Boston University defenseman Matt Gilroy will be a free agent when his NCAA season concludes. (Photo by Sports Action Photography)
By Derek Berry, Special to The Hockey News
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Boston University Terriers and Miami University RedHawks will square off Saturday night at 7 p.m. EST in the NCAA championship. The two teams spent Friday getting ready for the big game, getting familiar with each other on tape and also reflecting on their semifinal wins.
The Terriers come into the championship featuring the No. 1 offense in college hockey this season and a stellar defense. Miami, meanwhile, features the second best penalty-killing unit in the country and, if Thursday’s semifinal game against Bemidji State University is any indication, an offense that is more than capable of creating chances.
Terriers coach Jack Parker said Friday his team needed to forget about the semifinal win over Vermont and focus on Miami.
“We are still coming down from last night’s game,” said Parker. “Now it is on to a very talented and very determined Miami team that is playing at the top of its game. They are a very hard working team with a lot of talent and that is why they are here.”
Parker knows his team will have its hands full with one of the top teams from the CCHA.
“I was very impressed with how well they play and their commitment to defense,” he said.
The Boston University players also know they have to keep their cool in playing their second CCHA team in the NCAA tournament. In fact, for the Terriers, it has been two CCHA teams (Ohio State in the opening round and now Miami in the championship) and two Hockey East rivals (New Hampshire in the Northeast Region final and Vermont in the semifinal).
“We know it’s a big game,” said Nick Bonino, an Anaheim Ducks prospect. “But every game we’ve played in we’ve approached even-keeled, not getting too high or too low. With the leadership we have, we are always prepared.”
Terriers defenseman Colby Cohen, a Colorado Avalanche draft pick, believes the BU squad has just the right mix of players to get themselves ready for big games, saying: “I think our seniors will lead the way keeping everyone pretty calm.”
Miami coach Enrico Blasi and his squad are relishing the opportunity to take on one of college hockey’s best teams this season.
“We’re excited to be playing BU and looking forward to getting on the ice,” he said. “It should be a good environment.”
The RedHawks are a solid team, but somewhat young and were definitely not expected to make it this far, compared to other top teams from the CCHA such as Notre Dame and Michigan. Blasi had some thoughts about what can happen to the top seeds in tournaments like this.
“Sometimes when you’re out in front and you’re the No. 1 seed and you’re expected to win, you put so much pressure on yourself,” Blasi said. “And sometimes when you’re not expected to win you go out and play the way you’re capable of playing.”
Miami has done that through the tournament, knocking out Denver and Minnesota-Duluth in the West Regional and the upstart Beavers from Bemidji, the sentimental favorite, in the semifinal.
Here’s where the teams stood based on national statistical rankings, coming into the NCAA tournament:
Boston University #2
Boston University #10
Boston University #1
Boston University #3
Some individual leaders for both teams in various categories include:
Goals Per Game
Jason Lawrence, F, Boston U, 24 goals, ranked #14
Carter Camper, F, Miami, 20 goals, ranked #19
Assists Per Game
Colin Wilson, F, Boston U (Nashville Predators draft pick), 37 assists, ranked #4
Chris Higgins, F, Boston U, 30 assists, ranked #13
Chris Wideman, D, Miami, 26 assists, ranked #25
Power Play Goals
Jason Lawrence, F, Boston U, 15 PPG, ranked #2
Carter Camper, F, Miami, 12 PPG, ranked #4
In the category of game-winning goals, BU’s Lawrence was second in the nation to only Air Force offensive sensation, forward Jacques Lamoureux. BU’s Wilson and Bonino are among the top players in the nation in points per game, while no RedHawks made the list.
Finally, in goaltending it’s a battle of the freshmen between Kieran Millan of Boston University and Cody Reichard of Miami - both of whom rank in the top 10 in the nation in goals-against average. Millan also led the nation in winning percentage coming into the NCAA tournament.
RedHawks no Cinderella
Miami is not just a fluke in the CCHA. They’ve consistently made the NCAA tournament (five of the past six seasons) and have clearly established themselves as a top four team in the league.
RedHawks forward and team captain Brian Kaufman believes the Miami program was on the rise when he and some of his fellow senior classmates came to Oxford, Ohio.
“Coach Blasi and coach (Chris) Bergeron have been here for a while and have done an unbelievable job,” said Kaufman.
Miami senior defenseman Kevin Roeder, an assistant captain, echoed his teammate’s statements.
“Freshman year winning the CCHA regular season was the start of it,” said Roeder. “We came in at the right time and coach (Blasi) has been doing a great job.”
BU’s Gilroy wins Hobey Baker
Matt Gilroy, standout defenseman from Boston University, won the 2009 Hobey Baker Memorial Award Friday night in a ceremony at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Gilroy, BU’s captain, has been a guiding force on one of the best defensive teams in college hockey this season.
Gilroy, who becomes the first Terrier to win college hockey’s hallowed trophy since Chris Drury in 1998, has an interesting story. He was a walk-on at BU after contacting every college team in the country to see if they would let him play. Finally, the Terriers answered the call.
“A powerhouse like BU gave me an opportunity,” said Gilroy. “And I can only thank them.”
Gilroy said winning the Hobey Baker is special, but the dream season is not quite complete.
“This award, it’s hard to talk about it,” he said. “Like coach (Parker) said, everyone is having their best season and I’m on the award-winning side of this. But without my teammates, this wouldn’t be possible.”
The 6-foot-2 senior, who wasn’t drafted by an NHL team, but is likely to be signed sometime after the final, says his achievement ranks pretty high.
“I’ll always remember my first night playing,” said Gilroy. “Every player who plays (each game) has their jersey hanging in their stall. I always look at my stall when I come into the dressing room, because I’ll always remember how special that feeling (of my first game) was.”
Gilroy, whose scholarship was taken away last summer by Parker after the coach thought his defenseman might turn pro, edged teammate Colin Wilson and Northeastern goaltender Brad Thiessen for the award.
Michigan State goaltender Jeff Lerg, the NCAA’s leader in saves, won the Lowe’s Senior Class Award for Outstanding Achievements on and off the ice. In addition to leading the Spartans to a national championship in 2007, Lerg is an Academic All-America and has spent countless hours on community service projects.
The Hockey Humanitarian Award was presented to Missy Elumba, a senior forward from the Northeastern University women’s hockey team.
The Men’s Div. I Hockey All-America teams were also announced Friday. Gilroy, Thiessen and Wilson garnered first team East Division honors, along with Viktor Stalberg of Vermont, Zach Miskovic of St. Lawrence and David McIntyre of Colgate.
The West Division first-teamers include Alex Stalock, junior goaltender from Minnesota-Duluth, defensemen Ian Cole of Notre Dame and Jamie McBain of Wisconsin, forwards Louie Caporusso and Aaron Palushaj of Michigan and Ryan Stoa from Minnesota.
Derek Berry is a freelance college hockey writer based in the Washington, D.C. area. He covers the CCHA for Michigan Hockey Magazine, based in Metro Detroit.