Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The 1996-97 Terriers: A Few Good Men
The 1996-97 Terriers: A Few Good Men
When the Boston University hockey team skated onto the ice at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati for a semifinal round matchup against the University of Michigan in the 1996 NCAA Tournament, the Terriers did so as defending national champions.
Just 361 days earlier, BU had defeated Maine 6-2 in the 1995 title game at the Providence Civic Center, earning the school's fourth NCAA crown and its first since 1978.
The Terriers had begun the 1995-96 season with a talent-laden roster that included a pair of returning All-American forwards in First Team selection Mike Grier and Second Team pick Chris O'Sullivan, with those two the top two scorers on the national championship squad. Joining Grier and O'Sullivan were 10 other veterans who had helped the Terriers capture two consecutive Hockey East championships and had competed in two straight NCAA championship games, losing to Lake Superior State in 1994 and downing the Black Bears in '95. Coach Jack Parker and his club had their sights set on becoming the first school to string together three straight Hockey East titles and the first to win back-to-back NCAA championships since the dominant BU teams of the early 1970s turned the trick in '71 and '72.
"We have enough skill to have a successful season," Parker said of his team in the preseason. "Just how successful we are, though, depends on our mental approach. It will be interesting to see how the players come together as a team. That is going to be very important this year because everyone will be pointing to us [as defending NCAA champions]."
There was tangible excitement in the air at Walter Brown Arena on opening night, Oct. 20, with the Beanpot, Hockey East and NCAA championship banners being raised and WCHA foe North Dakota serving as the opponent. But a night that started with such promise and electricity soon regressed into one of the darkest in program history. Freshman forward Travis Roy, on his first collegiate shift, suffered a career-ending and life-altering injury when he glanced off Fighting Sioux defenseman Mitch Vig on an attempted check and fell head-first into the end boards, cracking two vertebra and leaving him a quadriplegic. It was a tragic, freakish accident that ripped through the collective soul of the BU program, but in a show of support for their fallen teammate, the Terriers hung Roy's jersey up over the bench at every practice and game the rest of the season.
Roy has remained close to Parker and the program, and he is the only BU player ever to have his jersey (24) retired. He has continued to be an inspirational figure despite his traumatic injury, and over a decade ago he helped establish the Travis Roy Foundation, dedicated to enhancing the life of individuals with spinal cord injuries.
Despite being staggered by the emotional impact of Roy's injury in the season opener, the Terriers pulled together and shot out of the gate with four straight wins, en route to a red-hot start that gave BU a 15-1-1 record by the time it defeated Notre Dame 7-3 in the championship game of the Badger Hockey Showdown on Dec. 29. One of those 15 victories, by a 7-1 count over traditional rival Cornell at Brown Arena on Nov. 21, gave Parker his 500th career win behind the bench. The only setback up to that point was a 6-5 overtime loss to New Hampshire in Durham. The most striking feature of BU's start was the overwhelming offensive firepower the Terriers showcased, as they scored six or more goals in 12 of their first 17 games.
BU maintained its fast pace and kept racking up wins throughout January and February (although the team did suffer back-to-back losses for the first time all season following a home-and home series sweep by Lowell on the last weekend in January), and when Northeastern was overwhelmed 11-4 in the Beanpot championship game, with rising sophomore center Chris Drury's hat trick leading the way, the Terriers stood at 22-3-3. The last six games of the regular season resulted in four wins and BU claimed first place in the Hockey East standings with a 17-5-2 mark.
The Terriers (26-5-3) opened the Hockey East playoffs by hosting eighth-seeded Massachusetts (10-17-6) at Brown Arena. BU proceeded to blow out the Minutemen in two straight by scores of 5-2 and 14-1, with 11 different Terriers scoring goals the second night.
That sent BU into the semifinals at the Fleet Center, where they would meet Providence, a team that the Terriers had beaten in all three regular-season meetings, but one that had been traditionally tough on them in the Hockey East playoffs, having won four of the previous seven postseason meetings between the schools. That success would continue for the Friars as they opened up a 4-2 lead after two periods, one which grew to 5-2 early in the third period. BU countered with two quick goals, a shorthanded strike by Grier followed by an even strength one by Jay Pandolfo, giving the Hockey East Player of the Year an incredible five hat tricks for the season. The Terriers pressured the PC cage late, but goaltender Dan Dennis didn't allow any other goals and BU's hopes of winning a third consecutive Hockey East title fell short. A 7-3 win over Lowell in the third place game the next night (prior to Providence beating Maine for the title), with Pandolfo accounting for two goals and two assists, was of little consolation to BU.
Trying to shake off the disappointment of the playoff loss to Providence, the Terriers prepared for the NCAA Tournament, where as the top seed in the East they would travel to Albany to face No. 5 East seed Clarkson (25-9-3), which had whipped Western Michigan 6-1 in the first round. BU and the Golden Knights had met earlier in the season, skating to a 4-4 overtime time in Boston over Thanksgiving break.
Waiting in Cincinnati for BU was its semifinal opponent, Michigan. The Wolverines (31-7-2), the No. 2 West seed, had advanced with a 4-3 win over the third seed in the West, Minnesota. The maize and blue had suffered through three straight agonizing NCAA knockouts, losing to eventual national champion Maine 4-3 in overtime in the 1993 semifinals; 5-4 in overtime to eventual national champion Lake Superior State in the '94 quarterfinals; and again to Maine, by the identical 4-3 score, but in game that went to a third overtime, in the '95 semifinals. Needless to say the Wolverines, who were last NCAA champions back in 1964, had a major score to settle.
BU and Michigan had met in the NCAA tournament six previous times since 1950, with the Terriers having won three of those games, including the most recent matchup in '91 with a dominant two-game sweep of the best-of-3 quarterfinal round series at Brown Arena.
The opening faceoff was delayed 90 minutes due necessary repairs being made to the ice surface of the Riverfront Coliseum, and when the game finally started, the Wolverines came out of the shoot like a rodeo bull, putting BU back on its heels. Michigan scored two goals in the first five minutes and through the first 10 minutes owned a commanding 18-1 margin in shots on goal.
"You saw it right off the bat," Parker told The Boston Globe. "The pace of the game was quick and we weren't staying with it. I thought we stood around and watched to see how good they were going to be."
One player who had no chance to stand around was Noble, who despite allowing those two goals, still managed to keep BU in the game while turning back wave after wave of Michigan shots. As a freshman Noble had earned the victory over Maine in the NCAA title game, so he was accustomed to playing in pressure situations.
"We haven't faced what Michigan showed us in those first 10 minutes too often," Noble said in the Globe. "The delay [of the game's start time] did play a factor as to why we came out flat, and the ice was a problem throughout, but that's certainly no excuse."
