WASHINGTON -- A deflection.
If you ever doubted hockey as a game of inches, let Boston's 4-3 overtime win for the 2009 NCAA D-I title be entered as evidence. A deflection from the stick of Colby Cohen off the body of Kevin Roeder past the glove of Cody Reichard with 11:47 in overtime ended what could have been one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
Giants over Patriots. Red Sox over Yankees. Boise over Oklahoma.
That's what every lede in every publication was readying with 43 seconds to go in the game. And rightly so. Boston was the best team in the tournament. Heck, legendary coach Jack Parker called this "possibly my greatest team." His greatest team on the brink of demise with 43 seconds remaining? Well, fate had a different idea -- one that fell more inline with the drunken Boston fans who left at midnight Friday to come to D.C.
"Boston 6-2," said a Terriers fan in between chugs from his Bud Light bottle at the Green Turtle Bar in the lower level of the Verizon center.
"C'mon, Boston 7-1," said Guildenstern, correcting Rosencrantz.
The duo went on to explain to me that of Boston's seven losses, none came out of conference. Well, Boston had six losses, and one did come out of conference.
The point was the bounces will go Boston's way and they sure as heck won't go Miami's. Not on this night. Not on this stage.
But the bounces didn't go Boston's way for most of the night. Boston had eight penalties to Miami's three. Miami had the Hobey Baker winner in Matt Gilroy silenced most of the night. And Boston lost the love of the crowd early on.
But in the end Boston's defense, led by Gilroy, was too physical and potent guiding the offense late in the game. In the end Boston stayed composed for 60 minutes of regulation play, even celebrating its second goal despite only having less than a minute of life left. In the end a player as good as Colby Cohen will be remembered for his game-winning shot and not for his two tough-to-swallow penalties. And in the end the story lost its magic when the underdog was underwhelming in the final session of play.
A few bounces of the puck the wrong way can do all that. It can change the story dramatically.
"Are you talking about those bounces I talk about all the time," said Miami coach Enrico Blasi to a reporter after the game.
"What do you do? Kevin (Roeder) makes a great play, sacrifices his body. It goes over Cody's (Reichard) head and into the net. That's what happens in overtime, you know?"
It's those bounces that cause Miami's Tommy Wingels, he of three Frozen Four goals and a spot on the all-tournament team, to choke up during his time at the podium. It's those bounces that cause a reported from the Miami Student to sob as she asked her question. It's those bounces that caused Enrico "The Don" Blasi to pause uncomfortably as he held back his emotions when trying to explain what it's like to be so close to infamy.
But its those bounces that can act like a crutch for a team that entered the game 1-for-15 on the power play during the tournament and finished the game 1-for-22. It's those bounces that can excuse a team for being 6-7 in one-goal games. And it's those bounces that hide a team that finished 0-2-5 in overtime games this season.
It's David Tyree making that catch. It's David Ortiz tattooing a pitch in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. It's Ian Johnson finishing off a Statue of Liberty play. It's being in the position to win, and hoping the sports gods smile upon you.
Saturday night the bounce that will define this tournament went Boston's way and Miami's chance to join the gods in immortality wait another day.
Boston, meanwhile, enters historical territory. The school's 20 Frozen Four victories place it third in NCAA history, Parker moves into third place with three national titles, and the school's five titles put it fourth in NCAA history.
It doesn't stop there, not according to Parker, he of now 12 Frozen Four wins.
"All I can think of is that it's the greatest comeback I've been involved in … in my mind, players do something that needed to get done and it wasn't my doing. I'm so proud of them."
Something was done, but how it was done may surprise you.
"I don’t know," Cohen said. "I saw a guy coming at me, and I thought about trying to fake and going around he guy, but the ice was already a little chewed up at that point."
"Colby, you closed your eyes," said teammate Nick Bonino, whose goal put the game in overtime.
"I closed my eyes," Cohen continued, "and shot it and here we are right now. I was just trying to shoot it toward the net, take a slap shot and get it to the net and hope for a rebound. But got lucky, I guess."
Blind luck? Only if you believe in bounces.