Big man, big impact
Gostisbehere's contributions key in Union's championship
PHILADELPHIA -- 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.
“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).
“He’s a special player, and he kind of controlled the game back there,” Minnesota head 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 head 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.
“He's a big‑time player,” Bodie said of Gostisbehere. “And this is the biggest game of our lives and he really stepped up. He's the motor [Saturday] that really got us going. That first goal was a great individual effort and it really got us going. So he's been tremendous all year for us.”
“Ghost” may have a decision to make once the championship hoopla calms. He wasn’t immune this week to what could be his future job site, but in the glow of a victorious Saturday night, he wasn’t ready to talk about leaving Union a year early for the pros
"I'm not really thinking about that right now,” Gostisbehere said. “I'm just thinking about all the hard work we put in this year to get that right there, and just having fun with my teammates right now and how we send off the seniors perfectly as champions. Just thinking about that right now with my team.”