After that 10-minute Michigan flurry, BU settled down and put together some offensive chances on the Michigan net, but Marty Turco, the winningest goaltender in NCAA history (127-28-7) and a future NHL regular, didn't let any pucks get by him. During the final three minutes of the first period Turco turned back four scoring chances by the Terriers, including a glove save on Pandolfo on the power play. BU would finish the game 0 for 4 on the power play after producing an astounding 82 power-play strikes in the previous 39 games.
Over the final two periods the Michigan attack slowed considerably, taking just nine shots on the BU net, but scored on two of them. The Terriers were able to slow the early frenetic pace of the game down, but they were unable to solve the Wolverines nation-leading defense or Turco, who turned away all 18 shots he faced in the 4-0 victory. Two days later, the Wolverines defeated Colorado College 3-2 in overtime to end their 32-year NCAA championship drought.
"I knew everyone was talking about how good they were up front," Parker told the Globe. "They have brand-name players up there. A lot [of teams] have a few, but they had more. But looking at the film, you saw how hard their defense worked and how tough it is to get to the net."
And because of Michigan's attention to defense, BU, which had the highest-scoring team in the nation (6.05 goals per game), one that had produced a school-record 236 goals with eight players scoring 10 or more goals, was blanked for the first time in 53 NCAA Tournament games. The Terriers had last been held scoreless in a game during the 1993-94 season in an overtime tie against Maine.
"Michigan was as well prepared as any team we've faced," Parker added in the Globe. "They reminded me of our team earlier this season in their up-tempo style and the way they showed so much determination."
After exchanging postgame handshakes and skating off the ice, little did the Terriers and Wolverines know that they would be destined for an NCAA semifinal rematch in Brewtown the following March.
Denied in its attempt at repeating as Hockey East champions and back-to-back NCAA champions, BU headed into the 1996-97 season a little shy of personnel.
Missing were a trio of valuable seniors in Jay Pandolfo, a First Team All-American and runner-up in the Hobey Baker voting after scoring a team-high 38 goals and adding 29 assists; Bob Lachance, who dished off a team-high 38 assists; and defenseman Doug Wood, who had scored a career-high 35 points in his final season. Two juniors also left school early to pursue their NHL careers. Power forward Mike Grier, who combined a punishing physical game with a skilled offensive touch around the net that led to 59 goals over three seasons, went to play for the Edmonton Oilers, and the versatile Chris O'Sullivan, the Most Outstanding Player of the 1995 NCAA Tournament who had played both forward and defense for the Terriers, left to begin his pro career with the Calgary Flames. Pandolfo and Grier both enjoyed lengthy and successful NHL careers, with Pandolfo just completing his 14th season in 2011-12 with the Islanders. For 13 previous seasons he played for the Devils and excelled as a defensive forward and penalty killer, becoming just the second BU player (along with Scott Young) to have his named engraved on the Stanley Cup twice. The gritty Grier played for four different teams (Oilers, Capitals, Sabres and Sharks) over his 14-season career, accounting for 162 goals and 383 points.
"We will be a few good men. We need to have players who want to be as good as they can be," Parker said in his preseason assessment of his team. "In terms of numbers, this is the thinnest team we've ever had. Twenty players will dress for a game and we have only 23 on the roster. We will have one extra forward, one extra defenseman and one extra goalie.
"We have a good feel for what the juniors and seniors can provide us, but a lot will depend on the freshmen and sophomores. We will be depending more on these classes this year than in previous years."
The returning sophomores, numbering four, were goalie Michel Larocque (10-1-1 as a freshman), defenseman Dan Ronan (39 games) and forwards Albie O'Connell (nine goals) and Brendan Walsh (16 assists). The incoming freshmen group of five included forwards Bobby Hanson, Chris Heron, Dan LaCouture, Greg Quebec and defenseman Tom Poti.
Among the upperclassmen back in the lineup up front were Drury (who happened to lead the team in scoring as a sophomore with 35 goals and 33 assists, earning Second Team All-American recognition), Sylvia, Shawn Bates (28 goals), team captain Bill Pierce, Matt Wright, Peter Donatelli and John Hynes; defensemen Chris Kelleher, Jon Coleman (led all defensemen with 31 assists and was named Second Team All-American), Shane Johnson, Jeff Kealty and Rich Alger; and Noble (34-6-2 over his first two seasons) in the net. Depth may not have been prevalent on this team, but it certainly had the necessary ingredients of talent and experience.
"Lack of depth is our biggest concern at forward. We will have good size, speed and skill. We are just not going to be as prolific as we have been in the past," Parker noted. "We need forwards who will forecheck and play a more physical type of game. We're going to have to make it more difficult for teams to play us.
"We have to be more intense in our defensive zone. We have to be more focused in our defensive coverage in front of our net. We have to do a better job than we did last year in getting the puck to our blue line and then getting it out of the zone."
Despite the roster shortcomings, made worse by the fact that Hynes was shut down for the season after just one game, due to a neck injury (he had played in 34 games in 1995-96), Parker still liked the makeup of the squad.
"I like this team," he added. "This is going to be a good group to work with."
Like they had the season before, the Terriers once again sprinted out to a fast start, winning nine of their first 11 games with one tie, with the only blemish a 4-2 home loss to Vermont of the ECAC. The Catamounts, coming off a Final Four appearance in '96, were led by future NHL stars Martin St. Louis and Tim Thomas.
Over Thanksgiving the Terriers embarked on a two-game trip to North Country and returned with a pair of losses, 2-0 to St. Lawrence, with Larries goalie Jon Bracco stopping 46 shots, and 4-1 to Clarkson, with the Golden Knights outshooting the Terriers 39-32. BU finished up its three-game ECAC road swing with a 1-1 overtime tie against Yale in New Haven, with goalie Alex Westlund making 41 saves.
Three games remained before the end of the calendar year and the Terriers went 1-1-1, giving them a mark of 10-4-3 through 17 games. The win was posted at home against Boston College by a 6-4 score, as Drury scorched the Eagles for four goals. Then came a road trip out to Grand Forks for a two-game set with North Dakota. The Fighting Sioux won the opener 6-4 with a three-goal third period and the teams skated to a 2-2 overtime tie the next night, as Larocque finished with 47 saves and Drury and Bates hit the back of the net. It would not be the last meeting of the season between BU and UND.
The Terriers rang in 1997 by greeting a new teammate, forward Tommi Degerman, who arrived from Helsinki, Finland. On leave from the Finnish army to pursue a college education in the U.S., he had played three years of junior hockey in Espoo, the hometown of former BU defenseman Peter Ahola, a Second Team All-American in 1990-91. Degerman, who would go on to become BU's first European-born team captain as a senior, enjoyed a successful debut in a Terrier jersey, scoring two goals and handing out two assists in a 9-4 romp over UNH in the first game of January.
