Either Rain or Sleet or Blowout
Battle-Tested BC Can Win However It Has To
by Joe Meloni/CHN Staff Writer
Perhaps the most impressive statistic Boston College boasts on its current 17-game winning streak is the amount of time it's trailed since its last loss on Jan. 21. Since losing to Maine that night in Orono, the Eagles have fallen behind opponents just twice for a combined 5 minutes, 33 seconds.
The second time around came in a Hockey East Semifinal when Providence took a 2-1 lead on the Eagles at 4:33 of the first period.
The Friars' advantage lasted 4:02 before Destry Straight leveled the game. That night, BC rolled to a 4-2 over PC, clinching a berth in the Hockey East Championship game, which it won, 4-1, without much of an issue, defeating Maine for the second time in three years.
One week later, the Eagles found themselves in a tougher battle than most expected, knocking off Air Force, 2-0, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. To earn their spot in their eighth Frozen Four out of a possible 13 this century, the Eagles blew past Minnesota-Duluth, 4-0.
"The regional group was a hard climb for us," BC coach Jerry York said. "Air Force was a very difficult opponent for us. Frank Serratore had the club ready to play us. After that win, we played a Duluth team that Scott Sandelin made one of the best teams in the country for sure. It was a game that featured a lot of great players. We got a terrific break with two goals that kind of changed the feeling of the game."
Four games. Each vastly different with ebbs and flows and momentum swings all their own. Still, the same result. Just one more BC win — one more step toward a national championship. The Eagles head to Tampa, Fla., as the favorite, despite noteworthy challenges from Thursday's opponent in Minnesota and an equally troublesome matchup with either Union or Ferris State should they get past the Golden Gophers.
Predicting the direction a game will take is as troublesome as beating the Eagles has been. Teams have styles and systems. They like to play certain ways and approach games hoping to force their opponents to follow suit. Against the Eagles, though, the means matters very little, since it always seems to reach the same end.
"You don't want to get into a shootout with BC," Air Force winger John Kruse said after the Eagles ended his club's season on March 24. "That's not going to turn out well for you. They have so much skill offensively."
With this in mind, AF coach Frank Serratore kept his team within a strict system, hoping to keep the game close. The Falcons succeeded on one front, maintaining a one-goal deficit for most of the game, before the Eagles put it away late in regulation.
The following night, BC and UMD played even through the first 20 minutes, before the quick-strike BC offense notched a pair and rolled to a 4-0 win.
Against the Bulldogs, BC's toughest opponent since the regular season ended, the Eagles managed their largest margin of victory since the postseason began. Early in the game, the Bulldogs dictated play at times creating chances that goaltender Parker Milner forced aside to keep the game scoreless.
Despite UMD's early rush, the Eagles adhered to their uptempo mindset and eventually began their onslaught. That ability to work through tougher moments remains a constant for York's BC clubs. That night, Milner was the defensive leader for the Eagles. But the acumen necessary to assess the direction of a game and play within it extends throughout the BC lineup. From their hulking defensemen to their slightest of forwards, the Eagles are capable of playing — and winning — in any circumstance they're presented.
"We commit to playing defense as well as offense," York said. "I think this year's team fits into that mold. We have some very skilled players, but they understand you don't advance if you just play offense."
It can take some cajoling of skilled wingers and forwards during practice or throughout the season. As if York alone isn't enough to drive the point, a quick look upward at the team's home says all it has to.
"We've got a lot of banners up here at Kelley Rink," York said. "And I think the feeling is that, when we look back on our legacy, we want to win important trophies, and there isn't one shinier than the one they're going to present at (the Tampa Times Forum) next Saturday."
Like their opponents, the Eagles enter each game with a plan. Inevitably, games take their own course, forcing clubs to react. Lesser clubs struggle to adjust to these deviations. Not the Eagles. Play it close. Play it open. Attack them. Defend them. They're ready, and they've shown they can win however they have to.