CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Don Lucia didn’t sound nearly as excited about reaching 700 career victories as a college hockey coach as he was about how his team earned the milestone for him.
Vinni Lettieri had the game-winning goal and added two assists, Eric Schierhorn made 31 saves and the 11th-ranked Gophers played a strong final 20 minutes to defeat No. 4 Boston College 4-2 on Sunday at Kelley Rink.
“When you do it for a long time, I guess it’s going to happen,” Lucia said. “This is my 30th year as a head coach, and a lot of good assistant coaches, a lot of good players and a lot of good memories. Starting in Alaska, to Colorado [College], certainly to Minnesota. Obviously, it’s a milestone to get to 700.
“More than anything else, I’m proud of our team to come out and get a win, which we needed.”
Lucia became the eighth NCAA men’s hockey coach to reach 700 victories. Mike McShane of Division III Norwich became the seventh on Nov. 19. Lucia reached 700 by beating the man at the top of the list — Boston College coach Jerry York has won a record 1,023 games.
“I didn’t realize that,” York said when asked about Lucia’s achievement. “… [Lucia is] really one of the bright lights in our profession. A significant win for him today.”
Jake Bischoff had two assists, Mike Szmatula and Brent Gates Jr. each had a goal and an assist and Tyler Sheehy also scored for the Gophers (6-4-2), who were making their final nonconference road trip before opening Big Ten competition with Ohio State on Friday.
The Gophers came up short in Lucia’s first attempt at No. 700 when they lost at Northeastern 6-4 on Friday. They led that one 4-2 after two periods, marking the third time in their four losses this season that they had blown a third-period lead.
Against the Eagles (11-4-1), though, they got the go-ahead goal from Lettieri 11 minutes, 10 seconds into the third before adding an empty-netter from Szmatula in the closing seconds.
“Just glad we won the third period,” Lucia said. “Almost every one of our games has been tied in the third period at some point. It’s nice to be able to get that third goal, and finish with the empty-netter.”
Lucia said having Saturday off in Boston was good for his players, who came out by scoring on the first shift Sunday when Gates scored off a feed from Lettieri. That held up as the only goal of the first period, but BC came back with goals from Colin White and Matthew Gaudreau early in the second. Gaudreau’s goal came on a shorthanded break.
Later in the second, Lettieri appeared to tie the score off a pass from Szmatula, but the goal was wiped off because officials ruled Lettieri was in the crease. No matter, not long after that Sheehy made it 2-2 on a wrist shot that beat Joe Woll with 1:52 to play in the period.
Schierhorn held steady in the third period with 10 saves while the Gophers took the lead after they won a draw in their own zone before Lettieri broke in and scored his sixth goal of the season.
“This season we’ve went into the third period quite a bit with the lead,” Lettieri said. “It’s finally good to close it off here. … That was a good team win by us.”
And a significant one for his coach. “Congratulations to him, he deserves it,” Lettieri said. “He’s been around here for a long time so he knows what he’s doing, and we’re happy to get that win for him.”