As Parker related to the late, great hockey writer Jack Falla (BU '67) in a profile on Degerman in Bostonia magazine, the first impression he got of his Finnish import was an impressive one.
"The team was returning from North Dakota and Tommi, who joined us midseason, had just flown in from Helsinki," Parker recalled. "I told him to meet us at the rink and I'd introduce him to the guys. But by the time I walked into the dressing room, there's Tommi going around shaking hands with each player."
Seven games followed before the first round of the Beanpot and the Terriers went 3-2-2, with wins over UNH (3-2 in OT), Northeastern and Providence wrapped around a pair of overtime ties (4-4 and 5-5) against Boston College and consecutive 3-1 setbacks against Lowell on the road and Maine at home.
In the Beanpot opener against Harvard, BU, clinging to a 1-0 lead after two periods, blew the game open with six goals over the final 20 minutes against embattled Crimson netminder J.R. Prestifilippo. Like O'Sullivan before him, Johnson moved from defense to forward and ended up scoring a goal and collecting two assists. Larocque came up with 24 saves.
For the sixth time since the 1978-79 season, BU and BC (a program on the rise under Jerry York) met in the Beanpot championship game. Like the five previous times the teams had met for the Pot, the Terriers came out on top, this time by a 4-2 margin, to win the tournament for the fourth straight year. And as they had done the week before against Harvard, BU saved its best effort for the third period, outscoring the Eagles 4-1, with Pierce netting the game-winner on a breakaway to earn MVP honors. Noble was credited with stopping 27 shots, including his best of the night on Jamie O'Leary on a solo rush following Pierce's goal.
After skating to a 6-1 home win and a 5-5 overtime road tie against Lowell, BU headed up to Orono to take on the Black Bears at Alfond Arena for a two-game set starting on Feb. 21. The team's depth was further eroded before the trip when Walsh was dismissed from the team for breaking team rules. In 27 games he had five goals and eight assists, but was also the team leader in penalty minutes with 78. Walsh eventually transferred to Maine, where he became a key contributor on the Black Bears' 1999 NCAA championship team.
On Friday night Maine scored three goals in the opening period, and backed by Alfie Michaud's 20 saves, blanked the Terriers 3-0. Combined with the shutout road loss to St. Lawrence at the end of November, BU had been blanked twice during one season for the first time since 1961-62. The next night things got even worse, as the Black Bears rode a four-goal second period to a 7-2 rout, with 24 penalties being called and the home team scoring three times on the power play. Defensemen David Cullen and Jason Mansoff each had a pair of goals, as Maine finished off the three-game season sweep. Despite the score, Noble still made 32 saves in the BU net.
Looking to wrap up first place in Hockey East for the fourth straight season, BU hosted the final two games against Merrimack and UNH. In the matchup with the Warriors the visitors struck first on a goal by Rejean Stringer, but BU countered with tallies by Pierce and Coleman in the second period, and with Larocque making 19 stops, the Terriers squeezed out a 2-1 victory. The Wildcats needed a win over BU on Saturday night to capture first place in the league standings, but they fell short, and the Terriers swept the three-game season series with a 5-1 triumph, as five different players scored goals and Larocque turned aside 29 shots.
Eighth-seeded Northeastern (3-19-2 in Hockey East) was the opponent in the best-of-3 quarterfinal round of the Hockey East playoffs. During the season the Terriers had beaten the Huskies all three times by a combined margin of 18-7. The postseason matches between the two schools would tell the same story.
In Game 1 the Huskies, despite having lost 10 straight games to BU dating back to the 1994-95 campaign, found themselves tied with the Terriers 2-2 after two periods. Then the home team exploded for four goals in less than 10 minutes, with three of the four scored by freshman (Poti, LaCouture and Quebec), and BU had a 6-2 victory. Noble's 20 saves gave him his 14th playoff victory in 16 starts since his freshman year.
The Terriers had an easier time in Game 2, as a four-goal second period opened up a 5-1 advantage en route to a 7-1 romp. The big story of the night was Wright's first career hat trick, which he completed a little over six minutes into the final period. As a sophomore Wright had the distinction of scoring BU's last goal ever in Boston Garden, during the '95 Hockey East championship game win over Providence. Larocque stopped 30 NU shots to pick up his first postseason victory, and after alternating starts for most of the season with Noble, he would be given the nod by Parker to make every start for the remainder of the season as the owner of the hot hand in the crease.
"I have a lot of respect for Tommy," Larocque said in the Globe. "He won a national championship here, something very special. We get along great, both on the ice and after practice. We're really close and we've been able to help each other out. I've been on other teams where goalies haven't gotten along and you're fighting for a spot, but here it's different. I've learned a lot from his game."
BU had been knocked out of the '96 Hockey East playoffs by Providence in the semifinal round, but one year later it wouldn't get the opportunity to avenge that setback because the third-seeded Friars had been swept on their home ice by sixth-seeded Lowell (15-20-2), the Terriers' semifinal round opponent at the Fleet Center. BU had beaten Lowell in the 1994 Hockey East championship game but success against the River Hawks had not come easily in 1996-97, as the Terriers dropped a 3-1 decision and picked up a 6-1 victory in their final two trips to Tully Forum before skating to a 5-5 overtime tie at Walter Brown Arena.
Like it had the previous March in the semifinals, BU found itself trailing in the second period, with goals from Chris Bell and Greg Koehler giving the River Hawks a 2-1 edge. But Kelleher drew the Terriers even with his second goal of the game (the first two-goal game of his career) on a shot through a screen on the power play. The game-winner was scored by Bates at the 4:17 mark of the third period when he uncorked a slapper from the right side and beat Lowell goalie Marty Fillion up high. Just prior to the goal, Bates was laboring on the bench after hurting his knee, but he found enough strength to score the game winner on his last shift of the game.
"He banged up his knee and wasn't sure if he could go," Parker told uscollegehockey.com. "He'd already missed one shift but he thought he could give us one more and he scored the winning goal."
Larocque made the lead stand up with 24 saves while not allowing a goal in the third period for the fifth straight game. Fillion was also sharp, finishing with 38 saves.
"That was exactly the kind of game we expected to see against Lowell," Parker told uscollegehockey.com. "It's a real solid team, a real well-coached team. We couldn't look to jump on their turnovers because they don't make turnovers.
"I thought the keys to the game were that the goaltending was terrific at our end and we won the penalty game. We got two goals out of three power plays and they were 0 for 4. I also thought we did a really good job through center ice. We didn't give them any jumps, two-on-ones and three-on-twos."
