The typical calling card of Boston College hockey, at least in recent years, is offense. From Chris Kreider to Cam Atkinson and Nate Gerbe, the Eagles have put pucks in the net with great authority. This year, however, while the offensive production was still excellent, few would argue that the defense and goaltending were not heavily involved in their national championship run. Indeed, when it came to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the goaltender, Parker Milner, stole the show.
First, 2011-12 cumulative season stats for the Eagles, including Hockey East and NCAA ranks where applicable:
• Scoring defense: 2.02 goals per game (1st HE; 2nd NCAA)
• Penalty kill: 88.5% (1st HE; 3rd NCAA)
• Goals against average: Parker Milner, 1.66 (1st HE; 3rd NCAA)
• Save percentage: Parker Milner, .937 (1st HE; 2nd NCAA)
• Shutouts: Parker Milner, 3 (T-2nd HE; T-11th NCAA)
• Wins: Parker Milner, 29 (1st HE; 1st NCAA)
Hockey is sometimes a funny game. Boston College started the season with Milner as goalie, replacing two-time national champion John Muse. His start to the season was not without its blemishes and he was replaced by freshman Brian Billett. Billett showed some promise, and while we knew that eventually he could lead his team, that time was not this year. Jerry York also gave Chris Venti a chance between the pipes, but that experiment was short-lived. Out of options, the Eagles realized that what they had from Milner was the best of the three and put him back in-goal. He then performed like a completely different player and did not lose another game for the rest of the season.
There were goalies who played almost ten more games than Milner this year, and yet, he stood alone atop the win column with 29 victories and only five losses, all of which came in the first half of the season. When the Eagles needed him the most, he delivered, and his two allowed goals throughout the duration of the NCAA Tournament attest to what he was able to do.
Of course, it was not just Milner. Boston College has gotten good defense all year from guys like Brian Dumoulin, now of the Carolina Hurricanes’ organization, Edwin Shea, and Patrick Wey. That brief list leaves out folks like Mark Begert, Patch Alber, and captain Tommy Cross, now of the Boston Bruins, all of whom contributed to this team’s success in their own way. Regarding Cross in particular, though he was a defenseman who managed to score some important goals for the Eagles, the most important job he did this season was rally his men after the Maine sweep and pull them together for the stretch run.
Looking at BC’s defensive numbers, we see some truly exceptional statistics; combine them with offense, and you see the ultimate reason why Boston College won the national championship this year: they are easily the most complete team in the country. Only the Eagles were in the top three in both scoring and goals allowed, and they were able to combine a quick, score-happy offense with a tough, tenacious defense to win it all.