puck in that direction. Cashman had followed Beaufait’s path toward the goal and scrambled back into position as the puck arrived on Plandowski’s stick. Plandowski buried it in the open net ahead of the lunging Cashman for NMU’s second hat trick of the game and first and only NCAA title, ending the second-longest NCAA championship game ever after 81:57 of playing time. Right after the goal judge flicked on the red light the Wildcats piled on top of Plandowski in front of the net and Cashman remained face down in the crease for a few seconds, feeling the frustration of the end of BU’s season. It was a scene captured in a photo in Sports Illustrated the following week.

“I remember being awfully tired when the game ended. We felt we had the type of team to win the championship but we fell short,” recalled McEachern. “We were all very disappointed when we lost. Any time you make it to the final game and lose, it’s tough to take.”

On the other side, getting the win in any way possible was all that mattered.

“Losing that game would have been with us the rest of our lives, and yet in overtime, you don’t think about how you might blow it,” Werenka, whose skates nearly cost his team a victory, said in SI. “All you think about is winning.”

Parker had to coax his drained team to lift themselves off the ice and exit the bench area to exchange postgame handshakes with the Wildcats.

“We certainly created something different out there tonight. This was a tough loss to absorb,” Parker observed afterward. “It would have been terrific to win this one and be called national champions. But it doesn’t take away the fact that we had a fabulous year. I told the players that they should be grateful to have been around each other for the year, and that they should be grateful for all they accomplished. We had a pretty nice ride through the playoffs and an emotional one tonight.”

Being a cinema buff, Parker described an interview of Marlon Brando he had seen on television that may well have summed up the emotion-draining, back-and-forth game that had just played out.

“I was watching Connie Chung interview Marlon Brando,” Parked noted in SI, “and Chung asked him his philosophy of life. He said, “You take your last breath and you say to yourself, What was that all about?’ ”





*****


The driving force behind the success of the 28-11-2 Terriers in 1990-91 was the offensive firepower that BU overwhelmed opponents with, as three players hit for 30 or more goals and seven finished with 16 or more. For the season BU outgunned the opposition 234-142—numbers that included a 101-38 advantage in goals scored in the first period—and the 234 goals is the second-highest mark in school history, trailing only the 1995-96 club that pumped in 236 goals.

The power play hit at a 23 percent clip, with 52 goals in 224 chances. Tomlinson led the way with nine power play strikes; Ahola and Amonte had seven each; McEachern had six and Sacco and Koskimaki had five apiece. As for game-winners, Amonte had five, McEachern and Tomlinson four, and Ronan three. Of the team’s 11 shorthanded tallies, McEachern led the way with four and Amonte picked up three.

The first line of Tkachuk-McEachern-Amonte has earned a spot as being among BU’s greatest ever, even though it was only together for a little over four months, and with good reason. McEachern used his superior speed and skill to lead the team in scoring with 82 points, hitting for a team-high 34 goals and dishing off a team-high 48 assists with a team-best plus-55 rating. He was named a First Team All-American, All-Hockey East First Team and was BU’s Team MVP. His 82 points is the second-highest mark ever in a season at BU, trailing only Jack Garrity’s 84 points in 1949-50. The NMU game was the last at BU for McEachern, as he departed school as a junior and went to play for the U.S. Olympic team in France in 1992. After the Olympics concluded, McEachern played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and was a member of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 1992. He played in 911 career games in the NHL with Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston, Ottawa and Atlanta, collecting 256 goals and 323 assists for 579 points.

“I got off to a good start that season and had a lot of confidence. I was playing with Tony for the second straight year and Keith joined the line that season,” said McEachern of his 82-point campaign. “Those were two pretty good linemates. To have a big season you have to play with great players and I was lucky to play with two of the best that year.

“It was also my third college season and I had worked with Mike Boyle for three years, getting stronger and faster.”

Amonte, the right winger with the slick moves that delivered hat tricks in the Beanpot final and the NCAA semifinals, finished second in scoring with 68 points on 31 goals and 37 assists and a plus-50 rating. Three days after BU’s season ended he signed with the Rangers and began a long and successful NHL career that included stops in New York—he was traded by the Rangers to the Blackhawks in March of 1994, just three months before New York broke its 54-year Stanley Cup drought—Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Calgary. He played in 1,174 games and lit the lamp 416 times and had 484 assists for 900 points. On the international level, Amonte played for the U.S. Olympic Team in 1998 in Japan and 2002 in Salt Lake City and he scored the game-winning goal for the U.S. squad in the third and deciding game against Canada at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

Tkachuk, the power forward with excellent hands, was a first round draft pick of Winnipeg in 1990 and wore a BU jersey for just one season, contributing 17 goals and 23 assists. After leaving the college ranks he went on to become the most prolific scorer of any former Terrier in the NHL, playing in 1,201 games with a nearly perfect balance on the score sheet of 538 goals (including an NHL-best 52 in 1996-97 for the Coyotes) and 527 assists for 1,065 points. Tkachuk also played in four Olympics, in ’92 with McEachern and five other former BU players, in ’98 in Japan, in 2002 in Salt Lake and in 2006 in Italy.