Second-seeded New Hampshire (28-9), which shut out fifth-seeded Boston College 4-0 in the other semifinal, was BU's opponent in the championship game. The Wildcats, who had lost in the '92 final to Maine, were in search of their first Hockey East title.
UNH set a fast pace to open the game and put the Terriers on the defensive. Mark Mowers gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead with his 25th goal just 1:16 in, off a feed from Tom Nolan. BU evened the score when LaCouture converted O'Connell's pass for a power-play strike at 12:58. By that time BU had settled down and weathered the storm of UNH's early pressure.
"After the first five minutes of the game I was wondering if we were ever going to show up, the way they came at us and just drilled us," Parker told uscollegehockey.com. "I think at one time the shots were 7-1 for them in the first period, and it wound up 11-8, so we righted the ship right there. [LaCouture's goal] gave us a lot of momentum and confidence going into the rest of the game. That was the biggest goal of the game for us."
Early in the second period with UNH on the power play, Mowers gathered in a long pass from Steve O'Brien, went in alone on Larocque and beat him to the glove side. But once again BU came back to tie late in the period when Degerman took a pass from Drury and put a shot through UNH goaltender Sean Matile's five-hole.
BU took its first and only lead of the game at 16:34 of third period when Heron deposited a wrist shot over Matile's right shoulder and into the net. Sylvia added an empty-netter with 53 seconds left to make it 4-2 and the Terriers earned their third Lamoriello Cup in four seasons.
"It was just a regroup in the neutral zone," said Heron on uscollegehockey.com of his game-winner. "I saw Albie [O'Connell] setting a pick so I just went wide. In between periods the coaches were telling me where to shoot. I saw him [Matile] coming out a bit and I just saw a little spot in the top corner and I let go a wrister because he was probably expecting a slapper from there. Luckily it went in."
Larocque made 23 saves and kept yet another opponent off the scoreboard in the third period and by making 75 saves in three playoff victories, he was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
The Pioneers (24-12-4), the No. 6 East seed, doubled up Vermont 6-3 to earn the right to face the Terriers. The two teams had not met in an NCAA game since 1971, when BU topped Denver 4-2 in the semifinals in Syracuse, on the way to the school's first NCAA title.
Denver opened the scoring just over two minutes into the game when Ryan Hacker denied a BU clearing attempt and fed the puck to Garrett Bazan open in the slot. Bazan buried a shot inside the left post. The Terriers evened the score when Denver goalie Jim Mullin, who had a solid night, stopped a tip-in attempt by LaCouture, only to have the puck deflect over to a wide open O'Connell at the right side of the crease, where he lifted it over the prone netminder.
Despite BU putting 20 and Denver nine shots on net over the rest of the first and entire second periods, both goalies were up to the task and the score remained 1-1 heading into the third period.
The Pioneers, who had been outplayed since BU tied up the score in the first period, moved in front 2-1 at 4:46 of the third when Paul Veres put a shot from in close past Larocque. But O'Connell was once again the player that drew the Terriers even, albeit with a little luck, when his shot attempt skipped off the stick of Denver defenseman Travis Smith and fell over Mullin's shoulder into the goal. A similar scenario would come in handy in the 2009 NCAA Tournament for the Terriers.
Bates, who had exploited his fourth-gear speed and left Denver defenders chasing him during certain points of the game, including one rush where he beat Mullin but had his shot bounce off the crossbar, pushed the Terriers into the lead for the first time with a great shorthanded effort at 16:41. Bates intercepted a pass at the Denver blue line, outskated everyone down the ice and whipped a shot past Mullin into the right side of the net. It was his third point of the game, having assisted on BU's other two goals.
"Their forward was trying to pass back and I came over to help O'Connell on the kill," Bates told uscollegehockey.com. "The puck hit my shoulder, bounced away and I was off to the races."
It didn't take long for Denver coach George Gwozdecky to notice the blur in the number 9 jersey.
"Shawn Bates, whoa, can he fly," Gwozdecky told the Globe. "He picked up the puck one time in the second period and it was, 'who is that?' Not many guys have that kind of blazing speed."
With under four minutes to play BU looked to be in good shape, but when Gwozdecky pulled his goalie late in the game to create a 6-on-5 advantage, things took a turn for the worse.
Denver was pressuring the Terriers net and from behind the goal Joe Murphy sent a perfect pass to an open Erik Andersson in the slot. Andersson gathered in the pass and shot it past Larocque stick side to tie the game with 53 seconds left, sending it to overtime. Just 28 seconds later the Pioneers almost wrapped up the win when a shot by Veres beat Larocque but hit off the post. That was the last good scoring opportunity before the game headed to overtime.
BU was on it heels in overtime, being trapped in its own zone as the Pioneers took the first five shots of the extra session. Parker had seen enough at that point and called for a timeout at 7:29 to talk things over with his team. It went along the lines of "play to win and not to lose."
The Terriers responded and began to ring up some chances on the Denver net, and a little less than five minutes after the timeout, the game was decided when, skating 4-on-4 with each team down a man, BU had the puck in Denver territory. Coleman carried the puck in deep down the left side and passed back to Kelleher above the circle. Mullin made the save on Kelleher's shot but couldn't control the rebound. Drury was there to collect the loose puck, move to his right and shoot it into the open net past the diving Mullin for his fifth game-winner and 37th goal of the season. In a rare show of emotion, Drury skated over to the corner and jumped up against the glass as BU radio announcer Bernie Corbett yelled into his microphone "and a few good men are going to Milwaukee!"
It was the third overtime NCAA playoff game in BU history, and the first one that the Terriers had won, following extra session setbacks against Bowling Green in the 1984 quarterfinals and Northern Michigan in the epic 1991 championship game.
"Denver played Friday night and our game plan was to tire them down. But Denver was stronger than we were in the overtime and we got a bit legless and jumpy," Parker noted in the Globe. "There were many keys to the game. The goal scorers, playing smart, our goaltending (Larocque had 21 saves, Mullin 32) and defense, and especially our penalty killing (BU took 11 penalties but killed off all five Denver power plays)."
Next stop for BU was the Bradley Center in Milwaukee and a semifinal matchup with -- Michigan. The Wolverines, the top seed in the West, had advanced with a 7-4 win over the No. 4 West seed Minnesota. In a role reversal from Cincinnati the previous March, BU would be entering the game trying to knock off the defending NCAA champions as the underdog.
This 1996-97 edition of the Michigan team had run roughshod over its opponents, holding down the No. 1 ranking in the country for all but one week of the season. Coming into the semifinal match with BU, the Wolverines had outscored opponents 240-95, had compiled a 35-3-4 record, and had won both the regular-season and tournament titles in the CCHA. They also had three First Team and one Second Team All-Americans dotting the roster.
