College hockey closed its Frozen Four out on Saturday night with
a contest that possessed something basketball's Final Four lacked: drama. While North Carolina and Connecticut ran their opponents off the court in decisive victories, favorite Boston University seemed doomed from the moment that Miami's Trent Vogelhuber solved Terrier netminder Kieran Millan for the second time in four minutes. If I were a Brookings Institution scholar writing about pro football, I would have written “Game over” in my notebook and started a 1500-word sidebar on the evils of the space program; as a NASA contractor, I just announced, “Game over” to the room and went to re-fill my water glass.
After all, this was the same NCAA postseason where three #1 seeds had lost in the first round of the regionals, where lowest-seeded Bemidji State had made a Cinderella run to the nation's capital to showcase their proud small-school program on the national stage, and where pulling your goalie with more than three minutes had routinely seen teams giving up empty net goals. What better ending for this topsy-turvy month than for the upstart Redhawks, making their first Frozen Four with what was widely considered Enrico Blasi's weakest team in the last few seasons, to upset the four-time NCAA champion Terriers?
Two extra-attacker goals, though, took this game into the land of free hockey and shafts being gripped into sawdust. The first was a typical garbage goal of the type you often see with the extra attacker: Brandon Yip feeding second star Nick Bonino, who shot in and saw teammate Zach Cohen bang home a rebound into a sliver of open net past Redhawk goaltender Cody Reichard, who stopped 28 of 32 on the night. The Terriers' bench erupted, knowing that Cohen had just made the implausible possible, and the Redhawks' fans, looking forward to their first athletic national championship in any sport in 200 years of excellence in southwest Ohio, started to visibly feel the gnawing reality that This Was Not Over Just Yet.
It had been 150 seconds since Jack Parker had called for a timeout. The Terriers seemed to have used up all their creativity in making plays with the extra attacker. Millan had to venture back out for a couple shifts with pucks in the Terrier's end. There was still a minute left and a goal to score. Score they did, with the other style of goal seen with the extra attacker. Time ticking down, and Chris Higgins finds his captain, Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy with a pass into the slot. Gilroy, who could have capped a career that saw him walk on at BU, earn a scholarship, gain the C on his sweater, and then land college hockey's most prestigious award, could have shot the puck on net. He had about a foot of net to shoot on, was centered in the slot, and had traffic to distract Reichard. Gilroy made the extra pass and Reichard was helpless to cover the glove-side post as Bonino banged home the puck to tie the game with just 17.4 seconds on the clock.
Bonino's goal turned his teammates into a bouncing, teeming mass of humanity as they celebrated on the bench. The excitement of the fans in the stands was matched only by the strained exultations of ESPN's Gary Thorne, who all hockey fans know loves a good comeback. The Redhawks were clearly deflated, and the look on Rico Blasi's face said it all: “Now I have to get them back up and through this.” Even my mother, who barely tolerates her son's love of this incomprehensible game, was fired up at the comeback.
As the game went into overtime, I hit the Internet to remind myself of the serious mismatch underway. BU was #1 with a bullet in KRACH, an arcane measure of relative team strengths that utilizes the Bradley-Terry method. With a KRACH of 850.8, Parker's Terriers would be expected to defeat Blasi's Redhawks  78% of the time. The Terriers' differential over KRACH #2 Notre Dame was itself larger than Miami's ranking. What was supposed to be a rout had instead proven to be an epic slugfest, with neither team truly gaining the advantage for long.
The Terriers won the game on perhaps the least exciting goal of the game, which first star Colby Cohen netted after Kevin Shattenkirk dropped him the puck as the Terriers crashed the net. A Redhawk defender laid his body out to disrupt Cohen's shooting lane, but ended up serving as the springboard to the BU win, with the puck deflecting off his equipment, knuckling into the air, and settling behind Reichard's left shoulder into the netting.
This most tumultuous of college hockey postseasons ended with a predictable winner in an unpredictable fashion: the only regional #1 to make it to the second round, much less the Frozen Four, validated a season of dominance and ended the upstart run of their opponent. A month of upsets, overtime finishes, and unbelievable drama was capped with perhaps the most dramatic game of the season.