BC, Fitzgerald Fighting for More than a Trophy
Eagles' Seniors Looking to Prolong Careers
BOSTON They were here three weeks ago.
One win and they get a trophy. A loss? Well, it got tricky. They either lost it or shared it. But still, sharing a trophy isn't what Boston College is all about.
The loss came, though. The Eagles fell, 3-1, to Massachusetts-Lowell. A night earlier it was the same scenario.
BC entered the final weekend of the Hockey East regular season needing just two points to lock up a league title on their own. They lost both games.
Both to Lowell.
The Eagles ended up in a three-way tie with Lowell and Boston University for Hockey East's regular-season championship. It's a trophy, but sharing it wasn't quite what BC had in mind.
Now, the Eagles enter the Hockey East championship game with a chance to get revenge and claim the program's 12th Hockey East tournament championship. Standing in front of them is that same UMass-Lowell team. Moreover, the Eagles need a victory to advance to the NCAA tournament for an eighth consecutive season. They are, in all likelihood, eliminated from contention for an at-large bid.
"We're excited about a chance to move on and play for the Lamoriello Trophy (Saturday) night," BC coach Jerry York said. "We mark our seasons by how many trophies we win. There's a chance for us to get our second trophy of the year. That's the driving force for us. A lot of people asked me about the NCAA tournament. We were locked in (Friday night) about the possibility of a Lamoriello Trophy."
Aside from the obvious goals of a championship, the Eagles' senior class also enters the weekend looking to avoid leaving Chestnut Hill without winning a Hockey East tournament altogether.
The program hasn't claimed one since the 2012 season when they went on to win a national championship as well. From 1998 through 2012, BC won nine of the 15 Hockey East tournaments, including six in eight seasons between 2005 and 2012.
Last season's senior class graduated without claiming a Hockey East title. Before that, it was the class that arrived in Chestnut Hill for the 2002-03 season that last graduated without winning a Hockey East tournament.
For the seniors, it's hardly been a disappointing tenure. They've been to the Frozen Four twice. They won a pair of Beanpots. They're well aware of what they haven't won, though. They hadn't even reached the Hockey East semifinals until their junior year.
"This is the tournament in particular that my class has never really had a good run in," Fitzgerald said. "We made it for the first time to the Garden last year. We got knocked out in the first game. This year, being the last time, we want to get every trophy we can get.
"With our program, it's a winning culture. It's almost a pride factor. You look back and you see all the guys before you who got it done. You want to be a part of that club that gets to say 'I won a Hockey East championship. I won a national championship.' It's just stuff like that motivates you even further."
For the most part, this season has been about BC's youth, especially after seven players left eligibility on the table to sign pro contracts after last season.
In Friday night's 3-2 win over rival Boston University, the Eagles' seniors carried the weight.
Ryan Fitzgerald scored BC's second and third goals of the evening. Senior defenseman Scott Savage picked up a pair of assists, and classmates — Austin Cangelosi and Chris Calnan — carried BC through the most pivotal points of the game.
"Ryan Fitzgerald was outstanding," York said. "He's had a good year for us. His goal production has been down, but it's mostly because of crossbars, pipes, certainly not for a lack of effort. His game has never suffered because of the goals not coming easy. ... I'm really proud of what he did on the big stage tonight. When we really needed some offense, he created two goals for us. Then, he won a key faceoff right there at the end when it was 3-2."
Fitzgerald currently has 11 goals and 19 assists in senior season, which includes a six-game stretch on the shelf with an ankle sprain in late November through December.
"It was the first time in my career I'd ever really had to deal with an injury," he said. "I didn't really know how long it would last. Thankfully, it wasn't too long.
Friday night, the Eagles led, 3-0, late in regulation before BU scored twice to lead to a frantic final minute.
Fitzgerald lined up for the the game's final faceoff. As the puck dropped, he hit the ice, tying the puck up and waiting for the final buzzer. His antics may've set the BU players off, leading to a few scuffles at the buzzer. It worked, though, and sent BC to a Hockey East final.
The Eagles, who fell into their tie for the regular-season title because of an inability to beat the league's other top teams, now head into a decisive game having won three straight against two of the league's other top six. For the entire regular season, BC won only three of the 10 games against these five teams (UML, BU, Notre Dame, Vermont and Providence).
Overall, BC's season-long struggles with the best the nation has to offer has them in this tenuous position of needing to win Hockey East if it has any hopes of getting back to the Frozen Four.
There's more than pride at stake in Saturday's Hockey East title game. For Ryan Fitzgerald and BC's remaining seniors, the trophy would be their first of its kind.
They've been here before. About three weeks. Saturday night, they need a different result.