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Fowler Shines In Frozen Four

A 32-save shutout for Jacob Fowler helped send Boston College to the national title game.

BC freshman goaltender Jacob Fowler stopped 32 shots for his 32nd win of the season. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

ST. PAUL — Even though the score doesn’t completely show the picture, Michigan poured all of its offensive effort into its national semifinal loss to Boston College on Thursday.

Despite losing 4-0 in the second Frozen Four semifinal at Xcel Energy Center, the Wolverines routinely sent their offensive-minded defensemen up into the play as fourth forwards, and had multiple power plays to set up shop and get to work. What better way to showcase their nine NHL draft picks on the roster? Michigan knew it needed to meet Boston College’s once-in-a-generation collection of offensive talent, highlighted by four first-round NHL draft picks, head-on.

That’s what made Eagles’ goaltender Jacob Fowler even more impressive on Thursday.

BC goaltender Jacob Fowler weathers a storm in front of the net as Michigan players Max Estapa (94) and Josh Eernisse (6) try to put the puck in the net. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

“Jacob was outstanding in net tonight,” said Boston College coach Greg Brown. “Ideally, we’d like to spend more time in the offensive zone, but they were doing a solid job defensively.”

In what they hope is a precursor to ending the season with a victory on Saturday in the national championship game against Denver, the Eagles shined offensively, but maintained a solid backstop to prevent the opposition from gaining any momentum, clinging to any sign of life in the game.

Fowler was there to meet the challenge. He met every one of Michigan’s 32 shots and kept it out of his own net.

“He’s probably the calmest goalie I’ve ever played with,” said forward Cutter Gauthier. “Any opportunities we give up, just knowing that safety net back there, that he’s in between the pipes, and he’s as competitive as all of us, and he’s a great kid as well.”

Just another victory for one of the nation’s top goalies on the team that has been turning heads across the college hockey landscape all season long. Even though it was his 32nd victory of the season, Fowler makes the feat even more impressive for another reason, too: His age.

The Montreal Canadiens third-round draft pick is just a freshman, having been the go-to starter for Boston College all season long. To say he’s been up to the challenge is an understatement, with a .926 save percentage (fourth best in the nation) and a 2.14 goals against average (eighth best in the nation). In the victory on Thursday, Fowler now has the third-most wins in a season all time for BC, adding to his accolade of having the most wins in a single season as a freshman for the program.

This bucks a significant trend in college hockey that was even evident in BC’s own semifinal matchup. Michigan goaltender Jake Barczewski is nearly six years older than Fowler. A graduate transfer in his first year with the Wolverines, Barczewski arrived on a Wolverines team in need of proven goaltending, a resume he spent four years building at Canisius in the Atlantic Hockey Association, plus two years before that in the USHL.

Jacob Fowler stood tall in net all game long for BC. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Many schools across the college hockey landscape attempt to go goalie-hunting to remain competitive with an experienced roster outside the crease. While Michigan has ventured into this realm of the transfer portal in the last few years, so has North Dakota and rival Boston University.

In a game where the Brown said it was a “track meet” with high-danger chances going both ways throughout, Fowler was the solid rock that meant the difference. Even though there were key blocks on the penalty kill and 4-on-4 play, the buck stopped with the freshman goaltender.

“Going into every game, it’s nice having him back there,” said forward Will Smith. “He has such a confidence in net, coach touched on it, there [were] a few too many odd-man rushes, so having him back there definitely helps. I’m looking at this, he had 32 saves, he was unreal tonight.”

With the high-end talent in front of him, Fowler kept the distance to allow the success of his forward group to shine through for a chance at the program’s sixth national championship on Saturday.

“I’m super pumped for him and the game he had today,” Gauthier said. “It’s been fun learning how to score goals on him in practice, but a great kid and he had a heck of a game tonight.”

Drew has a passion for just about all things hockey. He started covering the Gophers' men's hockey team in 2016 and has been around high schools and the pros ever since. Follow his regular hockey commentary (and other nonsense) on Twitter @covedrew and on the MNCAA podcast covering the Gophers as well as the college hockey scene across Minnesota.

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