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Going For It All

BC Ready To Face Off Vs. Minnesota For A Spot In The National Title Game

Sports Editor

Published: Monday, April 2, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

When Boston College takes the ice on Thursday night in Tampa, it will be lining up against a familiar looking opponent. The Eagles have not played Minnesota this season, but they have been watching tape of the Gophers all week. What they’ve seen is a team that’s reminiscent of their own.

“We’ve broken it down pretty well,” said head coach Jerry York. “[Assistant coach] Greg Brown actually showed a lot [on Thursday] of their offensive chances. They create a lot of really good offense. They’re very similar to our team. Not just the colors they wear. They skate well, they make plays, and they try to win games.”

BC is now in the final days of preparation for its matchup with Minnesota. Though they’re 42 games into the season, the Eagles aren’t worried about tiring legs or unfocused minds. The practices have been shortened up to a little over an hour, but the concentration on the ice has only gone up.

“There’s a certain level of excitement we always have about practicing,” York said. “But when you get to not just another hockey game or another trophy, but for the shiniest of all the trophies and the Frozen Four, it just raises the whole level of intensity. I think we’re preparing very, very well for what we think is an outstanding Minnesota hockey team.”

York’s players know that they are lucky enough to be one of four teams in the country still practicing these days, making them even more motivated.

“Practices have been going really well,” said senior captain Tommy Cross. “The energy has been great. Practices this time of the year, you’re fortunate to have them. A lot of teams are done for the season. So we have to create energy. We’re looking to work on a couple things before we leave on Tuesday.”

One of the things the Eagles will be working on is being able to jump out early and set the pace of the game against the Gophers. Minnesota is also backed by a terrific goaltender in Kent Patterson, and York noted it would be important to get a lot of shots on net.

“It’s like playing ourselves,” York said. “We’ve got to play at a terrific pace, and we’ve got to be able to take advantage of any shot opportunities and shoot pucks. I think Patterson is a goaltender that has played very well for them. But we’re looking for shots, rebounds, and goals.”

Patterson has recorded seven shutouts on the season, and holds a 2.24 goals against average.

“Ken’s been our pillar,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, who noted that Patterson has been instrumental in bringing along a young defense throughout the season.

Offensively, Erik Haula, Kyle Rau, and Nick Bjunstad lead the Gophers, combining for 63 of Minnesota’s 154 goals this year. BC has to look no further than last weekend to see what the Gophers are capable of, scoring seven goals against BU and five against North Dakota.

“They’ve got a good squad, and they’re playing well,” Cross said. “They just beat BU and North Dakota, so they’re at the top of their game, and it should be a great matchup.”

While his team has been firing on all cylinders of late, Lucia knows that the team his squad will be facing has been just as impressive.

“They’re the No. 1 team in the country for a reason,” Lucia said. “Taking care of the puck will be extremely important, because they’re a great transition team and they can really push the pace offensively. The way their goaltender is playing, you’re not going to score much on them. You try to win a tight, low-scoring game, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.

“When you look at Boston College right now, they’ve got three very good lines that can score, a big, strong defensive core, and a goaltender that has really stepped up. It’s without question that they have all the ingredients, and that’s why they’re favored to win the thing next week.”

Besides BC’s complete game and depth of talent throughout the roster, one major factor in its advantage is that the junior and senior classes have been a part of a national championship, and were there for the full Frozen Four experience in 2010. Fourteen Eagles were in Detroit to collect the hardware two years ago, and can relate that experience to their younger teammates in preparation.

“It helps a lot, just knowing what to expect,” Cross said. “Especially the stuff leading up to the game—Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the game and all the commitments you have. So it’s good. I think it’s a calming factor. You know what to expect, so you can worry about just going out and playing your game.”

“I think it really helps,” York said. “Their experience and the level of confidence that they’ve played in these games before and won in these games before. I think that’s a huge factor for us.”

Regardless of BC’s previous trip to the Frozen Four, this one will no doubt be a special one. The chance to bring another national championship back to Chestnut Hill begins Thursday at 8 p.m., as the Eagles will look for the same result they earned in 2010.

“[Frozen Fours] get better every time,” York said. “I thought the first one was ‘woah.’ And then each time we’ve gone, it’s been a special period of time for our hockey team. We think this is going to be probably just like every other Frozen Four, or a little bit better than the one we played in before.”

Even “a little bit better” would bring home the trophy.

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