TAMPA — If there was any doubt, any possible question about whether Boston College is the best college hockey team in the land, the Eagles answered them Thursday night and left little doubt.
Make that no doubt.
In a display that was as scary as it was impressive, the No. 1-ranked Eagles won their 18th consecutive game, easily dispatching Minnesota 6-1 in the nightcap of the two national semifinal games before 18,605 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Eagles (32-10-1) moved on to their fifth title game in seven years, against Ferris State on Saturday. They will be heavily favored to win their fifth national title and third in the past five years.
"That's a good team," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said.
What made the Eagles' performance so scary? The Gophers played before a pro-Minnesota crowd, controlled the early part of the game and overall didn't play all that poorly, and yet still found themselves trying to explain how in the world they were blown out.
"To have our year end like this when we were playing so well," Minnesota's Jake Hansen said, "and to lose 6-1 … things just got out of control. More than anything, you don't want it to be 7-1. It's embarrassing."
You got the feeling the only reason the score wasn't worse is that Boston College let up to save some energy for Saturday's national championship game.
Boston College coach Jerry York and Lucia agreed the Gophers controlled good chunks of the first 30 minutes, but the Eagles still led 1-0, mostly because of the spectacular goaltending of Parker Milner.
"He made some very timely saves early in the game," York said. "Minnesota was pressing and had some opportunities to score multiple times. And Parker really fueled us to stay in the game."
The Eagles used the fuel to run over the Gophers. Two late goals in the second period turned a tight 2-0 game into a 4-0 rout.
"When it went from two to four, that was the game," Lucia said.
The Gophers finally did get to Milner 1:26 into the third period when Hansen scored his 16th goal of the season. The goal snapped Milner's shutout streak at 193 minutes, 49 seconds, a streak that stretched for more than nine periods, dating to March 18 against Maine.
But BC's Paul Casey answered 26 seconds later with his second goal of the night to snuff out any hope the Gophers had for a comeback.
"That bounce-back goal was a key, key goal," York said. "I look at the game and you have key saves by the goaltender, opportunistic goals and then that bounce-back goal."
Add it all up and what do you have? The formula for the best hockey team in the country heading into Saturday's national title game.
Tom Jones can be reached at [email protected]