A tournament that saw a 16 seed advance to the national semifinal game deserved better.
An institution that has never held an NCAA trophy deserved better.
Fans that witnessed a great Frozen Four over three days deserved better.
When Colby Cohen’s overtime shot fluttered over Miami goaltender Cody Reichard, seemingly in slow motion, the Boston University Terriers claimed their fifth NCAA men’s hockey championship. The shot was deflected, and the freshman goaltender never saw it. End-over-end, the puck looped over Reichard’s left shoulder, and the season was over.
Not to take anything way from the Terriers, who were the nation’s best team, but the wrong team won this game.
The RedHawks led 3-1 going into the game’s final minutes, and the partying had already started in Oxford, Ohio. After pulling goaltender Kieran Millan, who was never made to pay for his struggles with rebound control, BU got goals from Junior Zach Cohen and Sophomore Nick Bonino that sent the game into a very unlikely overtime.
The first championship game overtime since 2002 was fairly uneventful for the first few minutes. This played into the hands of a young Miami team who was probably a little rattled after having to return to the ice. Terrier Senior John McCarthy had a good look and was denied by Reichard as each team got a few good scoring chances in overtime.
The winner was not one of them.
Even if BU was going to win the game, it at least could have been on a rush or a clean play. Most fans would even take an “ugly” rebound. But not a fluke, not a goal that would have been saved if not blocked by another RedHawk. Losing because of a talent disparity (which probably was there) is easier to take than losing on a bad bounce.
Miami has several things to look back on with frustration. Obviously, the last two minutes of regulation could have gone differently. It always a tricky play to decide whether to shoot toward an open net from your own zone, especially in the college ranks with the no-touch icing rule that runs little time off of the clock. Miami didn’t have the puck much after Millan was pulled, but only one bouncing puck going from the Miami end into an empty net would have sealed it.
Less obvious is the fact the RedHawks were zero for seven on the powerplay, including four attempts in the first period when BU led 1-0. If Miami could have added another early, it might well have been over before the final minutes. Playing extremely well in the neutral zone all game was negated not just by the last 59 seconds, but also by the inability to capitalize with the man advantage.
To BU’s credit, they did not let the seemingly insurmountable deficit affect their intensity. The controlled the puck very well with an extra attacker, and gave themselves the chances needed to tie the game late. They were probably the fresher team in overtime, as their depth allowed them to roll talented line after talented line for 70 minutes of hockey.
BU truly was the best team in the country this season, but maybe just the second best tonight. It’s usually hard to complain when the best team wins, but the best team was the wrong team in Washington on this evening.