National Championship Game Preview
BC, Ferris Take Different Paths to Same Destination
by Joe Meloni/CHN Staff Writer
TAMPA, Fla. Both Boston College and Ferris State enter Saturday's national championship with a few similar goals. Aside from the obvious of remaining as the lone club to advance through the 16-team field unscathed, each prides itself on making opponents uncomfortable.
The means to this end, however, come differently from each club. The highly skilled Eagles rely on their speed and playmaking to force opponents into mistakes. With a roster featuring Chris Kreider, Johnny Gaudreau and some of the nation's other most talented players, the style suits the Eagles well.
Ferris State, on the other hand, forces its opponents to adapt to a more deliberate game, relying on its system and commitment to defense. Ferris State and BC have played three games apiece thus far. In every game, they have successfully imposed their will on opponents or made simple adjustments to their gameplan.
"I think we'll have to make it a defensive battle," FSU coach Bob Daniels said. "There has been a lot talk about BC's speed and offensive abilities, but, having only given up one goal themselves last night, obviously they are doing very well defensively. With that in mind, and their ability to score, we can't hand them chances."
The results have been the same for each, three wins, no losses and a berth in the final game of the 2011-12 college hockey season.
Boston College has won 18 consecutive games, dating back to Jan. 26-27, when it swept New Hampshire. In that time, the Eagles have outscored their opponents 73-20 while trailing on just three occasions.
"I don't think think about (the winning streak) much," BC coach Jerry York said. "You know, here's our next opponent. … We play so many different opponents in hockey that you can't adjust to every team you play. So, you better keep your own ship ready."
Despite the dominating run, BC has showed an ability to win games of all kinds. Thursday's national semifinal turned into a rout with BC defeating Minnesota, 6-1. However, in their first game of the tournament, the Eagles defeated Air Force, 2-0, in a game the Falcons looked to keep close.
"You'll become familiar with the personnel of your opponent and their tendencies," BC captain Tommy Cross said.
"At the same time, a lot of our attention is geared toward our own performance, the way we're playing and the way we're handling certain situations. When your attention is on your own game, you can adjust. But you want to stay focused regardless of the type of game it might be on that night."
Thursday night, the Eagles responded to Minnesota's attempt to beat them with a mix of speed and imposing physicality by turning mistakes into odd-man rushes and scoring chances. Against Air Force two weeks ago, BC relented slightly as the Falcons clogged the neutral zone. It seemed, for a while, as though the Falcons had developed a blueprint to knock the Eagles off. Instead, BC seized control of the game and their lead, while sparse, was never in doubt.
"Ferris is a little different than Minnesota," York said. "Minnesota is a little different than the University of New Hampshire, but I think our focus is pretty easy. You have one game to win a trophy. We're looking at that shiny trophy."
Ferris State has succeeded similarly in its three NCAA Tournament games thus far. Adjusting to turns that develop in games is a sign of good teams. Thursday, the Bulldogs went down, 1-0, early in the first period. Staying true to their strengths led to the game-tying goal from Aaron Schmit and the eventual game-winner from Kyle Bonis. Each marker came after FSU players won battles and sent a puck to the net.
Refusing to veer from the system that resulted in their bid to the tournament demonstrates the commitment and maturity the Bulldogs rely on.
Maintaining this structure against Boston College will be an entirely different situation. However, Ferris State encountered a similarly talented team in its tournament opener against Denver. The Pioneers aren't currently clicking as sharply as BC. Still, Ferris remained committed to the simplest principles of checking hard, sending pucks to net and limiting their own mistakes.
"We played fast teams all year. We're used to it," FSU's Jordie Johnston said. "I know BC is maybe a step above what we are used to, but our game plan is to slow teams down. We make teams make mistakes and make them slow down to our place. I think that can really throw a wrench into some of their gameplans."
As mistakes happen, both teams have strong goaltenders and disciplined defensive units capable of negating these issues. BC's Parker Milner made 30 saves in Thursday's win over Minnesota, while FSU's Taylor Nelson set aside 27 Union shots.
Despite the most glaring of differences, BC and Ferris State share a few things. Aside from quality goaltending and confidence in their system, both teams want to leave Tampa with one more piece of hardware in tow. Saturday night at 7 p.m., the journey to declare the recipient of that trophy begins.