All the Marbles Again
by Mike Machnik/CHN Senior Editor
WORCESTER, Mass. Boston College versus Boston University. For all the marbles.
How many times can we keep saying it? First it was the Beanpot Championship game on February 13. BU got a power-play goal from Peter MacArthur in the third period to snap a 2-2 tie and squeak out a 3-2 victory.
Then it was the Hockey East Championship on March 18, one week ago. BU dodged several bullets in overtime, including a quick whistle that nullified what would have been Benn Ferriero's game-winner and a deflection that nearly sneaked past goaltender John Curry, before Brandon Yip scored 14:22 into overtime for a 2-1 Terrier win.
Not to mention, BC held first place in Hockey East all season long, until the very last day of the regular season when the Eagles were knocked out of that spot — by BU.
And now it is the Northeast Regional Final, for the right to go to Milwaukee and battle the nation's best for the NCAA Championship.
The only way it could be bigger would be if it was for the title itself. BU and BC have met once for that coveted crown — a 5-3 win by BU in 1978 in Providence.
For 28 years, really 58 years if you go back to the start of the NCAA Tournament, it has been the only time the two storied rivals have ever met in NCAA play.
Both coaches have tried to downplay the postseason meetings. Jack Parker said a week ago, and his players echoed the sentiment, that while the Beanpot was about BU vs. BC, the postseason was not — that whoever they played was just one more team in their way.
But there's no question that when these two teams get together, in big games, it's special.
If you're a betting man, or woman, you might be very, very tempted to put money down on BU. After all, BU has won four straight against BC this season, including two wins for championships.
But that goes out the window Saturday night. Forget the old adage that it's tough to beat a team three, or four, or five times in a season. And forget those four straight wins. The last three meetings between these teams could have gone either way.
After defeating CCHA regular season champ Miami, 5-0, BC coach Jerry York was finally able to turn his attention to yet another epic confrontation with his Commonwealth Avenue rival.
But it was clear he had been thinking about it all along.
"They're at the top of their game. We have to be at the top of our game, for sure."
BC coach Jerry York, on meeting BU in the Northeast Regional Final
"We have to be better," said York. "They've won all the close games. It could have gone either way. But give them credit. They found a way to win these games. We have to do something different, to avoid losing to the Terriers [again].
"In the back of our mind, we've been thinking about it. We had a lot of preparation going into the Hockey East Championship Game against them. But still, we came up a little short there."
These teams know each other well. Maybe too well. You wouldn't blame either coach if he felt that all he had to do was send his team back out there and just ask them to execute.
York would have none of that. He isn't content knowing that a bounce here or there has been the difference.
Make no mistake, he and his staff will be poring over what worked and didn't work before — looking for ways to tweak things here and there — hoping it will be enough to lead to a different outcome.
"We'll be talking about, maybe some nuances that we could do, to make the score go the Eagles' way," said York.
"It's a hard obstacle in front of us. We're not playing the 15th seed, or the 14th seed. We're playing one of the top seeds in the tournament."
Asked for the keys to the game — the "secret", as BU's Ed Carpenter put it — York quickly responded.
"The goaltending battle between Curry and Schneider, certainly two All-American type goaltenders — there's that battle.
"I think whoever plays better defense in front of the goaltender, is going to allow the goaltender to shine a little more.
"And I certainly think special teams are keys to this matchup.
"But we're going to have to have a red-hot Cory Schneider tomorrow night. He'll be one of the keys."
York knows what has happened this year — and what can happen tomorrow.
"They've owned us this year. The series — four out of five [BU wins] — the series is over. But I think with the one game shot, it's going to be a terrific regional final.
"They're at the top of their game.
"We have to be at the top of our game, for sure."