Boston College Championship Game Preview
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
DETROIT He got the sons, but Jerry York still hasn't gotten the dad.
Mike Eaves' sons, Patrick and Ben, were key players at Boston College under Jerry York. Ben Eaves played for BC from 2000-04, and a member of the 2001 national championship team. Patrick, now a member of the Detroit Red Wings, was with the Eagles from 2002-05.
But with the elder Eaves, York hasn't had the same success. He lost to Eaves' Badgers in the 2006 national championship game. And he got away from York once before as well.
“I’m still mad at Michael for not coming to Clarkson," said York, who was head coach at Clarkson from 1972-79. "He was a high-scoring forward in the Ottawa area and we recruited him pretty hard. He went to Wisconsin. It softened a little bit when I got the chance to coach Ben and Patrick. They were such great players for our team and for college hockey."
Kidding aside, York has probably gotten the better of the deal, getting to coach the Eaves brothers.
"A lot of the times, coaches’ sons just understand the game better," York said. "Mike did a great job raising his two boys as far as hockey players and they’re good people, too. So, I have more appreciation for Mike now that I did back in the '70s. He’s done some amazing things with the Badgers. They’re back in the championship game and he’s a difficult opponent. He’s an awfully good coach.”
Of course, as a coach, York, 64, does have a few legs up on Eaves. York's 849 wins are second all time, behind former Michigan State coach Ron Mason. And York has three national championships to his name, while Eaves has one.
York won with Clarkson, then won more with Bowling Green, winning a national title in 1984, and has gone even further at BC, winning two titles and now playing in the team's fourth national championship game in five years.
"Certainly as you go through a career you tend to pick up some things," York said about his learning process as a coach. "But I think keeping things simple and not getting way out of whack because all of a sudden the game’s an important game. We try to maintain a good balance in our lives and our players’ lives and our approach to the game. But we’re not going to do anything different because it’s all of a sudden on a big stage and there are bright lights. We’re going to play our post-season games like we play all our games – try to stay steady. There will be periods of the game where we’ll be back on our heels and we have to weather the storm. And certainly we’re going to create some offense and try to capitalize on it. The game’s a fairly simple game if you keep it simple. It can get awfully complicated and I think that when you do that, it gets you all out of whack.”
Boston College sneaked up on college hockey this season, to some extent. After missing the NCAAs last season, the Eagles weren't high on the list for many people's title prognostications this year. But they managed to stay steadily near the top, the have a patented burst towards the end and right through the NCAAs.
“I don’t set the goals for our club because I think that’s the wrong way to do things," York said. "We ask the players, ‘What are your goals?’ And it works out, to me, much better. ... I say ‘All right, you realize how hard you have to work and how difficult that process is, but these are your goals and I accept them. It’s certainly what I would like but these are your goals.’ During the course of the year, we’ll have those goals on a separate piece of paper. If they look like they’re starting to slack a bit in practice or they aren’t coming to the rink with the enthusiasm I think they need, I’ll say ‘Here are your goals. These aren’t my goals.’
"Like I’ve said before, I’ve been to a number of Frozen Fours and they are all unbelievable experiences and there are some that capture those memories. But if you win it, then it becomes that much better of an experience.”
The teams are somewhat similar. While Wisconsin has more blue chippers on the backline, both teams have balance, have opportunistic forwards, and have goaltenders who have been considered weak links this season but have both proven they can shine, too.
"I don’t know if I’ve seen a defense that deep and that talented in college hockey in the span of my career," York said of the Badgers, who have five NHL first- and second-rounders. "They’re big, they’re very physical and they handle pucks extremely well. So that’s more than key to our approach. We’ve got to limit their input in their offense. If they join the play, they’ll have a lot of shots from the offensive points but also we have to win the cycle game that goes on – the game below the dots. And their strength is certainly a factor. We’re going to have to keep pucks moving and be strong on our skates."
BC goalie John Muse is a junior, like Wisconsin's Scott Gudmandson. The difference is, Muse won a national title in 2008 playing every minute of every game for the Eagles. Then he had hip surgery, and it set him back. This year, he split time with freshman Parker Milner.
“It was a long time off. I didn’t skate for five months and I was on crutches for nine weeks," Muse said. "Through our strength coach Russell DeRosa and our trainer Bert Lenz, I worked with them all summer. They got me going and ready and I was ready to go the first game.”
The only player on either team that's the same from 2006 is Wisconsin senior Ben Street, who was a medical redshirt last season. Otherwise, the players are different, though the coaches are the same, and so the team makeups are, of course, similar.
In 2006, however, Wisconsin didn't have as talented a backline as it has now.
"They’re different than the team we played in ’06," York said. "That was a team that wanted to play a 1-nothing game or a 2-1-type game with a much more defensive approach to the game.
"It’s going to be small things that determine the outcome of the game: a big save by John (Muse) or maybe a key block by one of our defensemen. There’s not going to be a lot separating the two teams but those small, little details are probably what differentiates these two clubs. They’re going to have good offense and good defense, but we’ve played teams similar to Wisconsin over the course of the year. We haven’t been in a cocoon. We’ve played some really strong games in Hockey East and we scheduled some pretty rugged ones outside the league, too."