Derrick Gordon

Derrick Gordon

Derrick Gordon, who made headlines when he became the first openly gay Division 1 men’s basketball last year before his junior season at UMass, announced that he is transferring to Seton Hall.

Gordon reiterated that he left UMass for reasons related to his on-court role on the team. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season.

“It really had nothing to do with my sexuality or anything like that,” he told USA Today. “Everything was great at UMass. There were no issues. We showered together and I don’t look at my teammates like that. … At the beginning, were they uncomfortable? Yeah. But they were real with me, expressed concern, and we dealt with it. That made us better friends, better teammates.”

However, when looking at transfer possibilities, Gordon said a number of schools made it clear they had no interest in him because of his sexual orientation.

“During the recruiting process, a number of schools didn’t want me because I’m gay,” he said. “To me, that’s blatant homophobia. At the end of the day, no coaches will ever admit that they don’t want me because I’m gay and there’s baggage that comes with the attention.

“Honestly, it caught me off guard. It really hurt. It had me stressed, crying. I was starting to lose hope. I felt like I was being treated like an outsider, like I didn’t belong in the NCAA. I couldn’t believe it because I’m a good player and they were looking at the opposite — something that doesn’t mean anything with my [sexuality]. … ‘Nah, not the gay guy.’ ”

Gordon, who played high school ball in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and started his college career at Western Kentucky, can play immediately at Seton Hall as a graduate transfer. He’ll help coach Kevin Willard replace leading scorer Sterling Gibbs, who transferred to UConn.

While he remains the only Division 1 player to publicly reveal his homosexuality, Gordon said he doesn’t expect to be alone much longer.

“It won’t be surprising if there are more players coming out very soon,” he said.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Boston University forward Evan Rodrigues will sign with the Buffalo Sabres, according to sources. The undrafted free agent ranked second in the country with 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists) in 41 games as a senior while playing on a line with freshman star Jack Eichel. Interestingly enough, the Sabres are also the probable landing spot for Eichel now that the Sabres have the second overall pick.

Rodrigues is a 5-foot-11 right shot from Etobicoke, Ontario. He played left wing this season, but had also played on the right side for stretches of his BU career. Rodrigues is a stellar two-way player who played prominently on both the penalty kill and power play for the Terriers. BU coach David Quinn has said that Rodrigues is one of the smartest college hockey players he has ever coached.

Rodrigues helped lead the Terriers to the Frozen Four this season, but they ultimately fell to Providence in the national championship game.

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin
The national championship Providence hockey team was honored at a ceremony Tuesday. (John Rooke)

The national championship Providence College hockey team was honored at a ceremony Tuesday at Schneider Arena. (John Rooke)

For some fans of Providence College, it hasn’t really sunk in. Not yet, anyway.

That was a prevailing feeling among many of the 1,200-plus fans, faculty, students and alumni who took time from their Tuesday afternoon to join the Providence Friars hockey team for a national championship celebration at Schneider Arena on the PC campus. Beating Hockey East rival Boston University, 4-3, in the title game Saturday night in the Frozen Four at TD Garden, with a sudden and somewhat shocking comeback in the final period, wasn’t totally unexpected — even if the way the Friars managed to do it was a bit surprising.

Senior forward and captain Ross Mauermann, admitting he’s still coming to grips with the NCAA Tournament run that began in Providence in the regional (with wins over Miami and Denver), told the crowd the championship was just part of a team dream that had suddenly come true.

“Each one of us believed that we could get this done,” Mauermann told the appreciative crowd. “We trusted in one another and we just came together.”

With 8:36 left in the third period of the title game, junior defenseman Tom Parisi simply dumped the puck from center ice into the BU zone, where it was caught — and then inexplicably dropped — by Terriers goaltender Matt O’Connor. The puck crawled through O’Connor’s pads into the goal to tie the score at 3. Sensing opportunity — if not true good fortune — the Friars scored the game-winning goal two minutes later when junior forward Brandon Tanev wristed a shot past O’Connor from the slot.

