2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Defensemen lead Union to first NCAA title

Published: April 13, 2014, 9:44 am, by Joe Paisley
COURTESY USA Today/Eric Hartline

COURTESY USA Today/Eric Hartline

Here is an article by ncaa.com:

Union (N.Y.)’s big guys played big Saturday night as the third-ranked Dutchmen beat top-ranked Minnesota to win their first NCAA Division I title.

Senior Matt Bodie and junior Shayne Gostisbehere have been Union’s brand-name defensive stalwarts all season. They only polished those reputations before 18,000 at the Wells Fargo Center and before a national television audience.

Both did it by scoring goals — Gostisbehere notched Union’s first and Bodie supplied the seventh. Both also took care of their first priority, defense. Afterward, they also exhibited perspective.  Gostibehere finished plus-7 for the game.

“It’s unbelievable the growth this program has taken over the past, probably, eight years,” Bodie said of the significance of winning Union’s first NCAA ice hockey title. “I’ve only been here for four of them, but those championships for anyone that’s ever had a hand in Union hockey because we wouldn’t be here without all those players before us. We learned a lot from them, and they broke us into college hockey, and we’re forever grateful for that.”

Gostisbehere had one goal, two assists and five shots. Bodie had one goal, one assist and two shots. Both players had been selected as first-team All-Americans on Friday, per the American Hockey Coaches Association.

“My teammates, my coaches, my family, all the support that we have is just amazing,” Gostisbehere said. “They make me want to play the game, and the game is just fun. Just playing every day, going to the rink with them, having fun. Just winning at the same time is a good combination and something you can’t describe when you’ve got that sitting next to you.”

Known as “Ghost” to his teammates, Gostisbehere particularly haunted Minnesota. He was a plus-7 Saturday night, the best on-ice percentage of any player on either team, and flashed the skills that might land him in the same building some day as a Philadelphia Flyer (he’s a Flyers’ prospect).

icehockey_m-DI“He’s a special player, and he kind of controlled the game back there,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “In my opinion, he was the best player on the ice [Saturday]. Made a nice play on the goal.”

“Yeah, you just never know when a guy is going to come to the forefront in the magnitude of this game,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “That is phenomenal. Again, if you come to practice and every time we do a small game, an area game, he’s coming out of his cleats there. He really wants to win no matter what. He has that in him. Matt Bodie has it in him. (Left wing) Dan Carr, they’re winners. Everyone in that locker room is just a winner.”

Gostisbehere’s first goal involved some deft stick-handling and puck movement before he launched a shot past Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox. It was especially timely since his teammates had killed off his holding penalty only a few minutes before.

“He’s such a great skater,” Minnesota’s Lucia said. “In this day and age you can still defend with your feet and your stick. That is the strength of his game. He’s not going to go be a big bruiser, but you don’t expect that from him. But his ability to get to a puck, get it up the rink, initiates a lot of their offense.”

It initiated Union’s clinching goal late in the third period, a Kevin Sullivan score at 18:31 that put Union up 6-4 with less than two minutes remaining. Gostisbehere began the play in his own zone by sliding as if into second base to corral an errant Minnesota shot. He forced the puck ahead to Bodie, who found Sullivan streaking into Minnesota territory. Sullivan streaked a shot past Wilcox’s glove side, and the Dutchman led 6-4.

Union is a liberal arts college in upstate N.Y. with an enrollment of 2,200 students. The school moved up from D3 hockey toi Division 1 only 23 years ago. The longtime beat writer ponders this in this blog post.

Here is more from the Union hockey blog with video of each postgame press conference and audio clips..