BC makes the right moves in final

TAMPA, Fla. -- The single replay from the 2012 Frozen Four that will be played over and over for years to come is Johnny Gaudreau's highlight goal that gave Boston College a 3-1 lead over Ferris State with 3:02 left in the national championship game.

Gaudreau collected a loose puck at his own blue line but had two Bulldogs between him and the Ferris goal. Gaudreau wheeled around Kyle Bonis and then faked a forehand move to freeze defenseman Brett Wysopal. After Gaudreau dangled the puck to his backhand with a nifty toe drag, he flicked a shot from the edge of the right circle that beat Ferris State goaltender Taylor Nelson high to the stick side and inside the far post.

It truly was a thing of beauty.

"A good individual effort and a wonderful play on his part," Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said of Gaudreau's goal. "Certainly a big-time goal by a big-time player."

It took a tight -- and still very much in doubt -- hockey game and gave the Eagles the breathing room they needed to finish off the Bulldogs by an eventual final of 4-1 to capture BC's third national title in the past five years.

It was the freshman's 21st goal of the season and it was the most outstanding moment for the 18,818 in attendance at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night -- plus anybody watching on TV.

But the real meaningful highlight -- make that highlights -- from BC's 19th consecutive win was another stellar performance turned in by junior goaltender Parker Milner. He finished with 27 saves for his 29th win of the season on his way to being named the Frozen Four's Most Outstanding Player.

And it was a continuation of his great play throughout the 2012 NCAA tournament.

Milner finished with a .982 save percentage in his four tourney games, which is the third best of all time, best since 1972 and best since the tournament expanded beyond four teams. And his 0.50 goals-against average tied him for the best national tourney mark of all time with three other players -- including former Cornell goalie and Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden.

All in all a very remarkable performance for a goaltender who not only didn't garner any All-American consideration, but Milner didn't even get an honorable mention vote when the All-Hockey East teams were announced last month.

Make no mistake, BC didn't play its best game Saturday night, and give Ferris State full marks for causing many of the Eagles' problems. But whenever there was a BC breakdown -- and there were many -- Milner was there to stand tall and keep the Bulldogs at bay.

The Pittsburgh native made big saves in big moments and that's why BC has continued its modern college hockey dynasty. The Eagles are the first team since Denver (1958, 1960, 1961) to win three national titles in five or fewer years.

With the score tied 1-1 late in the first period, Ferris State's Bonis came in on a breakaway after clearing past BC defenseman Tommy Cross' pursuit, but Bonis was shut down by Milner on a point-blank chance.

Then, in the final minute of the period, Milner made a sprawling left-pad save on a Garrett Thompson rebound try in front of the left side of the crease.

Those two saves in the closing minutes of the first sent BC to the dressing room with a 2-1 lead when by all rights it could have been 3-2 Ferris State.

"I was a little mad at myself about the first goal, I would like to have that one back," Milner said. "I just try to keep the guys in it as long as I can because I know they'll be there for me the whole game. It's exciting to make a couple of saves for them because they do so much for me.

"Lately we haven't been giving up first-period goals, so that was a little different thing to react to. As a whole I think we kind of regrouped. It's great to go in after the first period with a lead, and I think we were really able to establish our game from that point on."

The videotape will show otherwise, because BC continued to make life difficult for itself in the middle frame. The good news for coach Jerry York, the other 20 dressed BC players and Eagles fans everywhere was that Milner was there to save the day when needed.

In the second period, BC took three bad penalties. The first was a tripping call on senior right wing Paul Carey when he clipped Ferris State goalie Nelson behind the net. The second was a too many men on the ice call when the Eagles got caught in a bad change. And the final was a roughing call to sophomore center Bill Arnold.

Three avoidable penalties. Three penalty kills. No noticeable damage.

To be fair, the entirety of BC's penalty kill units deserve a lot of credit for surviving the storm, as Milner finished the second period with 15 saves and BC still nursed its 2-1 lead.

In the final analysis, it was the one area where Ferris State couldn't impose its will. The Bulldogs finished the night 0-for-4 on the power play and that was a big difference in the game. Convert with the man-advantage and the result may have been different.

In the final period, the Eagles made adjustments and played more of a shutdown game, as they limited Ferris State to just six shots. But one was another Grade A chance that Milner turned away with 7:07 left, as he denied Travis Ouelette's one-timer from the edge of the right circle.

"Can't say enough about Parker," Cross said. "He bailed us out when we made mistakes."

As a result, Cross and his Boston College senior classmates finished with two national championships and a 22-2 playoff record over their four-year career.

But when they gather down the road to replay their Frozen Four memories, this group of Eagles will undoubtedly remember Gaudreau's highlight goal and the many highlights turned in by Parker Milner on the final weekend of the 2012 college hockey season.

David Albright covers college sports for ESPN.com and can be reached at espncaa@gmail.com.