Providence goalie Jon Gillies, the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player, came up with his career-high 49th save on a diving, twisting stop with a minute remaining to seal the victory. It was quite the comeback for the Friars, who had managed to give up the fastest two goals in NCAA Tournament history to the Terriers — just four seconds apart — in the second period for a 2-1 BU advantage.

Boston University had a 19-0-0 record when entering the third period of games this season. Of course, that was before this bit of Divine Providence managed to make itself known to the Terriers, as well as the Garden crowd and national television audience.

“Our team battled all year long,” said coach Nate Leaman, finishing his fourth season at Providence with a championship after building the program at Union into an eventual national champion a year ago. “I’m very proud of them. I’m proud of ourselves for being competitors. We went into the national tournament with a saying — that we wanted to make it happen. We wanted to be aggressive, take the trophy and make it happen.

“When we were down in the third period to the best third-period team in the country, in that building with 18,000 fans, the guys just made it happen,” Leaman continued. “They were relentless, they were aggressive and it’s something we can all be proud of for the rest of our lives.”

“They worked hard,” said Providence College’s president, Father Brian Shanley. “They’ve been here since September. They’ve been injured, they’ve been battling, they never lost faith in themselves even when we weren’t going as well as we thought we could. They made one heck of a run, and in the middle of that final game you could sense the tide was turning.”

“This is a gift, this is a blessing, this is a tribute to everybody that has been here before and will go after us,” said PC athletic director Bob Driscoll. “Because we are national champions for the rest of our lives.”

That part of it, at least for some Friars fans, may still take a while to sink in.

For more on Providence’s first national hockey title, tune in to Southern New England Sports Saturday from 7-9 a.m. Saturday on 103.7 FM.

Blog Author: 
John Rooke

According to multiple reports, Boston College junior guard Olivier Hanlan is expected to declare for the NBA draft. If he does, he will forgo his senior season.

According to multiple reports, Boston College guard Oliver Hanlan is expected to declare for the NBA draft. If he does, he will forgo his senior season.

This past season Hanlan averaged 19.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Boston College went 4-14 in the ACC and 13-19 overall. He is one of the better players in BC history as he became the third player in Boston College history and the 29th player in ACC history to reach 1,000 points as a sophomore, joining Troy Bell and Craig Smith.

Blog Author: 

Jon Gillies really does feel for his buddy Matt O’Connor.

The Providence College goalie made that much clear after he and his Friar teammates skated off with a 4-3 win over Boston University in the NCAA championship game Saturday night at TD Garden.

Gillies, voted the Most Outstanding Player of the Frozen Four, was not only the counterpart of O’Connor 200 feet away Saturday, he was playing against another goalie he considers a friend. And when a friend drops a puck into his own goal in the third period of a one-goal game with the NCAA title on the line, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic.

“As a goalie you feel for him,” said Gillies, who stopped 49 of 52 shots Saturday night. “I know him personally. He’s a wonderful goalie. He had a great year and he was fantastic throughout the tournament to get here.”

Gillies, 21, played against O’Connor in 2011 and 2012 when Gillies was with the Indiana Ice of the USHL and O’Connor played for the Youngstown Phantoms. Gillies was the third round pick (75 overall) of the Calgary Flames in 2012. The 23-year-old O’Connor is just hoping for a chance somewhere.

“I’ve played against Matt for the two years before I came here in the USHL, and I got to know him personally,” Gillies said. “And like I said before, as a goalie you feel for a bounce like that. And you’ve been there, so you know the bottomless feeling that it presents and just told him how great of a season he had, how great of a tournament he had, how great of a game he had. He made huge stops throughout the entire game.”

In the handshake line after the game, Gillies knew he couldn’t offer his friend much in the way of comfort.

“You know that nothing you say right there can help, but just trying to get him lift his head up and realize he played an unbelievable year as a whole,” Gillies said. “And from a goaltending standpoint we’ve all had one of those, and you feel for him and I think that it energized our bench a lot. Got that belief because we were getting some chances, just weren’t able to kind of bear down and put them home. And something like that happens, start to take on faith a little bit and start to believe even more.”

