Ciampini leads Union to first National Championship

Junior goaltender Colin Stevens made 34 saves to send Union to its first National Championship in program history. (Candice Monhollan)

Junior goaltender Colin Stevens made 34 saves to send Union to its first National Championship in program history. (Candice Monhollan)

PHILADELPHIA — It was only the second time Union College has made it to the Frozen Four tournament and now, for the first time in school history, they are heading to the National Championship game Saturday after a 5-4 win over Boston College.

Not only is it a huge moment for the hockey program at Union, but also for the school as a whole as this is the first time a school team has played for a national title since the men’s lacrosse team in 1929.

Leading the charge was junior forward Daniel Ciampini, who notched a hat trick.

“I got very, very lucky tonight,” Ciampini said. “And I thank my linemates and Shayne [Gostisbehere] for blasting my stick away there. It broke on the tip.”

It wasn’t an easy road for Union to get by a tough Boston College, especially when they seem to have the luck of the even years – they have won recent national titles in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Junior forward Johnny Gaudreau got things off on the right foot for Boston College 2:08 into the game and almost put them up by two shortly after with a short-handed bid, but hit the crossbar. The goal came on the first shot by Boston College.

“It’s just one shift at a time,” said senior defenseman Mat Bodie. “Other teams are going to score goals at you. That’s how hockey goes … Just bounce back. We’ve done a great job of scoring quick goals after other teams have scored.

“It took us a while, but we felt if we got one, we’d get a few more. And obviously that second period was huge for us.”

Union handled most of the play in the second period and netted two goals, the first from Bodie showing extreme patience before slapping the puck by freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko, and the second from Ciampini whacking the puck out of the air.

Boston College knotted the game back up before the period ended on a snap from the right circle by freshman defenseman Steve Santini.

Union regained the lead on the power play in the third period when Ciampini tipped a rocket from defenseman Gostisbehere at 6:31.

Eighteen seconds later, senior forward Matt Hatch took a major penalty for checking from behind and was tossed out of the game. It was would turn into a tense five minutes for Union fans, but Boston College’s power play could find the mojo it needed to tie the game.

“They’re a great shot-blocking team,” said senior forward Patrick Brown. “I couldn’t even see the puck because they had two or three guys in the lane every time. We didn’t create enough movement and get pucks to the net around them. Credit to them. They played unbelievable.”

Just 14 seconds after Union killed off the major, senior forward Kevin Sullivan poked the puck away from Santini and took a shot, which was stopped by Demko, but freshman forward Mike Vecchione picked up the rebound and gave Union a 4-2 lead.

“When that [penalty] happened, the team talked on the bench and just said it’s time to bear down,” Bodie said. “It was an unfortunate play for Matt Hatch. We’re family in here and he’s one of our brothers and we didn’t want him to go out that way.

Everyone stepped up and we didn’t really give them much and then you get rewarded with hard work. We scored that goal and that was a huge goal for us.”

With time winding down, freshman forward Ryan Fitzgerald scored to pull Boston College back within one at 18:15, but Ciampini finished off his hat trick with an empty-net goal with 69 seconds left in the game.

Brown added one more on the power play for Boston College with 4.2 seconds on the clock and they tried one last ditch effort on the ensuing faceoff, but junior goaltender Colin Stevens made the stop to preserve the win.

Union will face the University of Minnesota in the National Championships game Saturday.

“As coaches, we can tell them just to relax and take it easy and all this other stuff and what other coach-speak you want,” said head coach Rick Bennett. “They’re a pretty level-headed group and I guess we’re just going to have to see.

This is the furthest our program has ever been so we’re going to have to learn basically through this. But what’s important now is those guys go back, watch a game on TV, get a meal in them, rest up and get ready for tomorrow’s practice.”

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Categories: College Sports, Frozen Four, Ice Hockey, Sports

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