Among the team's 17 scorers were seven players who had accounted for 21 goals or more, from Jason Botterill's 37 to Hobey Baker winner Brendan Morrison's 31 to Matt Herr's 29 to Mike Legg's (he of lacrosse-style goal fame) 21. The Blue Thunder Line of Botterill, Morrison and Bill Muckalt (26 goals) had produced 47 of the team's 93 power play goals, with UM's power play clicking at a 31 percent rate.
And just for a little intrigue, there was a New England flavor on the Michigan roster. Botterill had played two years at St. Paul's School; forward Greg Crozier, who scored two goals in the '96 semifinal against BU, had played at Lawrence Academy; defenseman Blake Sloan had spent time with the Boston Junior Bruins; and five other players had spent time playing at various Connecticut prep schools.
The challenge facing Parker and his squad was a daunting one. The obvious question was what would Parker and his squad do to try and slow down the country's most lethal offense? By tearing a page out of Jacques Lemaire's playbook with the Devils by utilizing a one-man forecheck, controlling the flow of play through center ice by denying passing lanes, thereby disrupting any rhythm or odd-man rushes from the Wolverines' stable of talented and dangerous forwards, and by playing heads-up, supportive defense in their own end. In other words, making Michigan earn every foot of ice.
Throw in an expected steady game from Larocque in goal, along with a heavy dose of physical play at both ends of the ice, putting the body on any player in a maize jersey whenever the opportunity arose, and perhaps the Terriers, owners of a 25-8-6 record, could make a game of it. That's something they were unable to do the year before against a Michigan team that was firing on all cylinders.
Unlike the game in Cincinnati the previous March, BU didn't spend the first five minutes being dominated. In fact the Terriers made the crowd take notice after Turco was called on to make glove saves on scoring bids by Bates and O'Connell, and especially when the team in the scarlet jerseys started ramping up the physical play. Drury, BU's second straight Hobey Baker runner-up, took down Morrison with a hit in the Michigan end. A short time later when Morrison tried to return the favor by lining up him up at the blue line, Drury instead put his shoulder down and sent Morrison flying off his skates onto his back. Those two hits by Drury were followed in short order by Wright plastering Muckalt into the boards and LaCouture lowering the boom on Botterill and knocking him on the seat of his Nike pants. BU's physical play in the early going got the Wisconsin fans in the crowd going as the noise level at the Bradley Center started to grow in support of the Terriers.
"I think it was part of their game plan early to come out and hit us all over the ice," Sloan told espn.com. "They did a really good job of that. But on the other side of the coin, we should have done some things better to counteract that."
Even the Terriers noticed the effect that physical play was having on the Wolverines.
"The Coach told us to be physical," Drury noted in the Globe, "but then it was something we began doing more and more ourselves. We saw they weren't the same after being hit."
With six minutes gone BU was whistled for its first penalty, a roughing call on Kealty. Michigan, which had scored on the power play in 15 straight games, had three legitimate chances to score with the man advantage but Larocque was equal to the task. He made a save on Warren Luhning at the edge of the crease, used the glove on a shot from Harold Schock and denied Morrison in the slot by stretching out his left pad.
Turco then turned back scoring chances by Bates with his skate and Drury at the left side of the crease before the Wolverines finally broke through at the 14:00 mark after Luhning beat Larocque through the five hole. It looked to be a good omen for Michigan, which had compiled a 29-0-4 record during the season when scoring the first goal of the game.
Less than three minutes after Luhning's score the game took a major turn, and at the time, it appeared to be a huge blow against the Terriers. Pierce caught a leaning Dale Rominski with a check near the side boards, sending the Michigan player falling head-first into the boards. The call against Pierce was a five-minute major for checking from behind and the BU captain and third line center was ejected from the game, leaving Parker with 11 forwards to play and giving the Wolverines an extended power play. Over the last 3:18 of the first period BU's penalty kill buckled down and went to work, but before the buzzer sounded Luhning hit the right post and Botterill was stopped in close by Larocque, leaving it a 1-0 game at the intermission.
The second period started with Michigan still having 1:42 left on Pierce's major penalty. The Wolverines' best opportunity came on a slapper from the point by Schock, but Larocque again came up with the save. Drury then broke in a Turco on a shorthanded attempt, but the Michigan goalie made a glove save. A cheer went up in the arena when the penalty expired and the Terriers had held the nation's top power play off the scoreboard for all five minutes.
"We try to play on an even keel," Schock said in the Globe. "But perhaps we did get a little frustrated after that [BU killing the major penalty] and started to press. On the whole, they did an excellent job killing that penalty."
BU was re-energized after the successful kill and started dishing out more hits. Kealty laid into Bobby Hayes behind the BU net, Sylvia bumped Morrison and Heron also took out Hayes. Between all of that hitting, Botterill unleashed a slap shot that Larocque squeezed with the glove and then BU was denied an opportunity to tie the game when Turco stopped Donatelli on a re-direct in front.
It was about at that time that some frustration started setting in among the Wolverines for having been battered around the rink. Drury had to briefly exit the game after taking a stick blade across the pinky of his loose glove and Johnson crumpled to the ice in pain when he received a two-handed chop on top of the shoulder from Luhning, an action that resulted in no penalty, much to the dismay of Parker.
A pair of BU freshmen finally achieved what many in the building had been waiting and hoping for -- a tie game. LaCouture made a crisp pass out from the right corner to Quebec, who was open between the faceoff circles. Quebec got the puck on his stick and sent a low shot at the Michigan net, with the puck hitting the underside Turco's right pad and bouncing into the net at 7:59.
Not only had Quebec capably moved into Pierce's open center spot on the third line, but he had netted the all-important tying goal.
"I was worried about their having five minutes with their power play, which is so good," Parker told the Globe, "but I also was thinking about how I was going to scramble to fill his [Pierce's] spot. But Greg Quebec really stepped up for us."
Michigan went on the power play again after Ronan tripped up Morrison along the boards and the BU penalty-killing unit was again called to action. Larocque denied Morrison on a shot at the post and made a pad save on Herr, and that's all the Terriers allowed before the penalty expired.
Much to the delight of the Bradley Center crowd, the Terriers then grabbed a 2-1 lead at the 13:30 mark when Bates threw a hard shot at the net from the left side, just as Heron was being taken down in front, causing a slight distraction for Turco. The puck whizzed through the crease and came to a rest inside the far post past the surprised Michigan goaltender. Heron was given credit for deflecting the puck in, but admitted after the game that he didn't think he touched the puck and instead thought it was a perfectly placed shot by Bates that eluded everything in the crowded crease.