Gillies said there was nothing O’Connor or any goalie could’ve done to stop the game-winner two minutes later when Brandon Tanev snapped a laser of a wrister past O’Connor.

“Tanny had an unbelievable release on that shot. I don’t think any goalie is stopping on that,” Gillies said. “That was a good goal as well.”

Friend or not, Gillies had his lead and he wasn’t about to give BU a second chance at redemption, despite the best efforts of Jack Eichel and Cason Hohmann, who had a point-blank chance with 50 seconds left to tie it, only to have the puck drift away from him as he tried to direct it past a sprawling Gillies.

“You don’t do anything different,” Gillies said of the closing seconds. “You just know at that point in the game, first off, our wingers and our defensemen and everyone just were absolutely eating pucks and doing a phenomenal job of staying in shot lanes, forcing shots wide and forcing the BU guys to make a play that they didn’t necessarily want to make. So it starts there.

“And if it does get to me, just kind of play big. And there’s a six on five, so there’s a lot of traffic in front. You let the puck hit you. If it does squirt out or something at that point in game, you just try to get something in front of it and try and battle for the guys that are battling for you in front.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

What do you say to your team that was just over eight minutes from a national championship?

If you’re David Quinn of the Boston University Terriers, it’s about looking to the future.

Sure, the 4-3 NCAA title game loss to Hockey East rival Providence is going to sting for a long while into the spring and summer. But Quinn knows his team Saturday consisted of eight freshman (four on defense), three sophomores, five juniors (including goalie Matt O’Connor) and just two seniors and a graduate student.

One of the freshman, Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel, may leave for the NHL after either Buffalo, Arizona or Edmonton selects him in the upcoming draft. But the core of a championship roster and re-built program is in place.

“I’ve been very lucky in life. I’ve been coaching for 20 years, and I’ve never enjoyed coaching a team more than the one we had this year. And there’s not much I can say to make our guys feel any better or make anybody associated with BU hockey feel any better right now, but it’s been an incredible year.

“One team wins the last game of the season. The things we’ve accomplished, when nobody thought we could do any of it, are incredible testament to the two guys to my left and everybody else associated with our team. Every player, every student manager- every equipment manager, we were a team. We were a true team.

“And that doesn’t happen very often in sports. We get to this point because we won as a team. And we lost the game tonight because we as a team didn’t play well enough. Bottom line. Providence played better. They won the hockey game. And I want to congratulate Nate [Leaman], he does a heck of a job. And, it’€™s a tough one to swallow, without question. But we’ll be back.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Anthony Moccia tried. He tried saying something when there was so little to be said. He tried picking up his best friend after watching him commit one of the costliest blunders in the history of college hockey.

With 8:34 left in Saturday’€™s national championship game, Boston University goalie Matt O’€™Connor gloved a seemingly harmless dump-in from the neutral zone. But then he bobbled the puck, lost track of it in his pads and wound up knocking it into his own net to tie the game for Providence. Two minutes later, the Friars took the lead.

During the next TV timeout, O’€™Connor slowly made his way to the BU bench. It was there that Moccia, O’€™Connor’€™s roommate at BU, grabbed the downtrodden goalie and spoke from his heart.

“I just said, ‘I’€™m so proud of you,'” Moccia said. “‘You’€™re my best friend. I love you, bud. We’€™re gonna pick you up. Just keep kicking. Hang tough because you’€™re the one who took us here.'”

The Terriers couldn’€™t pick O’€™Connor up, though. They had done it numerous times throughout the season, just as O’€™Connor had picked them up many times. But it didn’€™t happen Saturday. Jon Gillies was too good at the other end of the ice. The Terriers had chances over the game’€™s final six minutes, but they couldn’€™t find the tying tally.

After the game, Moccia put his arm around O’€™Connor again. He knew it was just about impossible to say anything that would actually make O’€™Connor feel any better in that moment, but he had to try. He couldn’€™t bear to see his best friend feeling the way O’€™Connor felt.

