In sports, there are heroes, and there are goats. It may seem harsh, but Boston University goalie Matt O’Connor was the goat during Saturday’s NCAA hockey championship game against Providence.
The Friars came from behind to win their first-ever national title in dramatic fashion, 4-3. However, the way Providence tied the game and eventually won in the final period was as much of a story as the championship itself.
The Friars were down, 3-2, with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game and simply dumped the puck down the ice. That is when O’Connor gloved it and appeared ready to settle it and perhaps force a faceoff when he accidentally knocked it in his own net, tying the game at three.
It was a stunning moment that brought Boston’s TD Garden to deafening silence.
From there, the Friars buried the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal off a faceoff two minutes later to capture the national championship. It was the type of momentum shift that will forever be remembered by both programs as a defining moment in their histories.
Mike McMahon of College Hockey News pointed out that even the victors were stunned by the proceedings:
Providence got off to an ideal start when Anthony Florentino buried the initial goal less than 10 minutes after the opening faceoff to give the Friars a 1-0 lead. It was the perfect way to garner some momentum for the underdogs.
However, it didn't take the Terriers long to respond.
Less than four minutes later, Ahti Oksanen tied the game at one, and then Daniel O'Regan put Boston ahead with a goal a mere four seconds after that. Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe put it perfectly:
The Boston Hockey Blog noted that there was some history in the incredible four-second stretch:
Boston carried that 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Scott McLaughlin of WEII New England pointed out the biggest problem for the Friars:
The intermission did Providence good because it came out and played a higher level of hockey to start the second period. It drew a penalty in the opening five minutes of the second period and took advantage when Mark Jankowski netted the game-tying goal. Despite a gap in shots on goal, the Friars suddenly found themselves tied and right in the thick of the championship game.
Alas, Boston took the lead once again when Cason Hohmann made it 3-2 a mere seven minutes later. Michael M. McMahon of The Boston Globe noted that the Terriers were controlling the game because of their ability to respond:
Part of the problem for Providence as the second period ended with a 3-2 Boston lead was the pace of play, as Mike McMahon pointed out:
McLaughlin passed along a bit of history after the second period as well:
Providence put some early pressure on Boston at the start of the third period and forced a power play with 15:27 remaining. However, the Terriers' strong defensive efforts turned away every shot from the Friars and kept the game at 3-2.
That's when O'Connor made one of the biggest mistakes you will ever see in a hockey game. Andrew Mahoney of BostonGlobe.com described the play:
Dana O'Neil of ESPN brought up some unfavorable Boston sports history after the gaffe:
Mike McMahon noted that how Boston responded in the final seven minutes now that the game was tied, 3-3, would define the national championship:
The Terriers did not respond accordingly, and Providence grabbed the lead two minutes later when Brandon Tanev buried the go-ahead goal in the back of the net after a faceoff win to make it 4-3. It was an incredible turnaround from the dominant performance from Boston in the opening two periods, and Providence carried that momentum to the stunning victory.
The Terriers applied plenty of pressure in the final minute, but each of their efforts were turned away.
It may not seem this way now, but all is not lost for Boston. After all, only six of the forwards who dressed against North Dakota in the Frozen Four semifinal game were juniors or seniors, only one defensemen is a junior and O'Connor is a junior. The Terriers also have four rookie defenders and six freshmen forwards who are a regular part of the rotation. The future is bright.
Boston coach David Quinn discussed the trust he has in the underclassmen moving forward, per Nancy Marrapese-Burrell of The Boston Globe:
Our leadership runs deep through all four classes. I know we have four seniors, two of them play regularly. But I think our confidence in our ability to be composed under difficult situations, a lot of that has to do with each player having a belief in himself, but I think each player also has a belief in his teammate.
The future may not be as bright for Providence considering 10 of their players who dressed Saturday were 23 years old or older, but that really didn't matter after this game.
After all, the Friars are now national champions and get to celebrate all offseason.