Union defeats Boston College in Frozen Four thriller

Union College's Daniel Ciampini celebrates his third-period empty-net goal against Boston College in an NCAA Frozen Four semifinal.
Union College's Daniel Ciampini celebrates his third-period empty-net goal against Boston College in an NCAA Frozen Four semifinal. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: April 12, 2014

Poor Boston College will depart Philadelphia like a disappointed tourist, its Frozen Four visit here ruined by a pickpocket.

Seconds after B.C. failed to tie Thursday's riveting national semifinal during a 5-minute, third-period advantage, Eagles defenseman Steve Santini was stripped of the puck near mid-ice. A subsequent breakaway shot by Union's Kevin Sullivan was stopped by B.C. goalie Thatcher Demko, but Mike Vecchione pushed home the rebound.

That stunningly sudden turnaround - just four seconds after Union had killed off the major checking-from-behind penalty to Matt Hatch - gave the Dutchmen a 4-2 lead. And despite a crazy final two minutes, they held on for a 5-4 victory that sent them into the NCAA championship game Saturday night against Minnesota, a 2-1 winner over North Dakota in the second game.

"We worked hard at killing that power play," said Union defenseman Mat Bodie. "And when we kept it up after it was over, we were rewarded. That sequence there was a real key to the game."

Philadelphia's first Frozen Four game was worth the wait. And since both teams arrived with a Rocky obsession - B.C. ran the Art Museum steps and Union watched Rocky II for motivation - it was appropriate that underdog Union, a tiny Upstate New York school that had never won a Frozen Four game, knocked out 24-time-champion B.C.

Like the fictional Philly fighter, Union kept getting up off the canvas. It overcame a 1-0 lead after B.C. star Johnny Gaudreau scored on his team's first shot, 2:08 in. Leading, 3-2, Union overcame the third-period penalty Hatch incurred when he sent Michael Set barreling headfirst into the boards. B.C. managed just three shots on goal during its long, fruitless advantage.

"We just tried to really bear down there," said Shayne Gostisbehere, the Union defenseman and Flyers draft pick who assisted on two goals and helped stifle B.C.'s power play and its best line of Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes, and Bill Arnold.

College hockey's top-scoring line had just one goal.

"They have a good . . . defensive team," said Gaudreau. "We didn't get enough shots to the net."

Union had to fight to the final bell. Gaudreau's last-second shot to tie thudded off the chest of Union goalie Colin Stevens, who had 34 saves. At that point, the Dutchmen massed into a joyous heap as if drawn there by some unseen magnet.

Junior forward Daniel Ciampini had a hat trick for the winners. His final, empty-net goal, with 1:09 left, made it 5-3, and Union would need it.

B.C. had pulled Demko with 2:32 to play, and Ryan Fitzgerald's extra-man goal with 1:45 left pulled the Eagles to within 4-3.

Then, less than a minute after Ciampini's third score seemed to clinch it for Union, B.C.'s Patrick Brown scored with 4.2 seconds remaining to make it 5-4. A mid-ice faceoff yielded Gaudreau's hurried attempt to tie.

"I was proud of how our kids had no give-up," said B.C. coach Jerry York. "We just never quite got in sync on that major penalty. But we competed hard and that's a very good team over there."


ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com

@philafitz

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