Sports, Top Story, Winter, Hockey, Men's Hockey

No. 1 BC Shuts Out Michigan 4–0, Advances to National Championship

ST. PAUL, MINN.  With just under eight minutes left in the second period of No. 1-seed Boston College men’s hockey’s Frozen Four semifinal matchup against No. 3-seed Michigan, neither squad had scored a goal since Will Smith gave BC a 1–0 advantage just over a minute into the opening frame. 

Both offenses seemed to have stalled as netminders Jacob Fowler and Jake Barczewski refused to give an inch. That is, until BC’s two leading point scorers brought the drought to an end. 

Within a minute, the Eagles lead jumped from one goal to three. Smith ricocheted the puck off a skate and into the net with 7:35 left in the period and Cutter Gauthier joined the scoring with an unassisted wrister 49 seconds later to break the game open.

“They have four elite, elite, elite players,” Michigan head coach Brandon Naurato said of Gauthier, Smith, Leonard, and Gabe Perreault. “Those guys are special and they won that game. They broke it open.”

Perreault added to BC’s total in the final frame, and thanks to a shutout performance from Fowler, the Eagles (34–5–1, 20–3–1 Hockey East) handily knocked Michigan (23–15–3, 11–11–2–0–2 Big Ten) out of the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles advanced to their 12th national championship with a chance to win their first national title since 2012. 

“I said it earlier in the year,” Gauthier said. “Anytime someone commits to Boston College, it’s to win championships, and we have an opportunity to do that on Saturday.”

The Eagles paved their path to Saturday’s matchup via offensive dominance while putting on a defensive clinic, becoming the only team to shut out Michigan in the 2023–24 season. 

Smith started the scoring early, wasting almost no time putting the Eagles out in front. 

It took just 1:20 for the No. 4 draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft to give BC the lead—one it never relinquished. Ryan Leonard slid a pass to a wide open Smith on the rush, who launched the puck into the top right corner of the net.

On the other end of the ice, Fowler maintained BC’s lead, racking up save after save to keep the Wolverines at bay. Fowler picked up nine saves in the opening frame alone, but his 17 saves in the third period kept Michigan from mounting a comeback, and kept BC comfortably in the lead.

“He’s probably the calmest goalie I’ve ever played with,” Gauthier said. “Super pumped for him and the game he had today.”

Fowler ended the night with 32 saves, while also locking down the Wolverines’ power-play chances. Anchored by Fowler, BC contained Michigan’s best-in-the-nation power-play unit, despite the Wolverines racking up four opportunities.  

“We knew Fowler was a great goalie,” Michigan forward Rutger McGroarty said. “Kudos to him, he had a great game. But I don’t think we took away his eyes enough … I just don’t feel like we made it hard enough tonight.”

Despite a combined seven power-play chances, neither team scored a power-play goal, due partly to a number of offsetting penalties leading to four-on-four chances.

“It’s always nice when the power plays end quickly like that,” BC head coach Greg Brown said.

The over 30-minute scoring drought since Smith’s goal was finally snapped when Smith completed his brace, giving him his 71st point of the season. Gauthier quickly followed suit with a wrister that flew past Barczewski to make it a 3–0 BC advantage and increase his total goal tally to 38.

Perreault iced the game in the third by taking matters into his own hands. He corralled the puck at center ice and coasted his way around the net, eventually potting a wraparound goal to make it 4–0. 

“Those guys are studs, studs,” Naurato said of BC’s four NHL first-round draft picks. “And all credit to their team, it’s not taking away credit from anybody else.”

Despite its best efforts, Michigan could not come back from the deficit, and the Eagles skated their way into Saturday’s championship game against Denver.

“If you told me this as a kid it would be kind of crazy,” Smith said. “I mean, I remember the days I was watching Johnny Gaudreau, the same Frozen Four, so it’s a dream come true. And I mean it would be unbelievable to get that trophy just like he did.”

April 12, 2024