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COLUMN: For York's Eagles, History Repeats Itself Once Again

Assoc. Sports Editor

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 22:01

 

Right about now, the Boston College men’s hockey team isn’t just experiencing deja vu—it’s living it.

For those who watched a lowly Maine team relentlessly deal the Eagles their first home sweep in two decades, last weekend was the equivalent to a college hockey apocalypse. Head coach Jerry York’s defending national champions were outscored 7-2 by an opponent who entered Conte Forum on Friday with only one conference victory and left on Sunday with three. 

To rain on the proverbial parade a bit more, the Eagles have now dropped four out of their last five games. Yet for everyone wishing to press the panic button on BC’s season, my advice to you is this: chill out.

Sure, the last time BC was swept in a home weekend series was 1993 (ironically enough, by Maine), the last time it lost two consecutive home games was the 2008-2009 season, and the last time Parker Milner wasn’t starting a game between the pipes seems like never. But when was the last time BC appeared to be heading toward a midseason meltdown? 

It was almost exactly this time just last year when the Eagles endured a grueling sweep at Maine (yep, you guessed correctly) that appeared to be a crippling blow on the eve of their stretch run. Just when everyone was about to write the 2011-12 season off as a lost cause, however, York’s BC squad bought into a timeless maxim: when life hands you a sweep from the Maine Black Bears, get mad and win 19 straight games. It was that disastrous weekend last year that spurred the Eagles’ legendary path all the way to a national title two months later.

Of course, last year’s BC team was graced with the likes of Chris Kreider and Tommy Cross, and the Maine team it was swept by had been a Hockey East contender instead of a conference cellar dweller. Yet it was still surprising to sense the dejection that ensued after this weekend’s series. While watching Saturday night’s game, it was as if Maine’s Jon Swavely single-handedly parted the Superfan section with his late-third period goal. A student section that spent two days waiting for its Eagles to make a defensive stop and execute with the puck realized that a mass exodus was the only way to wake up from the nightmare on ice. 

Maybe the sudden letdown can’t all be blamed on last weekend, but rather attributed to the fact that BC hockey fans are generally unaccustomed to defeat. Dating back to York’s arrival in 1994, the crowds that have jammed Conte Forum every weekend have been spoiled with six Hockey East regular season titles, six Beanpot trophies, and four national championships. So when the Eagles hit a midseason bump in the road—which isn’t anything new—the sudden losing stings a bit more. 

Yet the root of the pessimism and mutterings of “we lost to … Maine?” isn’t solely connected hockey on the Heights, let alone two regular-season games. As much as BC’s fan base has been treated to unprecedented success on the rink, it has also withstood another tough year in athletics. The negative sentiment following Saturday’s loss probably stems more from frustration with a 2-10 football team looking to rebuild and waning patience with a young men’s basketball program than a single weekend in men’s hockey. 

For better or worse, York’s squad has become the winning crutch that fans lean on—the infallible driving force that always finds a way to figure things out when the going gets tough. One poor series is not the reason for panic, but the sight of BC’s finest looking all-too human on the ice is.

As York said after Saturday night’s game, “That’s always our objective—get better and better. I’m not sure if you can go back and say, ‘They beat us twice now, we’re going to win 19 straight games.’” History might repeat itself, but it isn’t easy for any team to repeat history. Is a midseason collapse out of the question? It isn’t, and there’s no debating the fact that the Eagles are down right now. But if there’s anything York’s teams have proven to the hockey world over the years, it’s that they will always fight to pick themselves up.

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