April 9, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

BC Hopes to Avoid Three-Peat

by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer

DENVER — After attempts at a national title fell just short in Milwaukee (2006) and St. Louis (2007), the Boston Eagles are back in the Frozen Four again. And they officially kicked off the FF festivities on Wednesday morning, practicing in the Pepsi Center in Denver and then addressing the media.

Tomorrow, coach Jerry York's squad will square off against North Dakota once again, for yet another big game with the Sioux on a big stage.

"I've had 10 national championship appearances with BC, and North Dakota has been an opponent in seven of them," said York. "And two were in the national championship game. This rivalry is something — it's really special. We have a lot of respect for their program. When we blow the whistle in October, our goal is to get to the national tournament at the end of the year and try to win a national title.

"We have the full understanding that, somewhere along the line, if history repeats itself, we're going to play North Dakota."

Added senior captain Mike Brennan, who of course has played many a contest against crosstown rival Boston University, "I think it's as intense a rivalry as we have."

The last time the college hockey world saw BC, it was as they skated off the ice in Worcester, Mass., triumphing in overtime against Miami 10 days ago. Freshman phenom Joe Whitney, who leads the country with 40 assists, scored his 10th goal of the season, a highlight- reel diving goal in the extra session.

Since then, York has had no trouble keeping his Eagles team focused. The ultimate prize is of course at stake — the Eagles' third-ever national championship.

"The championship keeps them focused," said York of his players on Wednesday, following an Eagles practice at the Pepsi Center in Denver. "They are looking at the big prize, and not often can you sit back and say, 'I've accomplished something that puts me at the best in my field.' For us, it's hockey, and the goal is to be the very best you can be, to be the best team in the country — which is awful hard to do. That focus is inherent in all hockey players — they want to win the national title."

In a conversation with CHN earlier in the week, Mass.-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald praised Boston College for having players "small in stature but [with] big hearts."

Indeed, the Eagles are the only team in the Frozen Four whose players average height is less than 5-foot-11.

And their unquestioned offensive leader is the electric 5-foot-5 forward Nathan Gerbe, who scored 60 points in this, his junior season. The Oxford, Mich., native had 65 points in his freshman and sophomore campaigns combined.

Against a much bigger Miami team in the aforementioned Northeast Regional final, Gerbe was instrumental in turning a game that was highly physical early on into a quick, speed-based contest.

"I think our team sat back at the start of the first periods, and they took it to us," said Gerbe. "Coming into the locker room, coach let us know that we could really turn it around, by playing our best hockey. That's the same mentality we have to tae [against North Dakota]. We can't hope not to lose. We have to go out and be aggressive.

Added assistant captain Matt Greene, another forward who has impacted many a BC game with his energy, "On paper, we're not the biggest team, but we're gritty. Those numbers don't determine how much heart and consistency this team plays with."

Now, the Eagles head into their Frozen Four matchup with North Dakota, hoping that their heart and consistency will be enough to lead them to their third consecutive national championship game on Saturday night.

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