By Johnny Carey, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Now that March Madness is over, you may be feeling a little sad– even a little bit lost. If you’re looking for a place to get your tournament fix now, fear not.
The Frozen Four is in Tampa this weekend, and to the surprise of no one, Boston College will be there.
When the Eagles take the ice against the Quinnipiac Bobcats on Thursday evening, it will mark BC’s seventh Frozen Four appearance in the past 11 years. For all that’s gone wrong sports-wise this season in Chestnut Hill (and there’s been plenty), it seems that nothing can bring down the hockey program.
More accurately, nothing can bring down B.C. head coach Jerry York.
York is without a doubt one of if not the greatest college hockey coach of all time. York’s 1,012 career wins are almost 100 more than anyone else (Ron Mason is second with 924) and his five national titles are tied for second all time behind Vic Heyliger, who led Michigan to six championships in the 1940s and ’50s. In York’s 22 seasons as B.C.’s head man, it’s the 12th time he has led the Eagles to the Frozen Four.
It’s safe to say that this time of year — “Trophy season,” as he calls it — has been kind to York.
“For us, you have the Beanpot, the [Hockey East] regular-season trophy, the playoff trophy and then of course the national championship,” York told College Hockey News. “Those are our four trophies, and we define our season on how successful we are [at] putting hardware in our trophy case.”
So far, B.C. has won the Beanpot as well as a share of the Hockey East regular-season title. An upset at the hands of Northeastern in the Hockey East Tournament semifinals, however, has the team looking to finish 3-for-4.
I’d be willing to bet that York would take that result.
Now that the two-week wait is almost over, here’s what to look for from B.C. as the Eagles look to defeat No. 1 seed Quinnipiac and reach the national championship game.
1. Across the Board Talent
B.C. is stacked with plenty of future NHL talent, including 11 draft picks (six drafted in the first two rounds). First-round picks Alex Tuch (MIN) and Colin White (NJ) are joined by four second-round picks, as well as one third, three fourths, and a sixth-round pick.
Despite all that talent, B.C.’s game doesn’t bank on flash and individual scoring. York’s team-first mantra has rubbed off on the young roster so that the team isn’t desperately reliant upon a single forward. When one player gets shut down, another usually steps up.
Bruins 2013 fourth-round pick Ryan Fitzgerald leads the Eagles in points with 46, but the balanced group still includes five other players with more than 30 points.
The fact that the Eagles rank fifth in the nation in scoring without a top-10 individual scorer goes a long way in showing the team’s depth.
Even with a high-powered offense, BC’s biggest strength is found in net.
Just last week, B.C. goaltender Thatcher Demko was named a Hobey Baker Finalist. The Vancouver Canucks draft pick has excelled in his junior season, going 27-7-4 with a 1.85 GAA and .936 save percentage between the pipes. To top it off, he has a nation-leading 10 shutouts.
In the Northeast Regional, Demko carried the Eagles in their two wins, and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the region for his efforts. If Demko is on top of his game like he was in Worcester, it will prove very difficult to knock off the Eagles. If he struggles, B.C. is in trouble against the highest scoring team remaining in the tournament.
B.C.’s biggest weakness this season has been its discipline. All season long, the Eagles have ranked at the top of the nation in penalty minutes, which is surprising from a Jerry York-led team.
BC averages 14.4 penalty minutes per game this season, which is good for fifth most in the nation, and about 3.5 more than Quinnipiac’s 10.93 average.
While the team’s penalty kill has been fantastic (fourth in the nation), it could prove disastrous for B.C. to give the likewise fourth-ranked Quinnipiac power play any extended time.
Don’t sleep on the Eagles’ aggressiveness while short-handed, though. The Eagles rank second in the nation in short-handed goals.
4. Stopping Sam Anas
Quinnipiac’s high-scoring attack is led by junior forward Sam Anas, who ranks eighth in the nation in points (50), sixth in goals (24), and second in power-play goals (tied with teammate Travis St. Denis).
B.C.’s talented defensive core led by Ian McCoshen, Steve Santini, and Casey Fitzgerald will have their hands full with Anas.
This game should be a great one due to the extremely similar ability of both teams.
B.C. ranks fifth in scoring offense, while Quinnipiac ranks fourth.
B.C. is seventh in overall defense, while Quinnipiac ranks fifth.
As the numbers show, something’s got to give.
Johnny Carey is a senior at Boston College. You can find him on Twitter @JohnnyHeights.