TAMPA, FLA. - This loss hurt. A lot.
The Gophers returned to the national spotlight Thursday for the first time since 2005, which was their last appearance in the Frozen Four.
And they had the misfortune of running into college hockey's hottest team and goalie. Boston College won its 18th game in a row, rolling over the Gophers 6-1 in the second national semifinal.
The matchup of two tradition-rich programs with nine national titles and 43 Frozen Fours between them looked intriguing and drew an announced crowd of 18,605 to the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Many left early. It was 4-0 BC after the Eagles scored twice within two minutes late in the second period.
"When you give a team like BC with such high offense two-on-ones and open nets, it is eventually going to break you down mentally," Gophers forward Jake Hansen said.
Hansen scored the Gophers' only goal early in the third period to make it 4-1, but the hope-crushing Eagles answered 22 seconds later.
"We didn't quit," Hansen said, "but when you get down 6-1 like that, it really just wears on you. It just hurts so bad."
Boston College, coached by Jerry York -- who will become the winningest coach all-time in college hockey next season -- expects to win Frozen Four games. This was York's 912th victory.
The Eagles won national titles in 2008 and 2010 and the top seed this year is one victory away from a third big, shiny trophy in five years. Boston College, in its 23rd Frozen Four, will play Ferris State, a first-timer, on Saturday for the championship. The Bulldogs, who had a late empty-netter, edged Union College 3-1 in the first semifinal.
The Eagles (32-10-1) took a 2-0 lead on goals by Steven Whitney in the opening period and by Kevin Hayes on a power-play early in the second period.
Then they took control when Chris Kreider and Paul Carey -- with 17 ticks left on the clock -- scored at the end of the period.
Hansen ruined Milner's bid for a third consecutive shutout with a goal from the blue paint at 1:26 of the third period.
Carey's second goal of the game 22 seconds later made it 5-1. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin's power-play goal was BC's last stake to the heart.
"We've been in basically every game we played in," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "And I thought we were even in the game tonight, then late in the second period they scored those two quick goals and it was 4-0.
"That's a pretty tall mountain to come back [from]. But up until that point, I thought we deserved a little better."
Thursday's result was a disappointing end to a turnaround season for the Gophers. After finishing seventh twice and fifth twice in the WCHA the past four seasons, the Gophers won the regular-season conference title and advanced to their first Frozen Four since 2005.
They arrived in Florida on a promising 9-2 roll and ran into a team nobody has beaten since Jan. 20.
"One team is happy at the end of the year," Lucia said. "That's it. Everybody else is disappointed.
"It is always a bitter pill when you lose your last game, but that doesn't take away how much enjoyment we all had during the course of this season."