For BC, It's a Matter of Style
by Joe Meloni/CHN Reporter
NCAA Tournament overall seed: 4
NCAA Tournament thus far: Won Northeast Regional (3-1 win vs. Alaska, 9-7 vs. Yale)
NCAA Championships: 2008
Last NCAA Frozen Four: 2008
NCAA Frozen Four semifinal opponent: Miami (Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 2)
Jerry York has done this enough to develop a measure of poise. As a coach and a player he's led Boston College to the NCAA Tournament 10 times, including seven trips to the national championship game.
So when the Eagles squeaked past Maine in the Hockey East championship game three weeks ago, and York, ever the image of confidence, calmly declared his team ready for a national championship run, a few people thought the coach may be a little misguided. In their four wins in the Hockey East tournament, the Eagles needed overtime once, a little help from a few posts and some mistakes from their opponents to earn a trip to Ford Field.
Even their victory in the Northeast Regional produced some uncertainty from the outside. Alaska made the game interesting as the Eagles battled to a 3-1 win over the Nanooks before Yale dropped a seven spot on the Eagles in a 9-7 BC win in the regional final.
Teams that win championships don't allow seven goals. Even against the best offense in the nation statistically, seven is a few too many.
Still, York calmly answered the questions he needed to after the game and basked, if only for a moment, in the feeling of another trip to the Frozen Four. It's clear that neither York nor his players thought much of their defensive effort against Yale. But they had a reason to be confident — they won.
Another kind of game against another kind of team just meant another win.
"I think you never know what to expect in the game. Sometimes the puck bounces funny ways. A lot of things affect the outcome of games but the scoring is important," York said. "No one can really expect a 2-0 game or a 5-0 game. You just try to play to win the hockey game. In the national tournament, you just try to survive a game and advance to the next one. I think we have some terrific competition."
There's the reason for their confidence. When they take the ice against Miami on Thursday night, they'll face another gifted team with players capable of forcing an opponent to play their style of the game. But that doesn't worry York. He knows that if his opponents want to run and gun, he can rely on Brian Gibbons, Joe Whitney and Cam Atkinson outrun them. And he knows if his opponent wants to play a more physical, possession game, he can let his playoff-tough checking line bang with them.
During this remarkable run, the Eagles' four forward lines have developed individual hallmarks that lend themselves to excelling in any situation a game dictates.
Prior to the Frozen Four-clinching win over Yale, his top line of Gibbons, Whitney and Atkinson struggled through the playoffs without much of an impact on the scoreboard. The Eagles, however, didn't suffer much. In the Hockey East championship game, sophomore winger Jimmy Hayes potted a pair while York's checking line scored four goals, including three from grinder Matt Lombardi.
"[Lombardi] has been a really significant defensive player during his tenure at BC. He has played against the top players on other teams, kills penalties, plays on a six-on-five at the end of the game, but all of a sudden he has become an offensive weapon," York said. "He had the big goal against UMass to send us to the TD Garden and then of course the hat trick against Maine, which propelled us to win our league title and then he scored a shorthanded goal [against Alaska], so he has really worked on his offensive skills and he has been a remarkable player to coach here."
Now, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Alaska and Yale, while strong teams, are not Miami. The Red Hawks spent most of the season atop the national polls and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament despite losing to Michigan in the CCHA semifinals. York knows allowing seven goals to Miami will likely result in a trip back to Chestnut Hill, Mass., before Saturday's national championship game.
Again, this isn't unfamiliar territory York, so he's not worried.
"We'll continue to do what we do. We aren't going to change a thing as far as what we do," York said. "We are winning and going to the Frozen Four so we won't just blow it up and do something different.
"So we will go into this with the same mindset that we had going into each game this year. Let’s play Eagle hockey, pay attention to details and hopefully we will be able to advance and move on in the tournament."
From what the Eagles have shown in the postseason, it's been difficult to peg the exact definition of "Eagle hockey." York's talks about attention to detail, and captain Matt Price spoke of pride and determination after the Hockey East championship game. But the only thing any of their last six games had in common was the result.
BC won — Eagle hockey at its finest.