The second line also made some significant contributions with Tomlinson, the center, finishing with 30 goals and 30 assists for 60 points, Ronan, the left wing, chipping in with 16 goals and 19 assists, and left wing Koskimaki adding 16 and 22. Although Ronan only played in 182 career NHL games, he is one of six former Terriers to have won a Stanley Cup, as he did as a member of the 1993 Montreal Canadiens.

Sacco bounced back from his shoulder surgery to contribute 21 goals and 40 assists, and his game-tying goal against Northern Michigan was one of the most significant in BU’s postseason history. He finished his career as BU’s second all-time leading scorer with 74 goals and 143 assists for 217 points, and his assist total is tied with John Cullen for the BU career lead. He also wore the colors of the U.S. Olympic team in 1994 in France.

The role players, such as McCann (18 points) and the Bavis twins, Mike (23) and Mark (16), grinded at both ends of the ice, played good defense and added some timely goals during the course of the season. The Bavis twins would go on to share the Bennett McInnis Memorial Award for Team Spirit in both 1991-92 and 1992-93. Mike Bavis was also voted the top defensive forward in New England in ’92 and ’93 and has been a member of Jack Parker’s coaching staff for 13 years. Tragically, Mark Bavis lost his life on that darkest of days, 9/11, when he was a passenger aboard a highjacked United Airlines plane that crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Amazingly, Krys, the former captain, was working in the same building that the United plane Bavis was aboard crashed into, but he was able to escape without suffering any injuries.

Ahola was the highest scoring defenseman, contributing 12 goals and 24 assists for 36 points. He was voted a member of the Hockey East All-Decade Team in 1994.Two days after Amonte signed with the Rangers, Ahola’s two-year career at BU came to a close when he signed as a free agent with Los Angeles. He played in 123 career NHL games with Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Calgary. Ahola’s defense partner in BU’s top pair, von Stefenelli, pitched in with seven goals and 23 assists and was a steady presence in his own end with a plus-34 rating. The second defensive tandem included Krys and Lachance (five goals, 19 assists), who was chosen in the first round of the 1991 draft by the New York Islanders. Like Tkachuk, Lachance left BU after his freshman campaign and played in 819 NHL games with the Islanders, Montreal, Vancouver and Columbus, scoring 31 goals and picking up 112 assists. O’Sullivan (11 points) and Dion (six goals and 20 points) formed the last defense duo, with O’Sullivan nearly helping BU win the national title with his overtime rush and Dion, who would serve as the team captain in 1991-92, bouncing back with a solid season after knee surgery.

Cashman and Bradley split the goaltending duties almost evenly. Cashman, who played so well in relief in the national championship game, compiled a 14-7-1 record in 22 games with a 3.58 goals-against average. Bradley, who beat BC in the Beanpot final and Maine in the Hockey East final, appeared in 20 games, finishing at 14-4-1 with a 3.16 GAA. Incredibly, Cashman had 474 total saves to Bradley’s 475. Sadly, Cashman, who ranks third all-time in BU career wins with 60, succumbed to a heart ailment in 2008 at the age of 39.





*****

“My three years at BU were tremendous and I have a bunch of great memories,” added McEachern. “Jack Parker was a fun coach to play for and was a good motivator. The 1990-91 season was a special one, playing with a great group of guys. When you win hockey games like our team did, it’s a lot of fun.”

That it was.

3 comments:

tony said...

now that I read the book, I can't wait for the movie. NICE JOB!

anon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon said...

My last season as a resident in Boston and my favorite. I was working part-time for the Sports Information Office that year and used to run Super Shot and the message scoreboard, so I was at every single home game and most of the away games as well. Your post has brought back a flood of great memories... when Phil von Stef scored to tie the game against BC in the last regular season home game it was the loudest I'd ever heard WBA, the crowd just exploded. Alas, it didn't end the way we had wanted but it was still a great ride.