Friday, June 4, 2010

2009-2010 Year in Review, Part II: Hockey

The road to a championship is often long and not without its ups and downs. You already know how the story ends for the 2009-2010 Eagles hockey team, but the events that led up to their title were also quite memorable.

Boston College played out the 2009 portion of its schedule with a 10-3-2 record and rolled along in and out of Hockey East play. As 2010 began, however, they hit a snag with a three-game losing streak (the only one they would have for the entire season). In fact, from the start of the year through January 23rd, BC had lost 5 of 7 games and there were fears that perhaps the hockey team would start to struggle as they had in the 2008-2009 season. Boston College, however, would have none of that.

The Eagles made their first great accomplishment in early February. In the Beanpot semifinals, BC wiped the floor with Harvard and set the stage for a BC-BU final the following week. BU were, of course, the defending national and Beanpot champions, and though their season to that point had not been particularly impressive, they were always good for a tough battle. On February 8, the Eagles got by BU by one goal to capture their 2nd Beanpot title in three years, sending the Terrier fans home disappointed (just the way we like them).

On March 5, Boston College tied New Hampshire, which gave the Wildcats the regular season Hockey East title. It was, however, an empty victory for UNH, as they did not win the Hockey East Tournament (nor did they make it out of the quarterfinals). The Eagles were the highest seed standing after the quarters, with BC having swept UMass in the first round. The semifinal matchup saw BC shut Vermont out and advance to the Hockey East title game. Some had suspected that Boston University would be waiting there for them, but the Maine Black Bears clipped them and met the Eagles. In a tense, high-scoring, not-so-great-goalie-work affair, the Eagles prevailed 7-6 and won the Hockey East championship -- again, for the 2nd time in 3 years. At this point, there was still one goal left to be met.

Boston College, as expected, was given a 1-seed in the NCAA Hockey Tournament. Their first game saw them face the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks for the first time in program history. BC goaltender John Muse rebounded from his previous performance and held Alaska to one goal, and BC got to solid goalie Scott Greenham three times for the win. The next game, however, would be far more lively.

The regional final pitted the Eagles against the Yale Bulldogs. If you thought the game against Maine was high-scoring, this one ended up being a 9-7 Eagle victory. Both starting goalies involved seemed like they were powerless as shots kept going in the nets. In fact, Yale ran three goalies out onto the ice, and none of them were effective.  Ultimately, however, the Atkinson-Gibbons-etc. Eagles had too much offensive firepower for the Bulldogs and advanced to their 9th Frozen Four under Jerry York.

Once the Eagles made it to the Frozen Four in Detroit, it was time for some good old-fashioned ass-whoopings. Boston College whacked the top overall seed in the tournament, Miami (OH), by 6 goals to get to the national championship game. Muse had once again regained his title form and the offense kept playing at a high level against a quality opponent.

Most hockey analysts did not expect Boston College to get to the national championship game, but when they had, most expected Wisconsin -- BC's opponent -- to handle them with relative ease. The Eagles are too small, they said, and Wisconsin is too dominant. The Badgers were clearing off the space on their trophy case for another NCAA title. To date, that spot is still empty. Boston College beat Wisconsin by a 5-0 score in a game that was physical as expected. The Badgers had no answers for BC, and John Muse showed again why he is a (now two-time) championship goalie. Jerry York raised the trophy for the third time this decade.

Boston College got great contributions from a number of guys. Points leader Cam Atkinson (53) was one of the best players in Hockey East and the nation in 2009-2010, while Brian Gibbons (50) nearly matched his teammate's points. Atkinson's 30 goals, however, made him tops in college hockey. Brian Gibbons, for his part, was in the top ten in assists. Freshman Chris Kreider, who tasted victory at the World Juniors early in 2010, came back from that competition and emerged as a rising star on the Heights and in hockey. The Whitneys, Joe and Steve, Ben Smith, Jimmy Hayes, Carl Sneep, Matt Price, so on and so forth all contributed to the team's success as well. In goal, John Muse and Parker Milner both earned their keep, though Milner's post-championship activities have almost certainly gotten him in hot water with York.

The previous season, following their 2008 NCAA title, was a letdown. BC had lost Nate Gerbe and were no doubt feeling a bit of a championship hangover. 2009-2010, however, saw a return to glory. We have become very spoiled at Boston College with regards to our hockey team. This is the one televised sport we have where we expect to win year in and year out. In a sport where Eagles fans have fond memories, this past season added to them and deepened our faith in this program and coach. Jerry York is a born winner: he always has been and he always will be. For as long as he is at the helm of this club, they will continue to do our school proud.

Tomorrow: men's basketball.  I get in a few more cracks at that pathetic team; you won't want to miss it.

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