“I’€™m so proud of this guy,” Moccia said. “The character he showed the whole year, he’€™s the reason that we’€™re here. He’€™s made my last year unforgettable. I love the guy. I hate to see him upset like that. You hate to see your best friend, your brother upset. Honestly, that’€™s what hurts the most. It’€™s not even the loss. It’€™s just seeing the guys and seeing Matt so upset.”

It was a sentiment echoed throughout the BU locker room after the game. There was obviously disappointment. Disappointment that they had come this far and had won every other trophy they had played for this season, but couldn’€™t win this one. Disappointment that they had the lead in the national championship game with under nine minutes to go, but couldn’€™t close it out.

But they weren’€™t disappointed in O’€™Connor. They refused to be. No one was about to throw their goalie under the bus.

“He’€™s really been the backbone to our team all year,” Matt Grzelcyk said. “I think every guy in the room would agree we wouldn’€™t be in the championship game without him.”

“He stood on his head for us all season long,” Evan Rodrigues said. “You can’€™t fault him at all. [Stuff] like this happens.”

“He’€™s the reason we’€™re here,” Jack Eichel said. “We wouldn’€™t have even made it close to where we are if we didn’€™t have OC. It’€™s a tough bounce. That’€™s the game of hockey.”

It’€™s hard to reconcile O’€™Connor’€™s mistake Saturday night with his overall body of work this season. It needs to be pointed out that this wasn’€™t even the first bad mistake O’€™Connor had made in the NCAA tournament. In fact, it was the third in three games.

In the regional final against Minnesota-Duluth, he had a soft wrister from above the faceoff circle bounce off his glove and in. In Thursday’€™s national semifinal against North Dakota, he misplayed a puck behind the net and kicked it right to a North Dakota player for an easy tap-in goal.

But BU still won those games, and O’€™Connor redeemed himself with some big saves following both of those mistakes. BU didn’€™t win Saturday, though, and O’€™Connor didn’€™t get a chance to redeem himself. There was virtually nothing he could’€™ve done on Providence’€™s fourth goal, and he didn’€™t really get tested much after that as most of the final six minutes was played in the Providence end as BU pressed for the tying goal.

Despite these unexplainable mistakes — and here it should be noted that O’€™Connor did talk to the media after the game and tried to explain Saturday’€™s gaffe — O’€™Connor is a good goalie. You don’€™t post a .927 save percentage without being good. You don’€™t draw interest from a dozen NHL teams without being good.

Perhaps there will be a time to take a closer look at these mistakes and whether they’€™re symptomatic of a bigger problem with O’€™Connor or if they really are just freak mistakes. Saturday night wasn’€™t that time, though. Saturday night was for empathy. Saturday night was for feeling awful for a kid who is highly regarded by everyone who knows him and who happened to make a mistake that will live in infamy.

“You have college sports for people like Matt O’€™Connor,” said BU coach David Quinn. “Great athlete, great student. Everybody here, if you spend 10 minutes with him, he acts like he’€™s 35 years old. He’€™s exactly what you want in a student-athlete.”

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin
Providence won its first national championship on Saturday. (Getty Images)

Providence won its first national championship on Saturday. (Getty Images)

For the first time in program history, the Providence Friars are national champions. The Friars overcame a 3-2 third-period deficit to beat Boston University 4-3 in Saturday night’€™s title game at TD Garden.

The Friars had been pressuring BU throughout the third period, but they ended up tying the game one of the softest and flukiest goals you’€™ll ever see. Defenseman Kyle McKenzie, who had just one goal all season, dumped a pop-up on net from the neutral zone that BU goalie Matt O’€™Connor easily gloved. Then things got weird, though. O’€™Connor completely misplayed the puck as he went to drop it to the ice and wound up kicking it into his own net.

Providence smelled blood and struck again two minutes later. Kevin Rooney won an offensive-zone faceoff to Brandon Tanev right after a BU timeout and Tanev walked into the slot before firing a shot high glove.