The Wolverines were finally whistled for their first penalty of the game a little over a minute later when Hayes was sent off for hooking. Michigan had successfully killed off 87.8 percent of opponents chances, so it also thrived in that area of special teams.
Adversity nearly struck against BU when Herr went in alone on a breakaway, but he lost control of the puck after Poti chased him down and got a piece of his stick before Herr was able to get off a clean shot. The Terriers didn't get anything going until the latter stages of the power play when Drury circled the net from right to left, had three Michigan players converge on him, and then whipped a no-look pass in front, where Degerman was parked all alone at the right side of the crease. Before Turco could get back to the other side of the net Degerman swept the puck in, and with 3:39 left in the second period, BU had shockingly moved ahead 3-1. Drury's assist also gave BU some positive vibes since the Terriers had been 0-6-1 during the season when he hadn't scored a point.
The volume in the arena not only rose when Degerman lit the lamp, but also when Wright leveled Muckalt at center ice. Drury then nearly gave the Terriers a three-goal cushion when he unleashed a rocket from just inside the blue line that had Turco cleanly beaten, but the puck slammed off the right post. Sylvia grabbed the rebound and flipped a quick shot on net, but Turco grabbed it with his glove.
BU skated off the ice to applause after having outshot the Wolverines 11-5 for the period and opening up a two-goal lead. Michigan's two-period total of 11 shots was its lowest mark of the season, and the Terriers, who had a 16-0-1 record when leading after two periods, were outhitting the Wolverines 20-13.
Entering the third period the Terriers had survived three Michigan power plays, including the game-changing kill of the five-minute major. Staying out of the box would be critical in what was expected to be a pressure-filled final 20 minutes of the game. With that in mind, things didn't go according to plan for BU.
O'Connell was called for a hook less than four minutes in, giving the Wolverines an opportunity to draw closer. The BU penalty kill kept things from getting out of hand, but Michigan still produced three good shots on net: Larocque made a save on a Schock one-timer, kicked his skate out to thwart a John Madden backhander, and stopped one at the post after Botterill swept one on net from the goal line.
The Terriers then went on the power play for the second time when Madden was called for hooking, but they only generated two scoring opportunities, both by Drury. On one he split the defense and took a shot that Turco handled and on the other he took a slapper that Turco turned aside.
After the Wolverines killed off Madden's penalty, he created a scoring chance of his own and put his team back on the power play. While driving to the net on what looked like a prime scoring opportunity, Madden was knocked to the ice on a cross check by O'Connell. Luhning was also crashing the net as Madden took the hit, and the puck hopped up and over the crossbar as Larocque and the net were simultaneously knocked backwards.
Michigan hadn't scored on the play but it had the man advantage for the fifth time with O'Connell back in the box and a little over 10 minutes showing on the clock. Schock let loose with a wrister from the blue line that Larocque handled and then a frustrating sequence unfolded for the Wolverines. Botterill had the puck at the right side of the net but hesitated a few seconds waiting for Larocque to commit. The BU goalie held his ground at the post and Johnson was able to block the shot when Botterill finally pulled the trigger. Johnson skated out of the zone with the puck and passed off to Wright, who scored, but the goal was disallowed when the referee blew the whistle because the cage became dislodged. Undaunted, BU nearly scored again shorthanded when Degerman took a pass from Bates on a 2-on-1 break and leaned into a hard shot on net. The puck beat Turco but hit off the crossbar as the game of inches continued to work against the Terriers.
O'Connell emerged from the box and BU had successfully killed off its fifth penalty of the game, holding Michigan's potent power play unit to a total of 10 shots and no goals.
"I think they'd been going at something like a 45 percent rate [on the power play] for their last 12 games," Parker told uscollegehockey.com. "We were shaking in our boots about what they were going to do to us on the power play. Our guys did a great job of focusing and executing. Our four guys outworked their five guys."
With 5:45 left, shortly after Drury hit the outside of the left post, Michigan appeared to have cut the deficit to one goal, but as the instant replay showed, it was merely a sleight of hand and a disallowed goal due to a hand pass. On an attempted Michigan shot the puck was deflected high in the air off a stick and came down just outside the BU crease. Luhning skated in between Kealty and O'Connell to get possession, but he was tied up by Kealty and couldn't get a shot off. Instead of using his stick, he picked the puck up off the ice with his right glove and casually tossed it underhand at the net, where it hit off the crossbar and rebounded out to Legg. Legg took a quick swipe at the puck but missed it and instead ended up pushing it into the net with his skate. No goal.
As the scoreboard clock wound under the 2:00 mark BU recorded its last of many big hits when Sloan was upended by Degerman as he carried the puck up ice. The Wolverines continued the put pressure on Larocque and the BU defense, but Morrison's wrister met with Larocque's blocker and Muckalt's shot ended up in the goalie's glove. Both of those shots came with extra skater on for the Wolverines with Turco pulled from the game.
With 57 seconds left to go Michigan finally got rewarded for its efforts when Botterill's pass from behind the net slid just under the stick of Bates and onto the tape of Morrison, who quickly buried the shot into the left side of the net to make it a 3-2 game and give the Wolverines some hope. Time for the blood pressure of BU fans to move up a notch.
Michigan had retained possession of the puck prior to Morrison's goal because of a missed tripping call by the officials. As Drury attempted to skate the puck out of the zone, Muckalt and Botterill both took swipes at his ankles, causing him to lose his balance and hit the ice, allowing the Wolverines to regain possession. Shortly after that, Morrison scored his goal.
At the 40-second mark Bates won a key draw and Johnson cleared the puck out of the zone, but it went all the way down the ice for an icing with 32 ticks to go. Morrison had the puck on his stick at the right side of the net with under 20 seconds left, but there was no Michigan player to gather in his pass that moved across the front of the cage. With six seconds to go Bates put everything he had into a check on Botterill against the left boards. The puck moved to the end boards as Sylvia chased it down. He tried clearing it out of the zone but it was knocked down and deflected out to the blue line as the clock wound down. The Wolverines were unable to generate another shot on goal before the horn sounded.
The Terriers, winners of eight straight games, had finished off one of the most significant upsets in NCAA Tournament history with an inspired and gritty defensive effort, one that limited the nation's top-rated offense to a season-low 20 shots on net. It was an effort that helped take some of the sting out of the long night that BU had endured against the same team the year before.
BU's last line of defense, Larocque, made 18 saves in winning his seventh consecutive start, during which time he had a save percentage of .931 and a goals-against average of 1.67. Three freshmen were credited with scoring BU's goals and Poti, the freshman defenseman who had made a key recovery to stifle a Michigan breakaway, led the way with two assists.
"This was an easy game to coach. It isn't often that BU comes into a big game as a big underdog," Parker commented in the Globe. "There wasn't much that I had to do to get the team ready. 'We're playing Michigan.' That's all I had to say."
The hurt and disappointment running through the Michigan locker room was obvious, especially with the Wolverines' hopes of repeating as NCAA champions having been unexpectedly dashed by a determined team in scarlet and white.
"People often say that the best team doesn't always win but the team that plays the best wins," dejected Michigan coach Red Berenson, who would lead his squad to another NCAA title in '98 with an OT win over BC, told uscollegehockey.com. "That may have been the case tonight. Boston University played a solid defensive game. We obviously didn't play our best game, and at this time of the season you have to be playing your best."
It was satisfying to Parker that the game plan that had been drawn up to deal with the country's top-ranked team had worked so successfully and had produced the desired result.
"The way we want to play when we're at our best is we're finishing checks and we're playing through people and we're making people pay to touch the puck," he told espn.com. "It was one heck of a college hockey game. Competitive, fierce at times, fast and very technically sound. Playing in front of such a fabulous crowd was great. I can't say how much those Wisconsin fans got us going."
Waiting for BU in what was the final NCAA championship game contested on a Saturday afternoon was 30-10-2 North Dakota, the No. 2 West seed, which had advanced by dispatching Cornell and Colorado College, both by identical 6-2 scores. The Fighting Sioux had shared first place with Minnesota in the regular-season WCHA standings and had been crowned WCHA champions after defeating the Gophers in the league title game 4-3 in overtime. The Sioux, led by third-year coach Dean Blais, were making their first Final Four appearance in 10 years, having last won the NCAA title in 1987 in Detroit. That team, led by Hobey Baker winner Tony Hrkac, 52-goal scorer Bob Joyce and goaltender Ed Belfour earned the moniker "Hrkac Circus" and was the third North Dakota team of the 1980s to win it all.
The 1996-97 North Dakota squad, while not as offensively explosive as Michigan, still had 10 double-figure scorers (led by David Hoogsteen's 25 goals and 27 assists) and were clearly a speedier outfit than the Wolverines, making them tougher to track down for solid hits. The Sioux, with a roster that included 11 sophomores and six freshmen, were effective at jumping on mistakes by their opponents and turning them into goals with quick bursts to the net. Five times during the season UND had scored five goals in one period. UND would put those skills on display in the NCAA championship game.
The Terriers and Sioux came into the title game at the Bradley Center familiar with each other, after playing the two-game set at Englestad Arena in Grand Forks in December. BU scored first in both of those games but came away with a loss and a tie after North Dakota poured 95 shots on goal for the series. The title game in Milwaukee would be the first between the schools in the NCAA Tournament since 1990, when BU ousted UND in three games in a first round best-of-3 series at Walter Brown Arena.
BU gave every appearance of remaining a "team on a mission" when the Terriers scored the first two goals of the game. The first came at 8:44 by Donatelli, the younger brother of 1980s BU stalwart Clark. He pounced on the rebound of a shot by Poti and put it past UND freshman goaltender Aaron Schweitzer. With Matt Henderson off for an elbowing penalty Drury made it 2-0 with 4:52 left in the first period after gathering in a cross-ice pass from Poti at the bottom of the right circle and quickly lifting the puck into the net, with the freshman defenseman having made a picture-perfect fake before the pass.
That two-goal lead would hold up through the end of the first period, with the Terriers standing 40 minutes away from a second NCAA title in three years. Despite being kept off the scoreboard through the first 20 minutes, the Sioux had generated some strong scoring chances, putting 10 shots on goal, but Larocque was sharp in net and turned all those opportunities into saves, robbing, among others, Henderson, Vig (who had a poignant reunion with Travis Roy two days before the championship game) and Curtis Murphy.
Although holding the lead, Parker could see that something was just not right with his team.
"We looked like we were in pretty good shape after the first period," Parker told the Globe. "But we were not playing up to our capabilities and I told the kids that in the locker room. I thought Larocque played well, especially in the first period. That's why I thought it was 2-0 us instead of 4-2 them.
"I did not think we played well and I tried to tell them that. I didn't want them to think that was the way we had to play. Then we couldn't seem to get back our focus or intensity."
Unfortunately for BU, in a similar replay of the 1991 and '94 NCAA championship games, the tide of the '97 final would turn against the Terriers in the second period.
The Sioux finally broke through against Larocque a little over 27 minutes into the game when Murphy's shot found its way past the screened BU goalie. Just 1:32 later, North Dakota pulled even when David Hoogsteen picked off an errant Kelleher clearing pass, headed on a straight line for the goal and shot the puck over Larocque's glove.
Another BU turnover allowed the Sioux to grab their first lead of the game, with a shorthanded goal no less, at 12:35. As Murphy sat in the box on a tripping call, Henderson picked off an errant Drury pass as BU was moving the puck around on the power play. In an instant another white jersey swiftly headed down the ice on a solo rush, ending with another red light behind Larocque.
Not being the type of team to back off, the Terriers cashed in on a man advantage when Mark Pivetz was whistled for interference less than a minute after Henderson's breakaway. With Sweitzer down in the crease Kelleher skated into position and let go a high shot that eluded the goalie's reach and hit the twine to make it a 3-3 game with 6:04 left in the second period.
"I felt there was some redemption there," Kelleher said in the Globe, "but I didn't feel it was personal because I had given away that [second] goal and I had gotten it back. I felt good because the team was even again."
That good feeling for Kelleher and his teammates would last less than two minutes before UND broke the tie again with a power play goal, with Wright sitting out after an interference call. Adam Calder won a battle for the puck behind the BU cage and threaded a pass to Henderson who was camped out in front. Henderson didn't waste a second re-directing a shot by Larocque as the Sioux regained the lead for the second time.
Having been outscored 4-1 in the period, BU was starting to sag from North Dakota's pressure, but if the Terriers could manage make it out of the last 4:11 of the period down a goal, there would be an intermission to regroup and fresh ice in the third period to climb back into the game.
Problem was, the Sioux weren't done scoring yet.
Applying heavy pressure in the BU zone inside the final minute, UND sensed the Terriers' fatigue and vulnerability and buzzed around Larocque looking for an opening. BU couldn't get the puck out as Murphy held it in at the point. Once in possession he let go a shot at the net that Larocque managed to get a piece of but couldn't control. Hoogsteen eyed the rebound, pounced on it and pushed the puck into the net for a deflating two-goal lead with just six ticks left on the clock.
"It [the puck] was just lying there in the crease and I just went in and got it and got one of the many garbage goals I get," Hoogsteen recalled in the Globe.
