TAMPA, Fla. – Boston College has been ranked No. 1 for more than a month. And the Eagles skated into the NCAA tournament two weeks ago as the solid favorite to win its third national title in the last five years.
On Thursday night, Boston College simply reinforced its reputation and increased its winning streak to 18 games.
The Eagles (32-10-1) turned a close game into a runway with a three-goal second period and cruised to a 6-1 victory against Minnesota (28-14-1) in the second Frozen Four semifinal at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The combination of speed, skill, depth, goaltending and good breaks continues to be the main formula for Boston College’s success. The Eagles got goals from five different players, led by two from Paul Carey, but what set things up for a big victory was another strong goaltending performance by Parker Milner.
Milner, a 6-foot-1, 197-pound junior from Pittsburgh and in his first season as a starter, made 30 saves, including several clutch stops in the first period and early in the second.
“Parker Milner made some timely saves early in the game when Minnesota was pressing,’’ BC coach Jerry York said. “They had excellent opportunities to score, and not just one but multiple times, and Parker was big in the net.
“He was very consistent and fueled us to stay in the game.’’
Minnesota had more quality scoring chances in the first period, but the Eagles came away with a 1-0 lead on their best chance – a tip-in by Steven Whitney off a 2-on-1 rush with Barry Almeida – at 6:03.
BC clicked on a power play at 6:35 of the second period, with Kevin Hayes scoring, for a 2-0 lead, but the Gophers had a good chance to get back in the game with several excellent scoring chances on a power play at 12:40.
But Milner, who came into the game with two consecutive shutouts in the NCAA Northeast Regional, could not be beaten.
In the last 2 minutes and 15 seconds of the period, Boston College scored two goals to pretty much put the game out of reach, with one period still to play.
“When we did have chances, especially in the second period, we were opportunistic,’’ York said. “Whether it was a 2-on-1 or a power play, we took advantage of the situation.’’
Milner finally gave up his first goal in NCAA play as Minnesota’s Jake Hansen converted at 1:26 of the third period to cut the Eagles’ lead to 4-1. But 22 seconds later, Carey got his second goal of the game to spoil the Gophers’ hopes for a dramatic comeback.
The Eagles will play for the NCAA championship against Ferris State on Saturday. Under York, Boston College has won titles in 2001, 2008 and 2010.
“I didn’t think we’d score six. I didn’t really set a number,’’ said Carey, who now has 17 goals this season. “We just thought that we would come out on top. I thought our puck management led to that. And guys kept fighting all night. Minnesota kept coming at us and we just kept pushing.’’
Chris Krieder, and defenseman Brian Dumoulin also scored for the streaking Eagles, who haven’t lost since Jan. 21 – a 7-4 loss at Maine.
Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson made 19 saves.
“I think we played with a lot of intelligence. Our players move pucks, they see openings, and like a good basketball team would hit the open man for a shot, I think we have the capability of doing that,’’ York said.
“But not just one or two players. We’ve got a whole bunch of players that can make plays. That’s why we’re here and going to the national championship game. A lot of good players. It’s no secret there.’’
Minnesota coach Don Lucia said on Wednesday that he would have to see the Eagles in person to see how good they really were. He did on Thursday and came away very impressed.
“They took the game over in the second period. When it went from 2 to 4 that was the game,’’ Lucia said. “They have the ability to, when you make a mistake, to convert on their chances and they’re a very good transition team. They do a great job of applying back pressure coming up the rink. You have to play a real fast game.
“But you know what. I’m still proud of our guys. They played so well and so hard all season long. There are about five great things you can do in a season. That’s win your league title, win your playoffs and get into the NCAAs and the Frozen Four and win a national title.
“We did three of them. And that’s something for these seniors to feel good about.’’