This was Union's first-ever NCAA championship game appearance, and they came away with the victory. (Elsa/Getty Images)
By Mike McMahon
The Union Dutchmen defeated no. 1-seeded Minnesota 7-4 on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to win their first Division I National Championship in their first-ever appearance in the big game.
The Gophers outnumber the Dutchmen in NHL draft picks 14-1, but it was Union's lone selection that made all the difference. Junior defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, a Philadelphia Flyers prospect notched the Dutchemen's first goal, a wicked wrist shot over the glove of Adam Wilcox and added two assists, finishing the game at a mind-boggling plus-7.
The Wells Fargo Center was good to Gostisbehere this week, much to the delight of Philadelphia hockey fans -- he earned Most Outstanding Player honors with his strong two-way play in leading Union to the title. The 5-foot-11 defenseman now faces the decision of whether to go pro and make Philly his permanent home, or to return to Union next year for a victory lap.
The final picked right up from where the semifinal round left off --with goals early and often.
Gostisbehere, Mike Vecchione, Eli Lichtenwald, and the hat-trick hero from the Thursday's win over Boston College, Daniel Ciampini gave the Dutchmen a 4-2 lead after one period.
Union, the second-best offense in the country with 3.73 goals per game, was all over Gophers goaltender and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Adam Wilcox, a finalist for the Mike Richter Award as the country's top netminder. The Dutchmen piled 20 shots on net in just the first period and added 14 more in the second.
Minnesota climbed back to make it 5-4 in the third period after Hudson Fasching scored on the power play with 3:40 remaining in regulation. It was all for naught, however, as Gostisbehere broke up a two-on-one rush with a well-time poke check, sparking teammate Kevin Sullivan to score the dagger goal, slipping a shot through Wilcox's five-hole. Defenseman Mat Bodie piled on an empty-netter to nail the coffin shut with the team's seventh goal.
(GIF via @PeteBlackburn)
The climb to Union's first national title was about as challenging as it can get, as the Dutchmen had to climb past two of college hockey's most storied programs -- first Boston College and then Minnesota, who combine for ten NCAA national championships -- before they could cut the nets. And for a school that competes in Division III in every other sport, Union College cemented its status as one of the nation's biggest forces in college hockey.