Despite calling a timeout earlier in the period, all Parker could do from the bench was watch the Sioux take command of the game.
"It disappointed us the way we disintegrated in the second period," Parker told the Globe. "That [fifth] goal was the crusher and it was absolutely, positively what we were trying to stop them from doing. We couldn't stop them from doing what they like to do.
"If we were behind 4-3 going into the final period, that's one thing. But two goals behind is another story."
For Drury, it was a matter of not following through on the game plan, something that was simply not an issue against Michigan.
"We weren't playing BU hockey," he said in the Globe. "We weren't getting it [puck] out. We weren't getting it in. We weren't covering guys down low."
The recipient of 16 UND shots in the second period, Larocque saw BU's lead and hopes slowly begin to fade.
"I don't feel I let my game down a bit, but we made a couple of key mistakes and the puck ended up in the net." he told the Globe. "It was definitely a big blitz. Lots of traffic in front. They scored two fast ones from behind the net, and it ended up going in front on their stick. The puck bounced for them and didn't bounce for us.
"After their fifth goal, it took a little air out of us, a little energy. It was a tough goal to swallow."
In the third period North Dakota pulled back from the rapid and relentless pace it had established in the second period, looking to maintain the lead by taking care of business in its own zone and holding the Terriers at bay, a strategy that proved effective. The shot count stood at 7-3 in favor of BU (the teams had combined for 47 shots through the first two periods) as the clock wound toward the last minute of play and Larocque out of the net.
Coleman scored on a scramble in front of the net to pull BU within a goal with 36 seconds remaining, but the Terriers' completion of a last-minute miracle in the NCAA championship game would have to wait another 12 years. Calder made sure of that when he scored into the empty net at 19:47 for the 6-4 final and UND's sixth NCAA title.
A tournament that had begun with an exciting overtime triumph followed by a monumental upset victory had ended with a deflating loss for the Terriers, as they dropped their first game in five weeks, bringing an end to a spirited late-season run. The game would also be BU's last at the Final Four (which would evolve into the Frozen Four a few years later) for a dozen years.
"When you're playing that well down the stretch run and everything's going your way," a downcast Bates, having played his final college game, said in the Globe, "and then come into the championship game and not have your best game, it kind of hurts. We came out strong in the first period, but then in the second and third periods we weren't playing BU hockey. And they took full advantage of us."
For the second straight season Drury was BU's leading scorer with 38 goals (tying him with Pandolfo for the third-highest single-season total ever) and 24 assists for 62 points. He had a team-high 10 power-play goals, five game-winners, four shorthanders and three hat tricks. Those numbers, coupled with the respect he garnered from teammates and opponents alike and his all-out effort on every single shift helped him finish second in the Hobey Baker voting behind Morrison. A bushel of other awards followed including First Team All-American, Hockey East Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player in New England, USA Hockey magazine Player of the Year and BU's team MVP.
After the season, Drury considered going pro, but instead, he returned for his senior year, wrapping up his unparalleled BU career with a 57-point output (28 goals, 29 assists) during the 1997-98 campaign, becoming the first Terrier player to win the Hobey Baker Award. He was again named a First Team All-American, and also repeated as the Hockey East Player of the Year (as well as being named the league's Top Defensive Forward), the Most Valuable Player in New England, USA Hockey magazine Player of the Year and the BU team MVP.
His 113 goals ranks No.1 all-time at BU and he stands third in all-time career points with 214. He is the only player in school history to surpass both 100 goals and 100 assists. Was Drury the best two-way player to ever wear a BU jersey? It would be tough to make an argument against it.
Parker's comments at the '98 Hobey Baker ceremony at Faneuil Hall that honored Drury were accurate and to-the-point.
"I don't ever remember coaching anybody that combined the talent and the determination and the competitive spirit that Chris Drury has shown from his first day of practice to his last game at Boston University," Parker said. "He made my job over the last four years so much easier because he was such a great example of what we're trying to be and what we'd like our players to become.
"Our team motto is 'Desire, Determination and the Will to Win' and I've never been associated with anybody that epitomizes that motto more than Chris Drury."
Drury's playing career carried on well after his playing days at BU were over, and he spent 12 years in the NHL with the Avalanche, Flames, Sabres and Rangers. He played in 892 games and had 255 goals and 360 assists for 615 points. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year after the 1998-99 season—the only player to win that award AND the Hobey Baker—and in 2001 helped lift the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup by scoring 11 postseason goals, becoming one of six former BU players to win the Cup. In 135 career NHL playoff games he scored 47 goals and added 42 assists. In international play he was a member of Team USA at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, on a team that won the Silver Medal and included former BU players Tony Amonte, Tom Poti, Keith Tkachuk and Scott Young, and in 2006 in Italy.
Joining Drury as productive offensive players up front were Sylvia (18 goals, 21 assists), Bates (17 goals, 18 assists), LaCouture (13 goals, 12 assists) and O'Connell (12 goals, 12 assists). The Terriers also got some solid production from the defense corps, led by Kelleher (10 goals, 24 assists), a Second Team All-American, Coleman (5 goals, 27 assists), a First Team All-American and Poti (4 goals, 17 assists), a Hockey East All-Rookie Team selection. Of that group the players who went on to play 300 or more NHL games were Poti (808 games, 69 goals, 256 assists), Bates (465 games, 72 goals, 126 assists) and LaCouture (337 games, 20 goals, 25 assists).
Contributing in their own right while playing important roles were Pierce (8 goals, 21 assists), Heron (9 goals, 11 assists), Degerman (6 goals, 10 assists), Wright (7 goals, 8 assists), Quebec (5 goals, 6 assists) and Donatelli (6 goals) among the forwards and Johnson (4 goals, 13 assists), Kealty (4 goals, 9 assists) and Ronan (7 goals, 5 assists) on the blue line.
The tandem of Larocque and Noble gave the Terriers steady and solid performances in goal, with the former finishing with a 16-4-4 record and 2.37 goals against average and the latter 10-5-2 with a 3.13 GAA.
A little less than six months removed from the loss to North Dakota, Parker reflected back on the 1996-97 team.
"They really lived up to their motto. There were a few of them and they were very good," he said. "We got great leadership from our senior captain, Billy Pierce, and there was a tremendous team concept. During February and March, this team was as good as any I have been around, as far as first accepting and then filling their roles as well as they did."
Although the journey through the 41-game season for the Terriers ended one victory shy of a hoped-for fifth NCAA championship, it was on the night of March 27, 1997 in Milwaukee that this team provided the program with, as Michael Madden wrote in the Boston Globe, "one of the grandest nights in BU's grand hockey history."