BU turned up the pressure for the remainder of the game, but Jon Gillies and the Providence defense stood tall. The Terriers’€™ best chance came with 1:03 to go when a puck pinballed over to Nick Roberto with Gillies down, but the puck rode up Roberto’€™s stick and fluttered into Gillies’€™ chest. Gillies finished the game with 49 saves on 52 shots to cap off a remarkable individual season.

The Friars opened the game’€™s scoring 9:25 into the first period. A scramble began after a rebound popped off O’€™Connor and landed in the slot. Noel Acciari hit the post and the puck caromed out to West Roxbury native Anthony Florentino, who ripped a slap shot blocker-side.

The Terriers tied the game with 7:10 left in the first. After making a nice play to keep the puck in the zone, Ahti Oksanen fired a shot through a Cason Hohmann screen that squeaked through Gillies. It was the 25th goal of the season for Oksanen, who was converted to forward before the season after playing defense for his first two years at BU.

It took just four second for BU to strike again. Jack Eichel won the ensuing faceoff and immediately turned it into a rush in the Providence zone. He then slid the puck over to Danny O’€™Regan, who flipped a backhander past Gillies for his 23rd goal of the season. The two goals in four seconds were the fastest two goals in NCAA tournament history.

The Friars tied the game at 2-2 on a power-play goal 4:29 into the second. With four seconds left on the man advantage, Trevor Mingoia got the puck in the left circle and made a beautiful backhand pass through the slot to Mark Jankowski, who one-timed a shot past a sliding O’€™Connor for his second goal of the Frozen Four.

The Terriers retook the lead with 8:24 left in the second. After Hohmann won an offensive-zone draw, Oksanen threw the puck the front and it ricocheted off a skate right to Hohmann, who waited out a sprawling Gillies before scoring.

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin

Jack Eichel became the youngest player to win the Hobey Baker Award on Friday. The Boston University star beat out Harvard’€™s Jimmy Vesey and North Dakota’€™s Zane McIntyre to become the second freshman to win college hockey’€™s top individual award, joining Maine’€™s Paul Kariya (1993 winner).

Eichel, a North Chelmsford native who is expected to go second overall in this summer’€™s NHL draft, leads the country with 70 points (26 goals, 44 assists) and 1.79 points per game. He registered two goals and an assist in Thursday night’€™s 5-3 win over North Dakota in the national semifinals at TD Garden. The Terriers take on Providence in the national championship Saturday night.

Eichel becomes the third BU player to win the Hobey Baker Award, joining Chris Drury (1998) and Matt Gilroy (2009). He also becomes the second straight player from a Boston school to win, as Boston College‘s Johnny Gaudreau won the award last year.

This year’s Hobey Baker Award presentation was held at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena, the only arena still standing in which Hobey Baker played.

The All-American teams were also announced Friday. They are as follows:

First Team East
G Alex Lyon (Yale)
D Matt Grzelcyk (BU)
D Rob O’€™Gara (Yale)
F Daniel Ciampini (Union)
F Jack Eichel (BU)
F Jimmy Vesey (Harvard)

First Team West
G Jake Hildebrand (Michigan State)
D Joey LaLeggia (Denver)
D Mike Reilly (Minnesota)
F Zach Hyman (Michigan)
F Tanner Kero (Michigan Tech)
F Matt Leitner (Minnesota State)

Second Team East
G Jon Gillies (Providence)
D Mike Paliotta (Vermont)
D Robbie Russo (Notre Dame)
F Sam Anas (Quinnipiac)
F Matt Garbowsky (RIT)
F Kevin Roy (Northeastern)

Second Team West
G Zane McIntyre (North Dakota)
D Zach Palmquist (Minnesota State)
D Colton Parayko (Alaska)
F Austin Czarnik (Miami)
F Dylan Larkin (Michigan)
F Trevor Moore (Denver)

Grzelcyk, O’€™Gara and McIntyre are all Bruins draft picks, while Czarnik just signed with the Bruins as a free agent last week.

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin