Eagles Eye Hockey East Crown
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Hockey East’s top-seeded Boston College Eagles (27-10-1, 19-7-1 HE) will take on the seventh-seeded Providence College Friars (14-19-4, 10-14-3 HE) this Friday night at the TD Garden for the right to play in Saturday’s conference final. The Eagles will be hoping to continue their winning ways after defeating the UMass Minutemen in two games during their weekend quarterfinal series.
Despite the Eagle’s 3-0 record against Providence this year, which includes two shutout victories, head coach Jerry York and the rest of the Eagles will not be taking the Friars lightly. PC was able to upset second-seeded UMass Lowell in three games, all of which were at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.
"As we look forward, we have Providence, who is under new coach Nate Leaman," York said. "It’s certainly a great credit to his program and his coaching staff that they could go into Lowell and knock off the second-seeded team in our division. They’re on fire, they’re hot. We certainly have to be ready for a different Providence College team than what we saw a few weeks ago."
The team that BC saw in late February was far from the same team that beat UMass Lowell in the quarterfinals. The Friars finished the regular season on a four-game losing streak, which included two losses to the Eagles by scores of 3-0 in Providence and 7-0 back at Kelley Rink. During the regular season series, the Eagles outscored the Friars by a score of 14-1. York, however, is far from worried about motivating his team.
"When you look at recent results, how Providence went to UMass Lowell and advanced, that’s a wake-up call for our club," York said. "We know how good Lowell is, and for the Friars to go there and advance to the Garden, that has certainly got our attention. It’s similar to UMass. During the course of the year, UMass had taken two out of three from us, so they had our attention because of that fact. The ability to go up to beat that Lowell team has impressed me and has impressed the players."
With BC and BU in the tournament, it is accustomed for all of Hockey East to assume those two teams will be playing come Saturday night in the final, but Providence is one team that has its eyes set on a different type of final. The Friars were able to go into Lowell and take care of business, and are certainly expecting a similar result when they come to the TD Garden. They are aware of their Cinderella Story status, and appear to be eager for the opportunity to play the No.1 Eagles.
"They present a tough matchup for anyone they play this year," Providence head coach Nate Leaman said of his matchup with the Eagles. "They’re extremely deep up front with their forwards, and their defense is strong and do a nice job of jumping up in the offense, as well as getting pucks to their forwards with speed. I think it’s a tough matchup for anyone in the country, but it’s certainly an opportunity that we’re looking forward to."
The final four teams in the tournament are expecting to generate a lot of interest from New England’s hockey crowd, with three typically strong schools left and one surprise team in Providence. York is expecting there to be a great amount of interest from Providence’s fan base, as the team’s ability to defeat such a stout opponent in UMass Lowell is always going to grab attention.
"Providence is the one that caught fire at the right time. All four schools have done very well and there’s a reason they’re here," York said. "I think Providence, not being in the tournament for a while, will spark a lot of interest from their school and Rhode Island. So, I think it’s going to be a well-run and well-attended tournament."
The Eagles had a much closer quarterfinal series than most expected, as they escaped with two close victories over UMass on their way to the Garden. BC was able to skate away with a 2-1 victory on Friday and then a 3-2 victory on Saturday. It was the Eagles’ 12th and 13th victories in a row, and would not have been possible without the tremendous efforts in both games by junior goaltender Parker Milner.
Milner has been on fire as of late, backstopping each victory during the BC’s current 13-game winning streak. York is very excited about the play of his goalie and believes his success is necessary for a long playoff push, whether is in the Hockey East playoffs, or the national tournament.
"UMass pushed us right to the limit," York said of the quarterfinal series. "Parker Milner was the difference in the series. He continues to play very strong for us. His goals against average and his save percentage are a reflection of how well he is playing. Some of the saves he made were absolutely outstanding."