Boston College's 17-Game Run Not A Burden
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
TAMPA, Fla. Perhaps what's most remarkable about Boston College's current winning streak isn't just that it now stands at 17 games (and counting). It's that the streak has represented a level of on-ice performance that simply would have been difficult for fans in Chestnut Hill to imagine before it began, when the Eagles were stumbling through a 5-8-1 stretch.
Since then? Seventeen consecutive games without losing, the longest winning streak at Boston College during the tenure of their legendary head coach Jerry York — a tenure that has included national championships in 2001, 2008, and 2010. If the streak continues to an eighteenth win, with a win against Minnesota in Thursday evening's primetime matchup at the Frozen Four, York would reach 912 career victories.
Still, streaks like these are difficult to assess during the postseason. After all, if this winning streak ends, there's no opportunity to start a new one.
"In the regular season, a win streak — it may be tough to focus on one game at a time," said senior Tommy Cross, second in defenseman scoring for the Eagles with five goals and 18 assists. "When one win streak ends in the regular season, you can start another. But in the playoffs, you lose, you go home, so win streaks don't really matter."
This win streak mattered, of course, in that it has brought Boston College to the Frozen Four — their 23rd all-time, fifth in their last seven years. The streak has boosted BC's record to 31-10-1.
And 27 of those wins have been earned by goaltender Parker Milner, who — as has been well-documented — has been in net for all 17 in the streak. Overall, the junior netminder boasts a 1.70 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. And perhaps the most impressive performance during the streak came in the Hockey East championship game, when Milner saved 41 shots from Maine in a 4-1 win.
But the Pittsburgh native has been called on often. Six of the 17 games have been one-goal wins, and Milner has responded by allowing two goals or fewer in 16 of them. A perfect storm of explosive offense — 3.9 goals per game — and dedicated defense allowed the Eagles to play without trailing, at one point, for a remarkable 687 minutes, 56 seconds.
That's over 34 periods of game time.
"We just take it one game at a time," said senior forward Paul Carey, who has combined with freshmen Johnny Gaudreau and Pat Mullane to score 55 points during the 17-game streak. "We're focused on that game and what's at hand. We're not really concerned with the next game or what's coming up."
As for Milner, the memories of a poor November and December — which included tough losses to rivals Notre Dame and Boston University — are now distant, as he prepares for Thursday's showdown in Tampa against Minnesota.
"Parker has gone from a good goaltender to an exceptional goaltender," said York, who also noted that he understood why Milner was not named to Hockey East's First Team or Second Team. "Parker is not even close to what he was in November and December I thought goaltending was going to be a real problem for us, and now it's a strength. Emotionally, he's matured. His game's a lot better in any type of goaltending description you can talk about."
With long winning streaks, of course, comes the danger of complacency, a potential for bad habits to creep into a team's play. Just ask Ferris State, playing in Thursday's opposite semifinal, who enjoyed a 15-game unbeaten streak during the spring before losing a CCHA quarterfinal playoff series to No. 11 seed Bowling Green. In a conference call last week, coach Bob Daniels — just named the 2012 Spencer Penrose Award winner as the Division I men's ice hockey coach of the year — admitted that such a lengthy time without losing hurt his team.
Not surprisingly, then, York insists that the real danger lies in his opponent.
"Just looking at Minnesota, that's a big danger sign right there in front of us," said York, who earned coaching win No. 800 against the Gophers in an NCAA tournament win in 2008. "It's our opponent that's right in our focus here. During winning streaks during the season, you establish a winning streak, you lose, you establish another winning streak. You go back and forth during the course of the ebbs and flows of the season.
"Once you get to the NCAA regionals, the Frozen Four, there's no going back. You win it and you advance"
Which means, of course, if you lose — streak over. And you go home.