Looking for Their Own Banner
Team Concept Leads BC to Tampa
by Joe Meloni/CHN Staff Writer
WORCESTER, Mass. Championship banners hang in Conte Forum for a reason.
Since 2000, Boston College has qualified for eight of the 13 Frozen Fours, with its latest ticket punched Sunday night with a 4-0 win over Minnesota Duluth in the Northeast Regional final. The victories, Frozen Four appearances and league and national championships keep piling up in Chestnut Hill.
Ultimately, the talent BC coach Jerry York attracts to his program receives the bulk of the plaudits. Among the current Eagle roster are players with NHL futures, draft picks certain to get their chance and others far more than likely. In Sunday's win, that talent revealed itself throughout the game. It takes many forms, whether it's Brian Dumoulin and Tommy Cross breaking down gifted UMD forwards or Chris Kreider and Johnny Gaudreau effortlessly turning corners to turn possessions into scoring chances.
Below the surface, though, lost in the goals and the championships, is the mindset York attracts to his enclave just outside of Boston.
"To be a successful team, every guy has to give something up for the team to be better," sophomore center Bill Arnold said.
Arnold, one of the premier three-zone centers in Hockey East, scored BC's second goal on Sunday night, positioning himself in the slot and one-timing a Steven Whitney feed from behind the net past UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter. Beyond his contribution on the scoreboard, Arnold leads one BC's top penalty-killing units, and led the charge when the Eagles went down two men in the third period.
Acting as the head on the BC triangle, Arnold drifted back and forth, monitoring the UMD penalty killers, regularly dropping his leg to block a shot or close a passing lane.
A draft pick of the Calgary Flames, a future in hockey is close to a certainty for Arnold. Still, there he is, sacrificing himself to keep his club in control of a crucial game.
Across the country, there are programs that attract the same level of talent the Eagles do. Many of these clubs, however, find themselves in the precarious position of trying desperately to mold a collection of world-class talents into an elite hockey team. That experiment often fails.
In Chestnut Hill, though, that's simply never the case.
Without sacrifice for the team's success, the team will fail. For Arnold and his teammates, that's simply unacceptable. Arnold points to Gaudreau, the freshman winger, as a prime example. By now, the diminutive winger's vitals are well known. Upon arriving at BC, though, he quickly learned his role extended far beyond creating scoring chances.
"Johnny Gaudreau is a smaller player that may not like getting physical, but, during the game, he's out there throwing his body around," Arnold said. "Something that's not necessarily a part of his game, but he's willing to do it to win. It's stuff like that. It's doing things that maybe you're not comfortable doing, but knowing it's going to be for the benefit of the team."
That mindset becomes the standard for these young men instantly. Gifted players around the country work for a chance to play for York and his staff at Boston College. It's not only the best who receive and accept the offer. Arnold has seen in his short time at BC, the right players are far more important.
"When I was a freshman last year, the sophomore, juniors and seniors, watching them, I just picked up on it," he said. "They kind of tell you about it, and we tried to teach the freshman class this year. They're all willing to buy in and be a part of it. They all buy in. It's something I'll carry with me until I'm a senior."
A year ago, BC entered the NCAA Tournament as one of the nation's top seeds. Forced to the West Regional in St. Louis, the Eagles drew Colorado College and fell, 8-4, in stunning fashion. Watching seniors, such as John Muse, Brian Gibbons and Joe Whitney, end their careers at BC on such a poor note resonates with Arnold and his teammates remaining from last year's team.
While few Eagles played to par that night, guilt remains for each individual, knowing they failed to bring another banner to the Heights. Using the disappointment as motivation, Arnold believes he and his teammates absorbed the only real lesson available. The team concept of sacrifice and selflessness must remain present at all times, but especially in the NCAA Tournament.
"It was definitely disappointing losing that game," Arnold said. "From the bad, you have to, as hard as it is, take the good from it. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I think it paid off. This year, we came in, and we were ready to play. We weren't going to have a let down in this game. It's one and done, so it doesn't matter if you're the first seed or the fourth seed. That's what we learned last year, and we put that into our team this year."
Heading back to campus, Arnold and his teammates will practice under the banners BC teams from the past have left behind. They serve as reminders of greatness, of the excellence York has worked to instill as the standard. However, next to the 2010 national championship banner, there is a hole. Last year's club possessed the makings of champion, but fell short for any number of reasons.
Sunday's win erases that devastation for now. The Eagles are on their way to Tampa, Fla., for a national semifinal game against West Regional champion Minnesota. Two storied programs battling for the right to play for a national championship.
Arnold and the BC underclassmen not present for the Eagles' last title fight are determined to put their imprint on the program.
"We have a winning tradition, so the goal every year is winning a national championship," he said. "That's what we work for, and we're close with a national semifinal game. Hopefully, this team will get their banner up in Conte Forum."
The talent is there, and they'll arrive at the Tampa Times Forum as the favorite. Like BC demonstrated this weekend with shutout wins over the Bulldogs and Air Force, they also possess the determination to adjust to the nature of the game and do all that's required to win.
BC's four previous national championship teams showed the same mettle.
That's the reason the banners hang in Conte Forum.