TAMPA, Fla. – Boston College is a team known for its highly skilled, productive and entertaining offense. The Eagles can score goals as well as anyone in the country.
But this season, BC’s ability to limit opponents’ scoring chances and keep the puck out of the net may be better than firing the puck past enemy goaltenders.
On Saturday night, the Eagles’ tenacious defense, stellar penalty killing and clutch goaltending were the key ingredients in Boston College capturing the 2012 NCAA championship with a 4-1 victory against Ferris State in the Frozen Four title game at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Eagles (33-10-1), who finished the season with 19 consecutive victories, built a 2-1 lead in the first period but had to work hard to protect their one-goal lead deep into the third period against the hard-working Bulldogs (26-12-5).
BC allowed only six shots on goal on 19 FSU attempts in the final 20 minutes. The Eagles blocked nine shots and four were off target.
“It starts with our defensive coach, [assistant] Greg Brown,’’ BC senior defenseman Tommy Cross said. “He was a pretty good defenseman [at BC] and having been there, he relates to us. Not only can he tell us what to do, he can still, even at his age, do it.’’
The Eagles end the season with the second-best defensive record in the nation with a 2.02 goals-against average. On offense, BC ranked second (3.57).
BC’s defense is big, strong and dedicated. The six-man group includes seniors Cross (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and Edwin Shea (6-0, 190), juniors Brian Dumoulin (6-4, 225), Patrick Wey (6-3, 205) and Patch Alber (5-10, 170) and sophomore Isaac MacLeod (6-5, 210).
Dumoulin was named to Hockey East’s first all-star team and was a NCAA East first-team All-America selection.
“The last couple of years, we’ve established the D-corps tradition thing,’’ Cross said. “We’ve got a really tight group and we joke around that we dislike the forwards and we go against them all the time and like to think we get the better of them. But I don’t know if that’s true.
“This year, our goalie group kind of made their own group to counter the D-corps. But we’re kind of allies because to be a good defense you have to have a really good goaltending.’’
The Eagles have been getting superb goaltending since mid-January from junior Parker Milner, who was outstanding again on Saturday against Ferris State. He made 27 saves and allowed only eight goals in eight postseason games.
“I can’t say enough about Parker Milner. He’s bailed us out a couple of times when we did make mistakes,’’ Cross said. “Our forwards make our job easier with their back pressure.’’
Two goals late in the third period — by Johnny Gaudreau and Steven Whitney (empty net) — wrapped up BC’s third championship in the last five seasons and its four overall, all under coach Jerry York, who now has five titles in 40 seasons in coaching.
The Eagles have played in nine championship games in the last 15 years.
Boston College, No. 3 nationally in penalty killing (88.5 percent), skated off three FSU power plays in the second period and one in the third. The penalty-killing units allowed only three shots on goal, all in the middle period.
“I can’t really think of any shots that I even faced on the penalty kill,’’ Milner said. “They had some good puck-moving defenseman that were good at getting around shot blockers and our guys did a great job at getting in shooting lanes.
“Their shots were right at my chest or along the ice. That’s not because Ferris State can’t shoot the puck. It’s because we were forcing them into bad shots. I thought it was an incredible effort.’’
While Cross gave credit to assistant coach Brown for developing the defense into an excellent shut-down group, York credited assistant coach Mike Cavanaugh for his work with the penalty-killing units.
“Our assistant coaches are one of the reasons we’re so successful,’’ York said. “We’re going to keep them a long time. They’re not rushing off to other spots.
“Mike Cavanaugh works with PK. They pressure very well. No. 4 [Chad Billins] for Ferris is awfully difficult to handle. He’s very shifty at the point. But I think we did a reasonable job on him.
“Greg Brown works with our power play. Both those units were instrumental I in the win.’’
BC’s power play converted on only one of three chances, but it was a huge goal midway through the first period, giving the Eagles a 2-1 lead. Dumoulin’s shot from the left point glanced off the glove of Paul Carey in the slot and deflected past FSU goaltender Taylor Nelson (33 saves).
The Bulldogs’ only goal was scored by Garrett Thompson after Andy Huff drove to the net and Thompson followed up to tap in a rebound at 5:19 of the first period, tying the game 1-1.
“Their defense transitions very quick. They didn’t want to spend much time in their own zone,’’ Thompson said. “They really forced the puck and didn’t give us any time to set up and they capitalized.
“It’s tough when teams don’t give you any room and just come right back on defense, but that’s their style of play.’’
Bulldogs defenseman Brett Wysopal also was impressed by the BC defense and penalty killers.
“I thought we played really well but we missed a couple of chances and they buried theirs,’’ he said. “They got a good bounce on the power play. We were there, just a bounce away.
“They didn’t allow easy entry into the [offensive] zone. It was a lot of dumps. They were first to the puck. They get all the glory for their offense but they’re a good defensive team as well. It’s a heck of a hockey team.’’