March 18, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

BC One Step From Another Title

by Joe Meloni/CHN Reporter

 (photo: Josh Gibney)

(photo: Josh Gibney)

Highlights from BC's semifinal win

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BOSTON — For Boston College coach Jerry York and his players, nothing beats a national championship.

Not much of a shock there. Programs with expectations, both internal and external, want to play hockey in April.

York’s current lineup knows the feeling, too. Despite the youngest team in country by age, the Eagles dressed just three freshmen Friday night in a 5-4 win over Northeastern in the Hockey East semifinals. The remaining 17 players found themselves in this position last season after defeating Vermont in the Hockey East semifinals. At that point, most assumed the conference title meant little to the Eagles, just another test before the important one.

Same thing this season. A Beanpot. A Hockey East Regular Season Championship. And another Hockey East Championship berth. Whatever. More important trophies lie ahead.

Those people, the ones who thought York and his team viewed the conference championship as an afterthought, were wrong. Very, very wrong.

“When we sit down at the beginning of the season and make our goals, a Hockey East Championships is always right there at the top for everyone to see,” senior goaltender John Muse said following Friday’s win. “We’re lucky to have the chance to achieve that goal tomorrow night.”

In his four years at BC, Muse has already lifted the Lamoriello Cup twice, as a freshman and last season as a junior. Both times the Eagles moved on to win a national championship. But neither time was the ultimate prize on their minds when they took the TD Garden ice.

The 27-game Hockey East schedule teaches clubs a couple things about this game. Most importantly, though, is that the only game that matters is the one you’re playing that night. For Muse and his teammates, this makes potentially winning the program’s 10th Hockey East Championship Saturday night their goal right now.

Even with a bid to the NCAA Tournament locked up and a No. 1 seed seeming like a certainty, doing so without winning their conference would take a bit luster away from the season.

“I think top to bottom, this is the best league in the country,” Muse said. “When you play tough opponents every single night, it really gets you ready for the NCAA Tournament.”

Of course, any of the four power conferences in Division I hockey can lay claim to this title, but none at the moment can say they’ve produced the last three national champions. All of which won the Lamoriello Cup three weeks prior to claiming a national championship.

Saturday night, Boston College will in its 15th conference championship game with a chance to earn its 10th Hockey East title. Some fans at the Heights may have fixed their eyes on St. Paul, Minn., and a second straight national championship. York certainly isn’t, though. Given the success most of his players have experienced, there exists a chance they would be looking ahead, too. Even with the lessons they learn between October and the first week of March, players’ minds can wander to the few weeks that lie ahead. These are things York doesn’t have to worry about, especially when it comes to his goaltender.

“[Muse] wants to defend and win another Lamoriello Cup,” York said. “[Three of the four Hockey East Semifinals] are going to go on to [the NCAA Tournament], but we are really focused on the Lamoriello Cup. Our conference is important for us. We have this expression that you have enjoy Thanksgiving before Christmas comes. These are great things for us here. Our conference tournament is utmost in our mind.”

Before the season begins, the questions always deal with the national tournament. York didn’t worry about those questions in September when they first game. Even now, with the national tournament a certainty, York isn’t thinking about North Dakota or Yale or Michigan. When the Eagles won Friday night, he was thinking about New Hampshire and Merrimack, and which club would stand behind him and another Lamoriello Cup.

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