With 4:08 remaining in the third period of the 2009 national championship game and Boston University trailing underdog Miami of Ohio, 3-1, associate head coach David Quinn approached his boss, Jack Parker, and offered a bold and unconventional observation.
“The next offensive faceoff, I think we’ve got to pull [goalie Kieran Millan],” Quinn said.
Parker was not convinced. “There’s a lot of time,” he said.
Quinn persisted: “We’re on life support right now.”
The Terriers’ prolific offense effectively had been neutered by the Red Hawks for most of the third period. Parker’s top lieutenant recognized they needed to fundamentally alter the game’s direction.
Following a timeout at the 3:31 mark, Parker acquiesced. Millan vacated the BU crease and the Terriers established almost permanent residency in the Miami zone, scoring twice with the extra attacker in the final minute en route to a stunning 4-3 overtime victory to capture the program’s fifth national title.
At the postgame press conference, the unfailingly honest Parker gave full credit to Quinn for suggesting the move that resuscitated his hockey team.
A quarter of a century earlier, Parker had recruited Quinn, a slick, 6-foot-1 lefty shooting defenseman out of Cranston, R.I., and the Kent School. He had been selected by the Minnesota North Stars with the 13th-overall pick in 1984. When he arrived on Commonwealth Avenue a few months later, the illustrious program — which had stocked the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team with Jim Craig, Mike Eruzione, Dave Silk and Jack O’ Callahan — welcomed arguably its most talented player ever.
Quinn played three seasons for BU, his highlight coming when he assisted on John Cullen’s goal late in the third period to tie Providence in the 1986 Hockey East semifinal. The Terriers went on to win that game and crush Boston College for the conference crown the next night.
But Quinn’s pro career would last just 79 minor league games, his dream dashed by a rare blood disorder called Christmas disease, a form of hemophilia. He soon would begin a coaching trek that eventually led him back to BU in 2004 as an assistant and again in 2013 as the legendary Parker’s replacement.
The past January, BU stood at a disappointing 8-11-1. Once again without hesitation, Quinn espoused to his hockey team his belief they were the “best team in Hockey East.” The Terriers embarked on a 14-2-3 run that included the league title before falling to Michigan in the NCAA regional final — the unwavering faith of the head coach rewarded with a truly impressive sustained stretch of winning hockey.
Denizens of the race track often talk about their most telling observations being made around the paddock. As someone who has known David Quinn for over 30 years as a player, associate coach, and head coach at Boston University, let me assure you, the Rangers are getting a thoroughbred.
Expect the Rangers’ new coach to bring an up-tempo, puck-possession approach that will allow for offensive creativity while stressing the all-important concept of recognizing the appropriate time of transition from the defensive side.
Coaching defensemen and the defensive aspect of the game have been priorities for Quinn. In fact, all six of BU’s blueliners on the 2009 NCAA title team — Matt Gilroy, Kevin Shattenkirk, Eric Gryba, Colby Cohen, Brian Strait and David Warsofsky — went on to play in the NHL. That’s an unprecedented achievement for a college hockey team and a testament to Quinn’s ability to develop players at the position.
This veteran observer is predicting a long-running Broadway hit.
Bernie Corbett has been the “Voice of BU hockey” for 33 years and Harvard football for 20 years.
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