Minnesota-Boston College Notebook
Through the Looking Glass
by Mike Machnik/CHN Senior Editor
TAMPA, Fla. When Minnesota meets Boston College in the second semifinal on Thursday, it will be a meeting of two programs with a similar pedigree and history — and two coaches with a similar approach to the game.
"I don't know if there's as much rivalry as respect," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. "Certainly look at what they've done in their history, very similar to Minnesota over the years. They've had a lot of U.S. kids, Mass. kids, we have Minnesota kids and won over the years that way."
"They play a style where they want to recruit talented players and let them get up and down the rink and let them play. And I think we try to do the same thing, we try to recruit skilled players and allow those skilled players to make plays and play pressure hockey. That's why tomorrow should be highly entertaining."
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"(BC is) a very talented team," said Minnesota defenseman Nate Schmidt. "They have the really good scoring depth, forward lines. And I think that's one thing that might benefit us, is that we as defensemen go against a very talented group of forwards each and every day in our own forwards, so I think that we're up for the task.
"They have big, strong forwards as well, similar size, a guy like Kyle Rau ... Kreider is a big guy, kind of like [Nick] Bjugstad. You see the same kind of players. The caliber doesn't change very much from championship caliber teams, such as Boston College and ourselves."
"First thing we have to do is manage the puck," said Lucia. "You can't turn pucks over to BC and shorten the rink for them. That's something that's going to be really important, to try to get pucks behind their defensemen and trying to make them go 200 feet.
"We're going to have to pick our spots, obviously, from an offensive standpoint. But, at the same time, I don't think we can just sit back and let them have the puck all night long because they're too talented. We have an opportunity. We have to try to establish some offensive zone time and don't be overselective.
"I think sometimes you try to get too cute, maybe, when the goaltender is hot or the team's playing — or think you have to have the perfect shot. You don't. Let's get pucks to the net and let's see if one can go off a shin pad or one off of a skate, try to get to some rebounds. So those are some of the things that we're going to have to do."
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"I think of all the teams in the country, when we look at them, we kind of look in the mirror," said Eagle coach Jerry York about the Gophers. "And they like to play the game with pace. They like to play the game with high skill level.
"They play very tenacious defensive play. It's remarkable, you can look at, hey, they wear the same color uniforms. You can look at a lot of peripheral things. But the tradition of the programs, there's a lot of things that are similar with BC and Minnesota.
"The pace of the game and the way they play, it's not a rock fight. We play enough games in the year that's a rock fight. This is a hockey game. Lots of skill. Lots of good hard checking. They play the way we want to play.
"And there's only a few teams in the country when we play against them, we say this team is very, very similar to us. The Gophers and Eagles share a lot of similarities.
"So I guess we play each other in practice all the time — it won't be any surprises, you know?"
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For the first time in 10 years, Minnesota has seven players with 30 points or more. The last time that happened, the Gophers won the NCAA championship.
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One of the coaches in the other semifinal, Bob Daniels of Ferris State, gave his thoughts on the Minnesota-BC matchup.
"[BC has] four lines deep of tremendous scoring. They a play a game that I think is probably similar to the University of Michigan's game where it's up tempo. And, again, they're league champions as well as playoff champions.
"Minnesota is in the same boat; they're league champions coming out of one of the most difficult conferences. I think they're time-tested — stubbed their toe a little bit in the conference playoffs, but that is to be expected. They came through an unbelievably difficult, I felt, region with both Western Michigan being there and North Dakota, and they came through and won that region, which I thought of the regions, that might have been the toughest region to come out of."
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This is the 28th time Minnesota and BC have met. Minnesota leads the all-time series, 14-11-2. They have met nine times so far in the NCAA tournament — eight in Massachusetts — and BC leads, 5-4-0. The last meeting came on March 28, 2008, a 5-2 win by BC in the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass. The Eagles would go on to win the national championship that year.
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Minnesota's team defense stands at 2.21 goals against per game, tied for eighth in the country — but last among the four teams that advanced to Tampa. Union (1.80) ranks first, followed by BC (second nationally, 2.07) and Ferris State (fifth, 2.17).
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"I think it's important to have (the Frozen Four) in traditional areas, but I think it's great to have it in some non-traditional areas at times, too, because it does open up some eyes," said Lucia. "It's a great market with Tampa here, won a (Stanley) Cup not too long ago.
"And it's become a real treat for your players. Obviously you have more media attention and everything like that, but what the host community does and the arena does, that's where I think it's really grown. It's always been a great experience, I think, for the fans but I think it's really grown as far as the player experience."
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BC has won 17 straight, the longest such streak under York and the longest since 1949-50, when a 22-game win streak encompassed the Eagles' first NCAA title in 1949.
Over that stretch, BC has allowed more than two goals just once — the first of the 17 consecutive wins, a 4-3 comeback win over New Hampshire on Jan. 27.
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York reacted to Lucia saying, "Unless you're Boston College, you don't get here every year."
"We take great pride in it, the fact that Donny has won back-to-back national championships would make a statement like that, because he has a program very similar to us," said York.
"It's no secret from my perspective. Everybody asks about this topic, but it's making sure you have a lot of good players, and that is when players graduate, you recruit well, and your assistants do a good job recruiting, and then you have a lot of good players and they have to be focused on team goals.
"We feel at BC, when you come into our program, no one's bigger than the Eagle. You're there for one purpose. You represent our school. Your focus is on winning trophies.
"And I don't care how good the player is, the reason we're so effective is that I think they all buy into that system. They're all team first."
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According to York, fans of the two programs can expect to see more games between them in the future.
York said on Wednesday that BC would appear in Minnesota's holiday tournament next season, and added that the schools had tentatively agreed on a four year scheduling arrangement.
Both teams will be playing fewer league games after next season, when Minnesota moves to the Big Ten and Hockey East adds Notre Dame. So there will be many more opportunities for games like these in-season.