For the second straight year, Union and Boston College will meet in the NCAA tournament.
This time, the stakes will be higher.
The Eagles edged Hockey East rival UMass-Lowell, 4-3, Sunday to win the NCAA hockey tournament Northeast Regional final in Worcester, Mass.
BC (28-7-4) will face the top-ranked Dutchmen (30-6-4) in the Frozen Four semifinals April 10 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
The teams met in last year’s East Regional semifinal in Providence, R.I., the first meeting between the two schools. In that game, Josh Jooris scored twice, powering the Dutchmen to a 5-1 win.
“Here we go,” Union coach Rick Bennett said after watching the game on television. “It’s round two. I’m sure they’re going to be looking forward to playing us, and want some revenge. At the same token, I know our guys are ready for the challenge.”
The Eagles are powered by Hobey Baker Award finalist Johnny Gaudreau. He had eight points in the Northeast Regional games, including a three-goal, three-assist effort in Saturday’s 6-2 semifinal victory over Denver. Gaudreau leads the country in scoring with 35 goals and 42 assists.
His linemates aren’t too shabby, either. Senior forward Kevin Hayes, another Hobey finalist, has 27 goals and 36 assists. Senior forward Bill Arnold has 14 goals and 38 assists.
“Stating the obvious, they have a talented top line,” Bennett said. “Obviously, you have the best players in the country on that top line. I thought it was a tough matchup. They have some depth, and they have some skilled defenseman back there, too.”
Freshman defenseman Ian McCoshen’s goal with 8:44 left in regulation snapped a 3-3 tie and gave BC the win.
“They’re one of the top programs in the country for a reason,” Bennett said. “At this stage of the game, whoever you face is there for a reason. They’re going to be a very tough matchup. Don’t pick your poison and think you want somebody. You don’t feel that way. Whoever we get, we get, and we’ll play whoever’s in front of us.”
With the Frozen Four being played in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, most of the focus will be on Union junior defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere because he could be playing there as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
But there is another Dutchmen who has ties to the City of Brotherly Love.
Junior defenseman Charlie Vasaturo is from Sewell, N.J., near Atlantic City. It’s about an hour southeast of Philadelphia.
“It’s nice,” Vasaturo said Saturday after the top-ranked Dutchmen beat Providence, 3-1, in the East Regional championship game at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. “But come game time, it’s just another rink. We’re trying to do the same job we did here [Saturday].”
Vasaturo rooted for the Flyers while growing up.
“I’ve been there [for Flyers’ games],” Vasaturo said. “I’ve been to Eagles’ games [at Lincoln Financial Field, across the street from the Wells Fargo Center]. I’ve been to Sixers games. I’ve been all over there.”
Vasaturo will have plenty of family and friends watching him play in the Wells Fargo Center. Still, he is focused more on the task at hand, winning a national championship.
“It will be fun,” Vasaturo said. “All the guys here are keeping everything in check. Come game time, we’ll be ready to go. Hopefully, we can get the job and done and finally bring [the NCAA title] home.”
As for Gostisbehere, he will get his first opportunity to play on the Flyers’ ice surface. The ECAC Hockey Co-Player and Co-Defensive Defenseman award winner was selected by the Flyers in the third round of the 2012 NHL draft.
“I wouldn’t say [it’s] a preview, but it’s definitely good to make it to the Frozen Four,” Gostisbehere said.
Bennett is happy for Gostisbehere and Vasaturo.
“It’s going to be darn special for them,” Bennett said. “Just as much for Charlie, being from there and a Flyers fan and all that. Hopefully, Charlie knows where we can find that Rocky Balboa statue because that’s where we’re going.”