Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

10 Years Later: A Look Back at the 2011–2012 Hockey National Championship

Surrounded by memorabilia marking thousands of wins, photos of himself shaking hands with the president of the United States, and so many trophies he can hardly name them all, Jerry York admires just one photo. 

The silver-haired hockey coach stands a short distance away from it, with his hands at his side, saying nothing. The placard at the bottom reads “Tampa Triumph,” and York gazes on at a moment frozen in time. A haphazard line of gold and maroon jerseys skates toward the goal, shedding their gloves and sticks as they go, and streamers hang motionless in the air.

“That sums it up for us,” York said after a long silence. “Just the banners and the excitement and the pure joy of the faces.”

They won 19 straight games. They won their last 11 games of the regular season. They won the Hockey East regular-season title. They won the Beanpot. They won the Hockey East Tournament. They won the National Championship at the Frozen Four. All York could do then—and all he can do to this day—was stand back and admire.

To say that the 2011–12 Boston College men’s hockey team was talented would be a drastic understatement. This spring marks the 10-year anniversary of BC’s last National Championship—the one dubbed the “Tampa Triumph”—that calls for reminiscing. 

“I thought it was pretty magical,” York said. “You know, everything kind of broke well for us, and we took off. … It was a pretty amazing year for us.” 

Any National Championship win is impressive, but what was especially impressive about the 2011–12 team was the way it arrived at its destination. After losing 10 of its first 25 games of the regular season, it looked like BC was going to be anything but special. 

But midway through the season, something changed. Under the direction of starting goalie Parker Milner, the Eagles morphed into one of the most dominant hockey teams in BC history. 

“We had a moment where we had to come together and we were able to do that,” Milner said. 

Milner was a key part of the Eagles’ chemistry, starting 34 of the Eagles’ 44 games and winning 29 of those starts that season. He ended the season with a .937 save percentage, but his season was not always smooth sailing. 

“I had had a little bit of a rough patch, and some of the other goalies were playing,” Milner said. “I went back in and just that whole run at the end of the season, it is hard to even think that we were able to accomplish that.”

Milner allowed just 57 goals in 34 games, recording five shutouts during the season. Once his spot was solidified as starting goalie, he became arguably one of the best goaltenders in the league. 

“He just got red hot [as our] goaltender,” York said. “That’s sometimes like a quarterback that just throws all completions, no interceptions. To go that many games on a win streak, the confidence level was so good on that team.” 

Two games into the Eagles’ win streak, they traveled to TD Garden for the annual Beanpot Tournament looking to win their third consecutive title. The chemistry was still forming for BC, which had just escaped with two close wins over New Hampshire. 

The Eagles were paired with Northeastern in the first round of the tournament, and BC’s electric forward line led by Steven Whitney, Paul Carey, and Johnny Gaudreau lit up the ice. The Eagles cruised through the game, winning 7–1, and advanced to play Boston University the following week. 

With a tied game after 60 minutes, the fight for the Beanpot title went to overtime. Bill Arnold netted a goal with 6.4 seconds left in the first overtime, winning the Battle of Comm. Ave. for BC and handing the Eagles their first tournament title of the season.

“I was a junior that year, and I had played a fair amount the first years, but for all of the championship games and the Beanpot I had not had the opportunity to play in those wins, so the [2012] Beanpot was for me personally my first championship as a starting goalie,” Milner said. “I think that after getting over that mountain, it kind of helped set me up for success and gave me the opportunity to help lead from the goal out [and] do what I needed to do on a team that had an incredible amount of skill up front and on defense.”

With a Beanpot title under their belts, the fuse was lit, and the Eagles hit the ground running. They won their third consecutive Hockey East Tournament title, for the first time in conference history, against Maine on the Eagles’ home ice. Gaudreau had three points, winning the tournament’s William Flynn Most Valuable Player Award, while Milner made a whopping 41 saves. 

Next was the NCAA Tournament, where the Eagles beat the Air Force and Minnesota Duluth to advance to the Frozen Four in Tampa Bay. They faced Minnesota in the semifinals, winning 6–1 before facing off against Ferris State in the title game.

“All the good teams, the ones that, you know, reach the top, they all have that real chemistry among the players, a real love for each other,” York said. 

The streamer-inducing moment came with a 4–1 win over Ferris State, marking York’s fourth national title with the Eagles. Despite an even first two periods, the Eagles dominated the final frame and finished the game, and their season, out strong. 

“It was a pretty crazy couple of months,” Milner said. “It’s fun thinking back to that time and trying to remember how you actually were feeling. And I guess the coolest part about doing something like that with your closest friends and teammates is you’re not really thinking about what you’re feeling, you’re just kind of living in the moment.”

Those friends are still just as much a part of Milner’s life as they were when they all shared the Heights together. 

“I am best friends with the guys from my class,” Milner said. “They were all my groomsmen at my wedding in May. It’s getting harder every year to continue to do trips, but we really make an effort for all of us to do a class trip every year.” 

York similarly makes a point to keep in touch with his players long after they have left the BC program. His dedication to keeping these relationships is only one of the many reasons why players feel immense pride in playing under him.

“It’s an honor to get to play for somebody like coach York,” Milner said. “I just feel so lucky. You are playing for a legend. Just the presence that he brought to the room and he just brought the best out of everyone.” 

Even 10 years after the conclusion of his BC career, Milner still loves to reminisce about his days in Conte Forum.

“I don’t think very many schools or hockey programs have been able to do that,” Milner said. “I think it really was one of those scenarios where it was a group of 25 or however many guys coming together and rallying around each other. It wasn’t like we were just dominating the entire year. … I think that’s what sports are all about.”

With his fourth National Championship under his belt, York similarly looks back on the 2011–12 season fondly, but unlike Milner, York has 50 years’ worth of comparison to reflect on as well.

“I feel like [when] someone has children, you know, ‘Which is your favorite child?’” York said. “You can’t [choose]. They’re all special and, you know, ’12 was.”

Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics

October 12, 2021

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