PHILADELPHIA -- After taking down Providence in Bridgeport to advance to the Frozen Four, Shayne Gostisbehere was nonchalant about getting to play in the Wells Fargo Center, in the NHL arena he one day hopes to play in.
"I wouldn't say preview, but it's definitely good to make it to the Frozen Four," said Gostisbehere, only to be prodded again about playing in front of his potential future home fans, and if it would serve as a preview.
"I guess so, if they go to the game."
Gostisbehere is NHL-ready, but that's already been known for most of his junior season. His latest exploits in Philadelphia only served as an exclamation point to his resume.
Union won its first ever national championship, defeating Minnesota 7-4, with Gostisbehere at the forefront, recording a goal and two assists, and an unthinkable plus-seven.
"It's definitely pretty cool," said Gostisbehere of getting to play in the Wells Fargo Center. "But when I'm playing with my teammates, nothing else matters.
"When we're just having fun out there and everything is clicking, it's amazing."
In the championship game, Gostisbehere's fully array of skills was on display in the contest's first 20 minutes. Early on, he attempted five shots in a single shift on the power play. While none of them were on net, four got through to the goal line, created good secondary chances.
Undeterred by his misses, he spun past a Gopher forward in the neutral zone later on the same shift while going back to retrieve a puck, showing off his skating prowess and creativity.
When he finally did put a shot on target, he found the twine, beating Adam Wilcox to tie the game at one. Carrying the puck through the neutral zone and into enemy territory—an area of his game he's so deft at—Gostisbehere cut through Minnesota's defense. With Gophers closing in, Gostisbehere dragged the puck, and ripped a wrist shot under the bar to even the score.
"You just never know when a guy is going to come to the forefront in the magnitude of this game," said Rick Bennett, the Union head coach. "That is phenomenal."
He found his way back on the scoresheet later that period showing off a different skill. Controlling the puck down low, and drawing the attention of Minnesota's defenseman, Gostisbehere fired a cross-ice pass to Eli Lichtenwald, who had time and space at the far post to beat Wilcox.
"He's a willing guy when he gets out there," said Bennett. "He practices so hard, and games are almost sometimes easy for him because he practices so hard."
Later in the game, with Union clinging to a one-goal lead in the closing minutes, Gostisbehere picked up his second to seal the victory. With Minnesota pressing, looking for a game-tying goal, a defensive play by Gostisbehere quelled the rally. A diving pokecheck disrupted the Gopher rush, and started play the going the other way for Union. It was capped by a Kevin Sullivan goal, with Gostisbehere picking up the secondary assist off his stick check.
"I guess big-time players step up in big-time situations, and that's what he did. He did it all game tonight," said Bennett. "Guys are going to feed off that. Our bench, you could just tell by their reaction watching every guy on that bench after these plays that he actually made were just crucial plays."
Whether or not he jumps to the NHL still remains to be seen. (When asked about making the decision versus returning, he said, "I'm not really thinking about that right now. I'm just thinking about all the hard work we put in this year.")
Still, a decision will need to be made for the 5-foot-11 prospect, and with the weekend he just turned in right in front of the Flyers brass, the clock is certainly ticking.